Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, September 22, 2014

Contact: Ileene Anderson, (323) 654-5943 or

Renewable Energy Plan for California Desert Must Balance Need for
Clean Energy With Protecting Wildlife, Landscapes

PALM SPRINGS, Calif.— The Obama administration’s draft plan for renewable energy development in the California deserts, set for release this week, will include a suite of alternatives that attempt to balance preservation of the state’s rich natural heritage with additional development of large-scale solar, wind and geothermal projects. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is expected in Palm Springs to unveil a draft “Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan,” an ambitious plan to identify and conserve lands important for wildlife, wilderness and other values and also identify the most appropriate areas for renewable energy development in the California deserts.

“There’s no doubt that we need to immediately transition to renewable energy, but it has to be done right,” said Ileene Anderson with the Center for Biological Diversity. “We can ramp up renewable energy and preserve California’s wildlife and pristine ecosystems by steering any new large-scale development to already degraded and disturbed lands and near existing transmission lines. We hope this new desert planning process will help get us there.”

The plan involves local, state and federal government agencies and the public and covers more than 22 million acres of public and private lands.

The goal is to get the best balance of conservation and renewable energy that conserves California’s world-class deserts while allowing for rapid transition to non-fossil fuel energy.

“We also call on the administration to give at least equal weight to providing new incentives for significantly increasing distributed solar power,” said Anderson. “Significantly increasing solar power close to the source of energy use such as rooftops, parking lots and community-oriented renewable energy projects is also critically needed to rapidly phase out fossil fuel energy and reduce emissions. Distributed solar is a win for climate change, clean energy and our treasured desert.”

The impacts of climate change are being seen around the world, especially in ecologically sensitive areas like deserts and are anticipated to increase. In order to combat these impacts, we must embrace clean energy technology in a way that protects the long-term health of our land, water and wildlife.

Among the most important aspects for the draft desert plan are:

  • Identifying areas for renewable energy development focused on disturbed and degraded lands to avoid unnecessary impacts to wildlife and natural resources. New development areas should also be located near existing transmission lines to allow renewable energy developers to more cost effectively move the energy to the grid.
  • Identifying the right places for additional conservation, building off existing conservation investments on our magnificent public lands. The plan must ensure the highest level of protection for desert plants and wildlife on lands identified for conservation. Only through establishing wildlife reserves, providing connectivity corridors for creatures large and small, can the plan keep our desert plants and animals thriving far into the future, especially in the face of climate change.
  • Stopping other damaging activities to conserved wildlife habitat, including uncontrolled off-road vehicle use, grazing and mining.

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