Defenders in Action: Doing Renewables Right

Bathed in warmth and sunlight almost year-round, Arizona is considered a hotspot by clean-energy companies wanting to build large-scale solar energy projects. But while the desert may look deserted to some, the land where these companies want to site their projects is often home to species such as the threatened desert tortoise that don’t have other places to go.

© Gary Ferguson/iStock

© Gary Ferguson/iStock

As a solution, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is working with Defenders of Wildlife and other conservation groups and stakeholders in the state to identify “brownfields”—land previously degraded by industrial use—for potential renewable energy projects.

“A lot of these places are near cities and they are very contaminated,” says Matt Clark, Defenders’ Southwest representative. “Not only will this help clean them up and put highly damaged land back into use, it will steer development away from ecologically important lands.”

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The BLM has asked conservation groups to identify the best locations and the potential impacts to wildlife for projects already proposed by energy companies. “Groups like Defenders are helping to get renewable energy off the ground in the right way,” says Clark. “Obviously, we are all for clean energy but we need to make sure it is done without harming wildlife and depleting scarce water resources.”

In California, wildlife impacts are also on the energy agenda, thanks in part to Defenders’ work with state officials and renewable energy companies. In March, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law a program that streamlines the permitting and siting process for large-scale renewable energy projects that provide jobs and greater energy independence while also ensuring state agencies have the resources necessary to focus on the environmental review process. It also establishes a revolving fund paid for by project-assessed fees, which will be used to purchase private lands for habitat restoration and for offsetting impacts from construction.

“Our hope is that the additional resources provided by this new law will not simply lead to faster siting, but to better, more environmentally sustainable projects,” says Kim Delfino, director of Defenders’ California office. “We believe that the law’s conservation strategy for mitigating ‘fast-tracked’ projects in the desert provides a good way for properly sited projects to meet environmental protection laws. That way, Californians can know that their energy is not only clean, but also that it doesn’t come at the high price of destroying some of California’s last wild and treasured places.”

More Articles from Summer 2010

Defenders of Wildlife’s 2010 photo contest winners. The grand-prize photo won a tour to Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks with expert wildlife photographer Jess Lee.
Maligned as killing machines, sharks are an essential part of healthy oceans. Millions of sharks are killed every year to fill soup bowls.
These furry engineers play a crucial and largely unrecognized roles in conservation - Eager for Beavers
If you were driving a car toward a cliff, would you step on the gas pedal or hit the brakes? Would you try to stop the car or keep driving, thinking that any injury you sustained would be patched up in the hospital later?
Wildlife features in Defenders Summer 2010 Magazine: Have Fur, Will Travel; Global Warming National Park?; The High Price Isn’t Always at the Pump; Bycatch Be Gone; Sweet Flowers Lure Ladies
For sea turtles, fish, shorebirds, seabirds, corals, dolphins, whales and other wildlife that live part or all of their lives in the Gulf of Mexico, the unprecedented oil leak is catastrophic.
A group advising the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed on draft wind energy siting recommendations detailing how to avoid sensitive wildlife habitat and decrease the chances of birds and bats being killed by wind turbines.
Wrong Turn for Right Whales, Fishers Gets Traction, Giving Back on Earth Day
This is the heart of wolf country in the West, a place where Defenders of Wildlife is helping ranchers keep both their flocks and resident wolves safe.
The pair of stubby-nose porpoises surfaces as though parting a glossy veil. The vaquitas take a quick gulp of air, and then just as suddenly as they appeared, they sink back into the Sea of Cortez’s murky waters.
Although the supermarket’s canned food aisle may be the closest many Americans have come to a school of tuna, the species is among the oceans’ most fascinating fish.
“It was a dark day for polar bears,” says Defenders’ Peter Jenkins, director of international conservation.

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