Mojave Road Experience in Jeopardy

A quintessential rite of passage for Mojave explorers will no longer offer the same journey into unconfined and wild desert that generations of travelers have shared if a Sweden-based company gets its way.  A document released by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) under a Freedom of Information Act request indicates that towering wind turbines of the proposed Crescent Peak Wind project would be visible from a majority of the Mojave Road in the eastern Mojave desert.

The Mojave Road can be seen in the distance as it snakes its way toward Marl Spring in the Mojave National Preserve. The meandering dirt road provides a wild escape for many to the back country of the desert. But it may no longer feel that way if the Crescent Peak Wind project is approved.

The Mojave Road is a historic route traversed for centuries by Native Americans, European explorers and present-day adventurers.  Much of the route crosses public lands and the natural character of the landscape provides travelers an experience not much different from that of generations past.  Joshua trees and creosote bushes dominate the landscape for miles around, with little reminder of the industrial era.  But that could change now that the BLM is reviewing an application by Sweden-based company Eolus Vind to develop the Crescent Peak Wind project in southern Nevada. The project would involve as many as 220 wind turbines, each standing nearly twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty at 591 feet and topped with blinking red lights to warn aircraft at night.

Even at night, wind turbines disrupt the previously wild experience of the desert because of a requirement for red beacons to warn aircraft of a hazard.  Photo by Basin and Range Watch shows wind turbines near Ocotillo, California.

A draft map obtained from the BLM depicts how many of the turbines would be visible within a 40 kilometer radius of the wind project.  The analysis is incomplete and does not evaluate visual impacts across the entire stretch of the Mojave Road, but extrapolating the data suggests that the Crescent Peak Wind project would be visible from the majority of the Mojave Road between Marl Spring and the Dead Mountains.   That means some of the most remote and wild portions of this historic trail will no longer carry that distinction, day or night.

The red lines in the map below indicate my best estimate of the portions of the Mojave Road from which the Crescent Peak Wind turbines would be visible.  As you can see, travelers along the route would likely be distracted by the turbines from most of the distance between the Nevada state line and Marl Spring in the center of the Mojave National Preserve.

The Crescent Peak Wind project will likely be visible from portions of the Mojave Road marked in red in the map above.

This assessment is based on the map released by the BLM under a FOIA request, and provided below. The color shading indicates the number of wind turbines visible at various points in the Mojave, up to 40 kilometers from the project.  Based on this date, the wind project probably would be visible as far west as Cima Dome and the cinder cones in the Preserve.  We should demand that the BLM require the Swedish company to extend this analysis beyond 40 kilometers since the turbines will likely be visible from much further away, especially on clear days or nights when the aircraft hazard lights are illuminated atop each turbine.

The impact of this wind project cannot be overstated. Crescent Peak Wind is expected to kill golden eagles and bats, and industrialize the largest Joshua tree forest in the world.  It will also interfere with desert bighorn sheep movements across mountain ranges.   The desert is where many enjoy the freedom to roam without the reminder of industrial and urban sprawl, whether you are a desert tortoise or a human.  The cost of this wind project is too great to accept.  We can generate clean energy with solar panels on our rooftops and over parking lots. We do not need to sacrifice our Mojave heritage.  Contact your representative in Congress and other elected officials and demand that they oppose the Crescent Peak Wind project in Nevada.  You can also register your concern with the Nevada BLM State Director at 775-861-6400.

This photo was taken from within the proposed Crescent Peak Wind project site in Nevada, looking toward Spirit Mountain, considered sacred to 10 Native American tribes and located north of the Mojave Road.

This map depicts the footprint of the Crescent Peak Wind project.  Because many of the turbines would be situated atop the extent of the New York Mountains in Nevada, they would be visible from far away. Map from BLM scoping materials.


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