Posts

Bighorn Mountain Wilderness

Image

Solar Site Debate Continues

Image
The BrightSource Energy Company and various environmental groups continue to contest the impact that the proposed Ivanpah solar site will have on Mojave Desert wilderness. A cursory review of BrightSource's testimony to the California Energy Commission (CEC) argues that the designated location for the solar plant is not listed as premium Desert Tortoise habitat. This claim likely rests on dated information from much broader territory surveys and ignores the biological surveys conducted on the designated site over the past year, which have in fact identified significant biological resources, including at least 25 desert tortoises.

In the testimony, Brightsource proposes several major revisions to the proposed compliance measures, which the CEC proposed in order to better protect the natural resources that belong to the public during construction and operation of the site. BrightSource proposes eliminating the BLM as a certifying official in some of the biological compliance stan…

Preliminary Environmental Data for Pisgah Solar Project

Image
You can review preliminary data submitted by Stirling Energy Systems (SES) for its application to build a solar power plant just west of Pisgah, CA along the I-40 and Route 66. The PDF file is listed under "Applicant's Documents" on this California Energy Commission site. Some of the land requested from BLM may have been donated to BLM by the Wildlands Conservancy (former "Catellus" lands). This begs the question, can the Federal Government properly steward land intended for conservation, which presumably was the intent of the Wildlands Conservancy's acquisition and donation.

What I do like about the site is that it's located relatively close to disturbed agricultural land and probably will not impact some of the Mojave's more impressive view sheds. This makes the project more agreeable, especially when compared to the impact of the Ivanpah site in the Eastern Mojave. That said, it will be interesting to see the full Environmental Impact State…

Mojave Day trip to Amboy Crater

Image
If you find yourself on the way out to Mojave National Preserve, going to or from Arizona on I-40 or Route 66, or just feeling up for an adventure, check out Amboy Crater, and the surrounding lava formations. Just don't upset the habitat of the endangered Mojave fringe-toed lizard, which prefers the sands around lava fields in the area. You can climb the crater and take in the view from the rim. It's an easy 30-45 minute hike to the crater from the parking lot just off the 66.

Solar Energy Development in the Mojave

Image
Why Renewable Energy Requires A Thoughtful and Balanced Approach in the Desert
Even though desert plants and animals are a tough bunch, climate change is still a threat to the desert as much as it is to the polar ice caps. Wildlife in the deserts are so uniquely adapted and have balanced their ecosystem in such hostile conditions that even slight changes can be disruptive. The struggle between desert wildlife and the harsh conditions it contends with year-round is a reason to respect Mojave, where everyday of survival is a triumph. Consider how hot it can get in the Victor Valley on an average summer day? Anywhere from 95-112 degrees F, right? The temperatures are even higher closer to the ground in the desert, so if you are a desert tortoise, leopard lizard or a fledgling desert shrub you face temperatures that can reach 140 degrees F (or 60 degrees Celsius).

So what difference does a little bit of global warming make? One recent study funded by the National Science Foundation …

Google Trash in the Victor Valley

Why do the denizens of Victor Valley cities trash their surroundings? I noticed last weekend at the shopping center on Mariposa Road in Victorville with the movie theaters, Michael's crafts, and the Red Robin, and plastic bags and newspapers swirled about the parking lot. The trash clearly was not the result of a singly windy day, but had accumulated over the course of days if not weeks. When did the shopping center and its patrons become so complacent? Sadly, this is the state of the entire Victor Valley. Look around at the empty lots and parking lots when you're going down Bear Valley Road, or Cottonwood Avenue. Look at the plastic bags and other litter blanketing the open desert and wrapping around the Creosote and Sage bushes.

If you're sitting at the computer but cannot remember seeing the trash, open up Google Maps and use the "street view" function. You can probably check out any open desert lot near you, but if you need an example check out 15840 …

Preserving Inspiration

Open Space. When was the last time you saw some? I'm not talking about the park down the street, or a good spot to park your car at the grocery store. When was the last time you could look around you and not see another sign of human beings or hear them or their creations. No car or train noises, no garbage or roads, signs or sounds. If you drive East from Los Angeles on Interstate 10 or 15, into the middle of the Mojave Desert, you'll find the start of the journey required to find some of the best open space left in America.

The Mojave is a wilderness that has challenged generations of Americans; starting with American Indians and including economic migrants from the Mid-West during the Great Depression, it has tested the mettle of strong-willed miners, and provided an open canvas for daring test pilots.  Generations of Americans have smelled the sagebrush warning them that a rare rain shower was nearby;  gazed at the blankets of wildflowers that appear in spring;  star…