Posts

Showing posts from November, 2013

Waking up to the Solar Power Tower Threat

Image
As BrightSource Energy began to bulldoze approximately 5.6 square miles of pristine desert to build its Ivanpah Solar power project, we quickly learned the impact on terrestrial species - rare wildflowers, long-lived yucca plants, and desert tortoises were displaced or killed.   Now that the Ivanpah Solar project is powering on, thousands of mirrors focusing the sun's rays at three towers have burned or battered dozens of birds in the first couple of months of becoming operational.  Chris Clarke with KCET's ReWire has been reporting on the troubling new trend - dead birds being found after colliding with mirrors or burning to death in super-heated air over the project.  We need to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy, but we need to do so in a way that minimizes (not expands) the human threat to ecosystems and wildlife.  The vast majority of BrightSource Energy's negative impacts on wildlife could have been avoided if we invested more in solar panels on rooftops, or…

Conservation Groups Warn Against Approval of Ivanpah Projects

Image
Defenders of Wildlife this month warned the Department of Interior that its pending approval of two large-scale solar projects in the Ivanpah Valley would destroy irreplaceable desert habitat and degrade an important wildlife linkage, despite smarter alternatives.  In a separate letter, the Nature Conservancy noted that Interior's approval of the projects would ignore science-based guidance on how to manage public lands and minimize impacts of energy projects.

The two solar projects - First Solar's Silver State South and Sateline projects - would be built on the California-Nevada border on a narrow corridor of habitat that connects different populations of the beleaguered desert tortoise.  A loss or degradation of this habitat linkage would make it more difficult for the desert tortoise to recover from the downward spiral it has experienced over the last half century, and erode its resilience as it faces a host of human threats, including climate change.  Conservationists argu…

Mount Charleston Blue Butterfly

Image
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the Mount Charleston blue butterfly as endangered in September, which should result in more resources to protect this species from vanishing.  The Mt. Charleston blue butterfly is only known to occur in the higher reaches of the Spring Mountains in Nevada, west and northwest of Las Vegas. 

The butterfly's population is likely declining, although information gaps preclude us from quantifying its population trends.  The species is believed to be extirpated from six of 16 locations that it has been known to inhabit, and it is only "presumed" to occupy eight of the 10 other locations.  In other words, it may exist in 10 relatively confined locations throughout the mountains, but for eight of those locations it probably has only a tentative existence, at best.

The butterfly faces a threat from climate change - more extreme precipitation and drought patterns are expected in the southwest - and collecting by poachers.  Because of threa…