WASHINGTON—Today the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) approved the Soda Mountain Solar Project over the objections of wildlife and desert conservation advocates, scientists, the BLM’s Desert Advisory Committee, five former National Park Service superintendents and local citizens. The project is a massive 264-megawatt solar energy plant located only one mile from the border to the Mojave National Preserve, right in the heart of the California desert.
Defenders of Wildlife has raised significant concerns over the Solar Mountain Solar Project due to its location, which, in a report prepared by The Nature Conservancy, is characterized as “biologically core” habitat. We have also warned that the project will impact the imperiled and federally protected desert tortoise and desert bighorn sheep. Leading bighorn sheep experts Dr. John Wehausen, Dr. Clinton Epps, and biologists from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, raised considerable alarm over the impact Soda Mountain Solar would have on expanding desert bighorn sheep populations in the area and future conservation efforts to restore critical movements of sheep north and south across Interstate 15.
The following is a statement from Kim Delfino, Director of California Programs, Defenders of Wildlife:
“It is beyond disappointing to see the BLM approve the Soda Mountain Solar Project over the objections of so many diverse voices concerned about the future of California’s desert and its wildlife. The BLM’s approved version of the project will permanently destroy nearly 2,000 acres of sensitive desert lands and compromise efforts by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and others to restore movements of bighorn sheep.
“This is not ‘smart from the start’ energy development planning. Soda Mountain could cause irreparable damage to iconic wildlife and one of our most important desert regions – damage that could be avoided by directing development to lower-conflict areas like those Defenders identified in the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan.”