It's About Time!

Celebrating the Sierra Club's " Wind Works " lobbying campaign:  All of that wildlerness is finally put to good use.

Sierra Club Launches Wind Works Campaign

The Sierra Club just launched its Wind Works campaign, lobbying on behalf of the American Wind Energy Association to extend subsidies for the wind industry. Wind Works! *, **, ***, ****, *****, ****** * Wind requires natural gas peaker plants to run in the background, emitting greenhouse gasses. **Wind facilities will fragment at least 20,000 square miles of our land just to generate 20% of our energy. ***Wind turbines are expected to kill up to a million birds each year, including raptors and migratory birds. ****The wind industry does not accept Sierra Club advice on how to avoid killing wildlife. *****The wind industry testified before Congress to weaken environmental law. ******Energy efficiency and rooftop solar programs are a better alternative than wind, and can reduce our dependence on fossil fuels without destroying ecologically intact lands. Crews destroy Joshua Tree woodland habitat to make way for more giant wind turbines in the west Mojave Dese

Climate Change and the Desert

The desert -- just like the mountains of West Virginia and the tundra of the Arctic -- faces the grim reality of human-induced climate change caused by fossil fuel emissions from our vehicles and power plants.  The current and future impacts of human-induced climate change on the desert make it even more urgent to be good stewards of our wildlands here in the southwest.  A 16 May workshop for the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) outlined some of the expected changes in the desert.  Here are numbers to be concerned about: By 2050, the annual mean temperature in the Mojave Desert could climb as much as 4.7 degrees Fahrenheit. The mean temperature in the Sonoran Desert could climb as much as 4.3 degrees Fahrenheit.  Mean annual precipitation could fall  by as much as 2.6 inches in the Mojave, and 2.2 inches in the Sonoran Desert by 2050. Hot spells in both deserts would be more frequent/prolonged, with up to 27 more days per year experiencing temperatures above 9

BrightSource Solar Project Will Endanger Water Supply in Inyo and Nye Counties

BrightSource Energy's proposed Hidden Hills Solar Electric Generating System (HHSEGS) is expected to significantly draw down local aquifers in California and Nevada, according to the California Energy Commission, unless the company can buy out local water users.   The solar project would be built on 5 square miles of privately owned land in California's Inyo County, right next to the border with Nye County, Nevada.  The facility would use nearly 45.6 million gallons of water each year for mirror washing and other services during operation, and up to 227.1 million gallons of water during the 29 month construction period.   The CEC's draft certifications would require the company to conduct well monitoring and offset its water draw by purchasing over 53 million gallons each year to restore the Pahrump Valley Groundwater Basin. The facility's water draw could affect desert springs along the historic Old Spanish Trail that used to provide relief to weary desert travelers

Desert Peaks: Then and Now

In late 1952, Sierra Club member Bill Henderson roused excitement during a New Year's party for the Club's Desert Peaks section for an adventurous hike into the Coxcomb Mountains in present-day Joshua Tree National Park.  Written up in the Sierra Club Bulletin and Desert Magazine, the desert explorers reached the roughly 4400 foot high summit without trails.  As Louise Werner wrote in the May 1953 issue of Desert Magazine, "[t]he view to the southeast encouraged speculation and planning for future climbs. Range after range of desert mountains stretched as far as we could see: the Palens, the Granites, the Little Marias, the Big Marias.  Like an undulating carpet of chocolate-brown velvet, they stretched to the vanishing point." The hikers on their way into the Coxcomb Mountain range, just north of Desert Center, California. Photo from the May, 1953 issue of Desert Magazine . Photo by Niles Werner, article by Louise Werner. Today, that same view is threatened by

Sierra Club Turns 120 Years Young

The Sierra Club was founded 120 years ago on 28 May 1892.  A year later, the first volume of the Sierra Club Bulletin detailed one member's account of a trip from the Mojave Desert mining town of Daggett, California, to Furnace Creek in what would eventually become Death Valley National Park in a piece titled "Through Death Valley". After departing Daggett and enduring a rough journey on the first day, the member described the timeless experience of waking up to a cool desert dawn, refreshed from a good night's sleep under the stars: "The next morning dawned bright and clear. As I threw off my blankets my first impression was that I was in a perfect paradise. All about us were the beautiful yuccas, stretching their spiny arms in all directions, while beneath them was a perfect carpet of gorgeously colored flowers, some like white satin, others a beautiful blue, while from every bit of shaded ground, like golden daisies, nodded a beautiful yellow flower (Anisc

Neon Desert

I was struck by the bright colors of the lichen on the lava rock, and a blooming chia (Salvia columbariae) in the foreground. This was taken at the cinder cones in the Mojave National Preserve.