So why was it approved? According to the CEC and BLM, the projects significant environmental damage would be mitigated by the removal of desert tortoises before construction, and the purchase and conservation of habitat elsewhere in the Mojave. The decision, however, is shortsighted since it ignores the fact that the impacts of the project will last for centuries after the Ivanpah project closes down in 45 years. Even with conservation land set aside, the tortoises that are translocated are unlikely to survive according to results of a separate translocation at a nearby military base. Tortoises that are moved are placed in unfamiliar territory, where they may not have an established burrow or drinking spots, and may not know where desert plants will bloom after rains. This leaves them more vulnerable to disease and predators, to include coyotes and ravens.
|What the Ivanpah Valley will look like after nearly 4,000 acres are bladed for construction. Image from BLM FEIS.|
More than 100 biologists and contract workers fanned out across a nearly pristine stretch of the eastern Mojave Desert on Friday to start rounding up tortoises blocking construction of the first major solar energy plant to be built on public land in Southern California.On a sunny morning in the height of tortoise courting season, the biologists methodically peered under every bush and into every hole on both sides of a two-mile lane traversing the project site. Following close behind, workers bladed century-old creosote bushes and erected fencing in areas that will soon be declared a “tortoise-free zones.”The effort in San Bernardino County’s panoramic Ivanpah Valley, just north of Interstate 15 and about 40 miles southwest of Las Vegas, disrupted complex tortoise social networks and blood lines linked for centuries by dusty trails, shelters and hibernation burrows.