Thursday, October 28, 2010

Just the Beginning: We Are About to Lose 5.6 Square Miles of Pristine Desert

A massive bulldozer arrives in the Mojave's Ivanpah Valley.  Photo from Basin and Range Watch
VIPs depart after an ironic celebration of BrightSource Energy's project groundbreaking. Photo from Basin and Range Watch
Today's groundbreaking ceremony for BrightSource Energy's Ivanpah Solar Energy Generating System is over.  The bulldozers are on site, and the company will begin clearing 5.6 square miles of pristine desert for the massive solar project.   It is still early in the construction, but already biologists have had to remove 27 tortoises that were found while clearing the access road.   Imagine how many more tortoises we will lose when they begin clearing the rest of the site.

The desert tortoise will capture the spotlight, but it's really just a symbol for a much deeper loss.  The Parish club cholla, Rusby's desert mallow, Mojave milkweed, burrowing owls, and ancient creosote bushes.  The Ivanpah site is a vibrant place, and it is the heart of a valley that supports a genetically significant population of the desert tortoise and supports a healthy Mojave Desert ecosystem.  The more we sacrifice pieces of the puzzle as valuable as Ivanpah, the sooner we will see the rest of America's deserts collapse. Ironically, many people see the desert as a wasteland.  The desert is far from a wasteland, but if we continue to treat it as such, it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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