How Many Plants Species in the Desert?

Would you expect that California's desert hosts gives the redwood forest a run for its money when it comes to plant biodiversity?  It's easy to take the desert for granted when all you want to do is zoom through it on the highway and get to your destination. But you are passing by an amazing and biologically diverse ecosystem.  There are at least 2,450 native plant species found in California's desert, according to a great article by Chris Clarke on desert life , posted at KCET. If you want to learn more about our amazing deserts, join Desert Biodiversity, a new organization dedicated to exploring, respecting and defending the deserts.

American Bird Conservancy Seeks Enforced Permit System for Wind Energy

The American Bird Conservancy (ABC) formally petitioned the Department of Interior to establish and enforce a permit mechanism that would regulate the wind energy industry's impacts on birds.  The petition provides insight into a cavalier energy industry that has shown little regard for wildlife conservation, and Federal agencies ignoring their responsibilities under two major laws -- the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Acts.  Without regulation, the wind energy industry will push already-imperiled birds and bats into further decline, including the Golden Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Whooping Crane, Cerulean Warbler, Hawaiian Goose, and California Condor .  Our efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions should not involve such widespread destruction of natural resources. Currently, it is only voluntary for wind companies to apply for a "take" permit when wind turbines are expected to kill protected birds, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service

Take Action to Save The Desert

Click here to sign the petition by Solar Done Right calling for a responsible renewable energy future. As this photo by Chris Clarke shows, energy companies have already begun to bulldoze ecologically intact desert wildlands to make way for massive solar facilities .  Our clean energy future does not need to involve sacrificing more of our natural treasures. We have a long history of destroying wild landscapes to generate electricity.  Oil spills killing marine life, natural gas wells fragmenting sagebrush habitat and spoiling our groundwater, and coal plants spewing emissions that warm our planet.  We are rightfully looking to renewable energy sources as a better alternative, but we cannot afford to sacrifice more wildlands to energy.  As of December, the Bureau of Land Management had received applications for wind and solar facilities on 1,659 square miles of public land in just California, and yet that would still not be enough to meet the State's energy needs.  We nee

Ivanpah Conservation Initiative Presented to BLM Officials

Basin and Range Watch members met with officials from the Bureau of Land Management's California and Nevada state offices earlier this month to present the proposed Ivanpah Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC), which is also supported by the Desert Tortoise Council and Desert Protective Council.  The ACEC is needed to protect biological and cultural resources that would be imperiled by additional solar energy development in the Ivanpah Valley, including a connectivity corridor for the endangered desert tortoise.  As human-induced  climate change challenges desert ecosystems, the genetic connectivity and healthy habitat offered by the Ivanpah Valley will be critical to the survival of many desert species. The productive meeting with BLM, which took place in Reno,  represents potential reprieve for the beleaguered valley in the northeastern Mojave Desert as a coalition of smaller groups and concerned citizens speak up for a smarter renewable energy policy that does not

How Much Land Will We Industrialize?

As of December, the Bureau of Land Management had approved or received applications for utility-scale solar and wind energy facilities on 1,659 square miles of public land in California.  These projects are massive in scale, requiring tons of steel and concrete , and the bulldozing of ecologically intact lands.  Yet if all of the proposals are built they will provide less than half of California's energy demand.  Similar levels of destruction will have to take place in other states to meet their energy demand. It is hard to imagine all of these beautiful landscapes being destroyed in the name of "green" energy, especially when we have enough rooftops , parking lots, and other brownfields in our cities to support solar panels. What would you rather find beyond coal?  Rooftop solar or industrial destruction of our landscapes? Just how big is 1,659 square miles?  The red shaded boxes in the Google maps below each show an area 1,659 square miles in size. View 1,6

Raw Materials: Hidden Carbon Costs of Utility-Scale Renewable Energy

No energy source is without its impacts, but considering how much steel and concrete is needed to construct utility-scale solar and wind facilities, we may be adding more greenhouse gas emissions than necessary.   When most people in the United States think about clean energy, they picture facilities that are inherently not green -- solar facilities in the desert or gigantic wind turbines on hillsides tethered to our cities by hundreds of miles of costly transmission lines.   These industrial facilities require amounts of materials and construction processes that make them unsustainable choices to replace dirty coal.  When it comes to clean energy, nothing beats the efficiency and "green" of distributed energy , such as solar panels on rooftops or over parking lots, which require less of the materials that require carbon emissions to produce and transport. Take a look at BrightSource Energy's Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in the northeastern Mojave Desert,

Desert Astronomy is Unbeatable!

Not long after I started this blog I came across a photographers amazing catch of a Geminid meteor streaking across the Mojave Desert's night sky in 2009.  The photograph was taken in 2009, and can be viewed at this link .  A year later,  a videographer captured some amazing scenes of the Geminid meteor shower over America's desert landscapes, including Joshua Tree National Park. Enjoy: Fleeting Light: The High Desert and the Geminid Meteor Shower from Henry Jun Wah Lee on Vimeo .