How Many Desert Tortoises at Ivanpah?

At least a dozen tortoises have been discovered at the Ivanpah Solar Energy Generating System site already, and the project has only broken ground on an access road.  The project, proposed by BrightSource Energy and recently approved by the Bureau of Land Management, will destroy 5.6 square miles of desert habitat for a 370 MW facility.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) initially estimated that 32 desert tortoises live on the site and would require translocation from the site.  If the construction crews have already encountered nearly half that number when a substantial portion of the project site has not even been touched, the initial USFWS estimates are likely inaccurate.  Therefore, the impact of the Ivanpah Solar project may have been improperly assessed in the BLM's and California Energy Commission's environmental reviews. 

As mentioned in a previous post, the impact of the project on the long-term viability of the endangered species has likely been downplayed by the CEC and BLM at the risk of neglecting their obligation under the Endangered Species Act.
Image from CEC Staff assessment for Calico Solar power project
Morongo Bill, another desert blogger, has raised another important question. Who will stand up against the shortcomings of the Ivanpah Solar Energy Generating System?  Where are groups like the Sierra Club or Center for Biological Diversity?    Although the Sierra Club and Center for Biological Diversity questioned the Ivanpah project earlier, they have fallen short in challenging a questionable environmental review process.

If these vanguards of the environmental movement let the Ivanaph Solar project, or the equally destructive Calico Solar power project slide, they are setting a precedent of allowing destructive utility-scale solar projects.  These projects alone will displace or kill at least 50 endangered desert tortoises (according to USFWS estimates that already appear to be underestimates).  They will block wildlife corridors, and jeopardize the future of already rare desert wildflowers.  The silence of the Sierra Club and Center for Biological Diversity is tantamount to complicity. 

These same organizations encouraged utility-scale solar as a rushed solution to global warming.  It is not a solution, it is a destructive shortcut.  It is also unsustainable.  As of August, the BLM had registered 64 renewable energy projects, amounting to 569,802 acres.  That is nearly 890 square miles of public land being claimed by big energy companies for so-called "green" energy, essentially dooming the California desert to industrialization.  

The map below--from the CEC assessment of the Calico Solar power project--shows proposed solar and wind energy applications in Southern California as of earlier this year.  Unless the Federal Government and groups pushing the wrong brand of "green" energy come to their senses, nearly every vista in California's desert will be scarred by industrial development, and wildlife and plant life will be degraded over time by the fragmentation of habitat.


  1. You have to admit the CEC and the BLM put out some impressive looking documents, hundreds of pages, thousands of pages, chock full of all kind of boilerplate, as hard to read as a prospectus, and just as misleading it appears.

    GIGO, it is so obvious now with this latest news of the desert tortoise massive undercount, has been the modus operandi here with this process from the very beginning.

    Throw up a bunch of statistics and math models, designed to get environmental groups mollified, and then keep your fingers crossed and hope that the truth doesn't come out.

    Well guess what, the truth is starting to come out, whether anyone will listen is another matter.

    I have said all along this kangaroo court process is in serious need of a reckoning, right now, a reckoning that appears can only take place in a federal court. Surely with this news, there must be one environmentalist group or even an individual of principle and means, who can strike that blow now, before the earth movers get warmed up and running.

    I am fervently praying that this party or person will step up soon, as this,as your map clearly shows,is the first act of a tragedy will lead inexorably to the death of the wild California deserts as we know them.

  2. One problem is there's a huge amount of federal stimulus funding at stake and it will expire soon. I agree that some organization should try to stop this project. There are grounds to try: the CEC process was a joke and there are all kinds of violations of both Californian's Endangered Species Act and it's requirements for review.


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