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Speak Up for Our Monuments

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The Department of Interior is soliciting public comments on our national monuments as it considers potential steps to revoke or undermine protections for these natural treasures.  All you have to do is visit the Regulations.gov website here and express your support for the monuments under review, ranging from Mojave Trails to Bears Ears.  You can write a sentence, or you can attach a document with more detailed comments.  Any comment helps!

Here is what I submitted:


Dear Secretary Zinke:
I am an outdoor enthusiast and father of a one-year-old daughter who I hope will have the same opportunities that I and our ancestors have had to enjoy the natural beauty of America. I am writing in support of our national monuments; each of the monuments currently under review should be protected for future generations to enjoy.I believe that the public statements made by President Trump in support of altering monuments at the signing of Executive Order 13792 establishes a presumption that certain monu…

Can We Transition to Renewable Energy Without Destroying More Desert?

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Earlier this week I wrote about the renewable energy industry's complaints that desert conservation was slowing the deployment of utility-scale solar and wind projects.  The newspaper article that gave these industry complaints a soapbox described renewable energy development on public lands as "slowed to a crawl."  New projects proposals may have slowed down for economic reasons that were buried in the article, but public and private lands in our deserts have been significantly transformed over the past few years.


Industry lobbyists want us to assume that we cannot reach our goal of 100% renewable energy without destroying intact desert wildlands.  Over the past few years we learned why this cannot be allowed, and why it is not true: 1.) Building large-scale wind and solar on wildlands comes at a great ecological cost.  2.)  Renewable energy technology is flexible, and we can find places to capture energy from the wind and sun without destroying wildlands.

Renewable En…

Desert Sun Article Blames Conservation for Lull in Energy Development

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A Desert Sun article erroneously suggests that the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) is to blame for a lull in new utility-scale renewable energy projects on public lands in the California desert.  The more significant reason - economics - is buried in the piece, while the rest of the article gives the (industry-favored) impression that something has to give - either we sacrifice even more of the desert or we're left with no solution to climate change. 

The timing of the article couldn't be better for the industry.  Californians are eager to prove the Trump administration wrong and increase renewable energy generation, while the Trump administration is eager to please industry and roll back protections for public lands.  But the article pushes an inaccurate premise that rolling back conservation designations in the desert is going to be necessary to meet a more aggressive renewable energy target in California.

The problems with the article start with a t…

The Future of Our Public Lands in a Photo Contest

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The Department of Interior, after announcing plans to review and potentially scale back protections for public lands, just re-posted the 2016 winner of its "Share the Experience" photo contest in the category of "scenic landscape."  It is indeed a beautiful photo of Fantasy Canyon on public lands in Utah.  But I have to wonder if the Secretary of Interior is sending a signal about the future of scenic landscapes by sending this around on social media today.  Had the photographer zoomed out much more, they would have revealed a landscape that not many of us consider scenic.

Fantasy Canyon is a small parcel - about ten acres - of land surrounded by dozens of square miles of oil drilling rigs and mining.



Monuments Make America Great

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We are all familiar with the swirl of controversy surrounding the designation of national monuments.  People hear that all roads in a new monument will be closed.  Recreation will be outlawed.  That monuments are only created to protect wildlife.  I wouldn't support national monuments, either, if that were true.

I don't just visit public lands to enjoy the wildlife that share the land with me.  I need lonely dirt roads that stretch over the horizon.   A remote campsite where I can relax with a beer in hand as the shadows of a mountain range creep across a wide valley at sunset.  I need monuments to keep the lights of the city far away, so I can see the the millions of stars above that remind me of my own insignificance in this universe.


Others visit monuments for activities I may not personally enjoy.  That's usually what sparks the debate that divides people who all equally love the land, but all have different ways of enjoying it. Some of us go rockhounding.  Others go h…

Searchlight Wind Project Retreats, But Future of Wildlands Remains In Doubt

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The Searchlight Wind project threatening wildlands in Nevada's Piute Valley has been cancelled, according to Basin & Range Watch communication with the Bureau of Land Management.  The Searchlight Wind project would have converted nearly 29 square miles of wildlands into an industrial zone, with 87 towering wind turbines and at least 35 miles of new access roads carved into the desert around the small outpost of Searchlight.  The project suffered legal setbacks after Basin & Range Watch and the Friends of Searchlight Desert and Mountains pointed out that the Department of Interior's environmental review downplayed the project's potential impacts on wildlife.


The Piute Valley, however, continues to face the threat of industrial-scale energy development.  A Sweden-based company plans to build the Crescent Peak Wind project on the western edge of the Valley along the California-Nevada border.  The project, if built, would industrialize an even larger swath of desert wi…

The Absurdity of the Cadiz Water Export Scheme

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The Department of Interior this month reversed a policy to make it easier for the Cadiz company to pump billions of gallons of water from an ancient Mojave Desert aquifer - killing off natural springs that wildlife depend upon - to ship that water to the lush landscaping of Orange County.   Cadiz still has other hurdles in its way, but the company's tenacity and willingness to line the pockets of politicians could spell doom for Mojave wildlife.

Cadiz Calls it Conservation
The Cadiz company has a contract to export nearly 16.3 billion gallons (yes, that is billion with a 'b') a year for 50 years from the Mojave to the Santa Margarita Water District (SMWD) in Orange County.  The Cadiz company claims that it will only pump water that would otherwise evaporate from a dry lake bed and that the aquifer will naturally recharge from rainfall, leaving no significant impacts on wildlife or groundwater levels.  According to Cadiz propaganda, this isn't a water export scheme, bu…