Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan 'Phased Approach' Raises Concerns for CA Desert Conservation

For Immediate Release

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Contact: 

Courtney Sexton; csexton@defenders.org, 202.772.0253

Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan 'Phased Approach' Raises Concerns for CA Desert Conservation

California and federal agencies announce a delay in finalizing a comprehensive plan

Sacramento, CA - After receiving more than 20,000 public comments on the draft Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP), federal and state agencies today announced that they will finalize the plan in a “phased” approach – moving forward with large-scale renewable energy development and conservation on public lands in the California desert while slowing down the planning effort on the private lands. This approach is meant to address issues raised by counties and others in the public comment process. County participation is essential to make the private lands portion of the plan work, but conservationists are concerned that this “phased approach” may shift more renewable energy development to important areas of public lands and have a bigger impact on imperiled wildlife while at the same time resulting in less public lands identified as important conservation lands.

The following is a statement from Kim Delfino, Director of California Programs, Defenders of Wildlife:

“We understand that a plan of this size and complexity must proceed with caution, but we are disappointed that the DRECP is moving forward in a piece-meal fashion. We are concerned that this change in approach will result in in an increase of important areas of public land opened to energy development, without a focus on identifying and developing lands less critical to wildlife. This would make the plan fall short of its potential to shape a future conservation-minded renewable energy development policy, and could put our fragile deserts and imperiled wildlife at risk.

“The goal of this planning process all along has been to help California play an important role in fighting the effects of climate change by balancing the needs of desert conservation with those of responsible renewable energy development; there is no reason to back down on that now.

“We will work with the federal and state agencies to ensure that any public land areas approved for renewable energy development will be those that would have lower impacts on wildlife, and to ensure that our public lands are not required to bear the full weight of the region’s renewable energy production. We will also work to ensure that all of the important conservation areas on the public lands are protected from future development.

“We expect federal and state agencies to commit to the DRECP’s overarching conservation goals by protecting lands critical to imperiled species like desert tortoise, bighorn sheep, Mohave ground squirrel and other declining wildlife, including areas in the Pisgah Valley, Silurian Valley, Soda Mountain, and the West Mojave. Moving forward, the agencies must not abandon the private land parts of this plan – the future of our desert communities, natural heritage and wildlife depend on it.”

Background:

The DRECP is a joint federal and state planning effort between the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), California Energy Commission (CEC) and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). The DRECP was intended to identify the right places in the California Desert for renewable energy development, while conserving areas important for wildlife, wilderness, recreation and other activities. The plan covers 22 million acres of the California desert region and is based on the state’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emission by 80% over the next 35 years.

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Defenders of Wildlife is a national, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities.

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