Washington, DC. (October 12, 2013) — Interior Secretary Ken Salazar today released the government’s final policy directing solar energy development on public lands. The Record of Decision (ROD) for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) solar program guides future solar development to zones where conflicts with wildlife, wild lands and important natural resources are minimized. In total, approximately 280,000 acres are included in the 17 zones, which represent a significant reduction from earlier proposals. Development can also occur on an additional 19 million acres of BLM lands — including vital desert tortoise habitat — through a “variance” process, although the plan excludes some of these lands and technically discourages development in others.
Following is a statement from Jamie Rappaport Clark, President of Defenders of Wildlife.
“We are pleased to see this important step forward. The decision to direct future solar energy projects to low conflict areas represents a very different and, in our view, much more rational approach to renewable energy development on public lands. Guiding development to low-conflict zones will be better for wildlife, energy developers, utilities and investors alike. It offers a more efficient way to get environmentally-friendly renewable energy on line and greater certainty for all involved.
“We are nonetheless disappointed to see that vital habitat for the federally threatened desert tortoise is still open to potential development through the variance process. BLM and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should have taken a more cautious approach to exclude these areas or delay solar development until more scientific information became available on the impact of these projects on the species. Instead, they chose to merely ‘discourage’ development in these areas. This creates greater uncertainty for developers and could undermine the survival and long-term sustainability of a unique and iconic desert species.”
Jim Lyons: (202) 772-3202
Alexander Slippen: (202) 772-3226
Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than one million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.org.