Citing the critical importance of elk, deer and other big game migration corridors, winter range and other vital habit, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation urged the Bureau of Land Management to more thoroughly and deliberately examine those factors in its plans to accelerate solar energy development on public lands across the West.
The Energy Act of 2020 directs the Department of the Interior to authorize 25 gigawatts of renewable energy on public lands by 2025. As part of that process, the BLM is developing a solar programmatic environmental Impact statement (PEIS) to examine potential impacts of the plan.
RMEF expressed concern with the PEIS, specifically the large, geographic scale of the assessment that may overlook and trigger a loss of smaller swaths of public land containing big game habitat and connectivity while also removing public access. Many of the BLM Resource Management Plans are significantly outdated and have not been amended to include big game migration corridors and other critical habitats.
Land use allocations should also include an assessment of loss of access on public land as accelerated decisions without adequate thorough review will close BLM lands to hunting, fishing, camping or other recreational activities.
RMEF also has concerns about the plan’s expedited timelines. As of December 2022, BLM permitted 41 solar energy projects.
(Photo source: Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation)