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Showing posts with the label Mohave Ground Squirrel

Mohave Ground Squirrel Denied Protection

The US Fish and Wildlife Serve announced this week that the rare Mohave Ground Squirrel (MGS) does not qualify to be listed as an endangered species. The MGS is only found in the western Mojave Desert, which has already been fragmented by urban development, military bases, and off-highway vehicle routes.  In its ruling, the US Fish and Wildlife Service assumes that the Bureau of Land Management is effectively managing off-highway vehicle (OHV) recreation, and that at least 40% of solar energy applications will not succeed.

According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service:
"Based on this information, we conclude that the cumulative impacts of urban and rural development, OHV recreational use, military operations, energy development, transportation infrastructure, grazing, agriculture, mining, and climate change do not currently constitute a significant threat to the Mohave ground squirrel in relation to the present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat…

Destructive Ridgecrest Solar Project in Limbo

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German firm Solar Millennium LLC, and its American front company ("Solar Trust of America") recently decided to change the proposed Ridgecrest Solar power project from all concentrating solar thermal mirrors to photovoltaic panels (PV), a more economically efficient technology.  However, when Solar Millennium asked the California Energy Commission (CEC) for permission to modify its Ridgecrest project to PV technology,  the CEC staff declined to continue certification for the project and is likely to relinquish jurisdiction to another authority.  The CEC only reviews and certifies thermal energy projects, and PV technology is not classified as thermal.  The legal snag is likely to further delay consideration of the project, which the CEC staff previously assessed to be poorly sited and likely to have significant negative impacts on desert wildlife. 

Solar Millennium is desperately trying to fit a square through a round hole with the Ridgecrest project.  After the CEC staff an…

Calico and Ridgecrest Solar Projects Haunt Pristine Desert

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Two different solar companies--Solar Millennium LLC and K Road Power--have officially revived proposals to build solar power projects on public land in the Mojave Desert.  Both projects have been heavily criticized by biologists and taxpayers (and some biologists that pay taxes) as a waste of money and public land.

Calico Solar Project  K Road Power (and its subsidiary K Road Solar) filed a petition with the California Energy Commission (CEC) on 22 March to modify the original Calico Solar power project, that was approved by the CEC last year.  The company that initially proposed and won approval for the Calico Solar power project--Tessera Solar LLC--could not afford to build the project, and sold the rights to public land to K Road Power.   That company is now proposing slight changes to the original proposal, calling for a mix of photovoltaic panels and the "Suncatcher" design.  Because K Road Solar is changing the original design, they should have to submit to a new environ…

Ridgecrest Solar Power Project Cancelled

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Update: Solar Millennium LLC has since revived its proposal to destroy 6 square miles of public land, as of 24 March 2011.

Ending a stubborn and costly effort to destroy public lands in the name of profit, Solar Millennium finally canceled its proposal to build the Ridgecrest Solar power project in the Western Mojave Desert.   The company planned to bulldoze over 6 square miles of desert, but the California Energy Commission (CEC) staff warned the company about its intention not to approve the project.  The site is located on a Mohave Ground Squirrel connectivity corridor that links different populations of the animal, which the US Fish and Wildlife Service may list under the Endangered Species Act.  The site also hosts at least 40 endangered desert tortoises, and local residents expressed concerns about the project's overdraft of scarce groundwater resources.

The CEC's review of the Ridgecrest Solar power project was put on hold in July 2010 after the CEC initially expressed …

Ivanpah Tortoise Count Highlights Poor Choices

Workers at BrightSource Energy's 5.6 square mile solar energy site in the Ivanpah Valley have now found approximately 40 desert tortoises in the paths of bulldozers, and the project is only in initial stages of construction.  The US Fish and Wildlife Service only expected to find 32 tortoises on the entire site, showing that the biological assessment of the Ivanpah Solar site underestimated its ecological value.  Some biologists are now concerned that the population of tortoises in the Ivanpah Valley--which represents a "genetically significant unit"--is at risk of a serious population decline as a result of solar energy projects.

On the other side of the Mojave, Solar Millennium LLC continues to search for ways to site a large solar power plant near the town of Ridgecrest.  Review of the company's proposal was suspended by the California Energy Commission (CEC) due to concerns that the site selected by Solar Millennium for its proposed project was too ecologically i…

Mohave Ground Squirrel Study Plan Due in October

The California Energy Commission (CEC) held expects to receive a proposal to study Mohave Ground Squirrel habitat connectivity from researchers by 15 October.  The Mohave Ground Squirrel is a threatened species that is found only in the western Mojave Desert, and lives in habitat being fragmented by urbanization, transportation corridors and now energy development.

Solar Millennium sought to build the a large solar power installation near the town of Ridgecrest that would have destroyed the Mohave Ground Squirrel's habitat.  The CEC opposed the project on the grounds that its ecological impact would be too significant, so Solar Millennium is planning to conduct a multi-year study of Mohave Ground Squirrel activity in the area to identify where in the area it could build an industrial operation.  The company's researchers will present their study plan by October 15th.

The CEC also revealed, however, that the Public Interest Energy Research Program is also starting a much wider …

Ridgecrest Solar Power Project Consideration Suspended for Two Years

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According to a letter submitted by Solar Millennium, the company has asked the California Energy Commission (CEC) to temporarily suspend the application review of its proposed Ridgecrest Solar Power project.  As noted previously on this blog, the Ridgecrest Solar power project could fragment critical Mohave Ground Squirrel habitat and harm a healthy desert tortoise population.  

Solar Millennium intends to use the suspension period to conduct an intensive study of the Mohave Ground Squirrel--aided by a known expert on the species--to shed light on the population and behavior in the vicinity of Ridgecrest beginning in Spring 2011 and run for two years.  In its letter, Solar Millennium stated its plans to restart the application for the Ridgecrest site if the study finds that construction will not significantly impact the Mohave Ground Squirrel.   The company could use the study to find a configuration for the site (or perhaps an alternative location) that would be less likely to draw o…

Mohave Ground Squirrel In Peril; Conservation Plan Lagging Behind Threats

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In response to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service's (USFWS) initiation of a status review to consider listing the Mohave Ground Squirrel (MGS) under the Endangered Species Act, a representative from China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station expressed opposition to the listing of MGS.  The rational of the military was that military installations in the area support a healthy populations of the MGS and are participating in conservation measures being considered through the Desert Managers Group to preserve the species through regional management.  Unfortunately, this opposition to the listing of the MGS rings hollow, since regional efforts have been slow, and the military's efforts within DoD installations do not address the threats posed to the species on 2/3 of its range outside of military land.

Mohave Ground Squirrel Thriving on Military Bases?

Although studies submitted indicate that the Mohave Ground Squirrel does have core populations located on or near China Lake Nava…

Mohave Ground Squirrel Considered for Endangered Species Listing

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The Department of Interior is currently considering a petition by Defenders of Wildlife to list the Mohave Ground Squirrel as an endangered species.  The Mohave Ground Squirrel--whose range spans portions of the western and north-western Mojave Desert--is currently listed as a threatened species under the California Endangered Species Act, but it is not recognized under the Federal Endangered Species Act.

I have to take this opportunity to correct mistaken references to the Mohave Ground Squirrel (MGS; alternatively: Mojave Ground Squirrel) on this blog as an "endangered species," even though it has not technically been listed as such under Federal authorities. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)--part of the Department of the Interior--has deemed the petition contains substantial information indicating that listing the MGS as an endangered species may be warranted.    According to the Federal Register (April 27, 2010; Vol 75, Number 80), the USFWS is soliciting scie…