Public lands are caught in a political spectrum that has trended toward destruction and away from conservation, with Utah Governor Herbert looking to seize treasured public lands and dole them out to private companies, and a Presidential candidate that wants to ramp up fossil fuel extraction in every corner of the country.
The Obama Administration's mark on desert wildlands so far has been regrettable with a disastrous "fast track" solar and wind energy policy that prioritized industrial-scale development of public lands and largely ignored wildlife and cultural concerns, part of the"all of the above" energy strategy that has also opened Arctic waters to oil drilling. Even as the Administration attempts to moderate its destructive approach with the "Solar Energy Development Program," it appears some projects are still being given a "fast track" approval on some of the most ecologically sensitive lands in the desert, such as a proposal by First Solar to build the Silver State South solar project in the Ivanpah Valley, and K Road Power's Calico Solar project in the Pisgah Valley.
But last year, the Secretary of Interior sent a report to Congress highlighting 18 backcountry areas worth protecting, including the Mojave Trails and Sand to Snow Monument proposals contained in Sentator Feinstein's California Desert Protection Act. The report could be a warning shot to those creating road blocks the Capitol building -- do your job or we'll do it for you. In the report, Secretary Salazar acknowledged that the Administration's "all of the above" energy policy is a burden on natural resources that should be balanced out by conservation measures.
"It is important that we strike a balance that protects our Nation's special lands at the same time that we are initiating major new renewable energy projects on public lands, keeping our Nation's oil and gas development opportunities robust, and providing critical minerals and other development-focused uses of our public lands." -- Secretary Salazar, 10 November 2011 letter to Congress
|The Old Woman Mountains seen from Route 66. Much of this desert would be protected as part of the proposed Mojave Trails National Monument.|