Defenders of Wildlife is a leader in working with federal and state agencies to develop strategies and management plans for promoting environmentally responsible renewable energy development. Here are just a few examples of how we’re helping.
National Solar Energy Program for Western Public Lands
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has proposed creating solar energy zones on public lands in six western states that will facilitate solar energy development and avoid the most serious risks to wildlife. Defenders has been actively involved in shaping this first-of-its-kind plan by developing joint recommendations with our conservation and industry partners. A key recommendation is to concentrate solar projects in zones where conflicts with wildlife are low and access to transmission is easier. Guiding projects to zones can reduce disturbance of other parts of the landscape and protect habitat and connecting corridors for wildlife. Thanks in part to our members and supporters, who sent more than 75,000 messages to the agency, the BLM has made significant changes to the plan that will further ensure wildlife impacts are avoided or minimized.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Wind Guidelines
In 2008, the FWS tasked a diverse group of conservation organizations (including Defenders), wind energy industry representatives, federal and state agencies, and tribal representatives to recommend guidelines for how to design and operate environmentally responsible wind farms that minimize their impacts on sensitive birds, bats and other wildlife. Defenders has led efforts to improve these guidelines and to bring industry, agency, and conservation partners together to frame this plan.
As of March 2012, FWS was poised to issue final guidance based on the group’s recommendations. Defenders will respond to the guidance as soon as it is available.
Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan in California
In 2011, California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation requiring 33 percent of the state’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2020. Defenders serves as a conservation stakeholder in the development of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, which identifies places in the Mojave and Colorado deserts that are appropriate for solar, wind and geothermal project development and those that should be set aside for land and wildlife conservation. Recommendations may include project relocation, incorporating sufficient environmental protection measures and/or acquisition of other conservation lands to make up for any losses.
Restoration Design Energy Project in Arizona
In 2010, the Bureau of Land Management in Arizona initiated the Restoration Design Energy Project (RDEP). Funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, RDEP is an innovative program that is identifying previously disturbed and developed lands or lands where the effects of renewable energy development on sensitive resources would be minimized. RDEP takes into account sensitive natural and cultural resources, water availability, and proximity to transmission and energy demand centers—consistent with the smart from the start approach to planning for renewable energy development. Defenders is a member of the Arizona Solar Working Group, comprised of conservation organizations and industry representatives, which formed specifically to review the RDEP Draft Environmental Impact Statement and to develop joint comments and recommendations to improve the plan’s wildlife conservation and mitigation requirements.