The Fifteenth Anniversary of the California Desert Protection Act is right around the corner. Signed into law on October 31, 1994, the Act designated 7.8 million acres of land as wilderness, changed areas previously designated as national monuments into Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Parks, and established Mojave National Preserve. This bill was the single largest land protection bill in the history of the lower 48 states.
However, Los Angeles Times reporter Louis Sahagun writes that not all is well:
Across the desert flatlands of southeastern California, dozens of companies have flooded federal offices with applications to place solar mirrors on more than a million acres of public land.
But just as some of those projects appear headed toward fruition, environmental hurdles threaten to jeopardize efforts to further tap the region's renewable energy potential.
Companies are racing to finalize their permits and break ground by the end of next year, which would qualify them to obtain some of the $15 billion in federal stimulus funds designated for renewable energy projects. At stake is the creation of 48,000 jobs and more than 5,300 megawatts of new energy, enough to power almost 1.8 million homes, according to federal land managers.
But the presence of sensitive habitat, rare plants and imperiled creatures such as desert tortoises, bighorn sheep and flat-tailed horned lizards threatens to stall or derail some of the projects closest to securing permits.
Readers of this blog will already know that the greatest champion of desert preservation is also His Holiness the Dalai Lama's greatest supporter in the U.S. Senate: Dianne Feinstein. I know that her office is already fighting the good fight, but really... somebody needs to throw the brakes on at a much higher level. How about putting these solar farms on the extensive military bases that are already in place, and environmentally monitored?