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| Rose Winn, Cal4wheel Natural Resources Consultant | Access Issues

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has proposed new utility-scale solar facility development that places 2.55 million acres at risk of losing recreation access. There is a shift happening on public lands with the core driver centered on renewable energy. The climate change agenda is rapidly impacting the priorities that public land managers place on “multiple-use management” of our public lands.

The BLM is updating the 2012 Western Solar Plan to expand areas of public land eligible for fast-track, massive solar facility development in 11 states: California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, Washington, Montana, Oregon, Idaho, and Wyoming.

While all of the Alternatives presented in the Solar Plan would exclude Special Recreation Management Areas (SRMAs) from solar energy development, this exclusion alone is wholly insufficient to protect OHV recreation, outdoor recreation, and public access from restrictions or closures. The Solar Plan would permit closure of designated OHV routes and open OHV riding areas to create space for solar facilities. As we are well aware, closure of OHV routes not only negatively impacts OHV enthusiasts specifically, it also negatively impacts all public land users and recreationists, as OHV routes are typically the only means for the public to access remote areas for hiking, camping, mining, rock climbing, night sky viewing, and many other multiple-use activities.

Cal4Wheel submitted comments on the Solar Plan’s Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) to advocate for OHV recreation and public land access, requesting the BLM to:

  • Maintain the exclusion of SRMAs from lands available for solar development in the final draft of the Plan
  • Add exclusion of all designated OHV routes and open OHV riding areas from lands available for solar development
  • Maintain alignment with the mandate for multiple-use management of public lands, with reference to Congressional direction, Congressional intent, and BLM operational guidelines
  • Create a true recreational Alternative, as required by NEPA analysis
  • Correct missing data via illegible maps for public review and comment
  • Mirror protections of OHV recreation as designed within the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) within the Solar Plan
  • Protect members of the public with disabilities and impoverished communities from discrimination by preventing closure of OHV routes, OHV open riding areas, and outdoor recreation access
  • Revise statements asserting government ownership of federally-managed public lands, to correctly state that public lands are owned by the citizens of the United States, within Solar Plan documents
  • Refrain from inefficient and inappropriate use of America’s public lands for utility-scale solar development, whereas solar developments are better suited to urban areas with existing transmission lines and energy infrastructure

To read the full comment letter, go to: BLM-Utility-Scale-Solar-Energy-Development-Plan-PEIS-Comment.pdf

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