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“In the Zone” Report: BLM on Track to Feed Energy Needs with Solar

December 14, 2010

DENVER - The sun is shining on the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in a new report from The Wilderness Society that delves into the federal agency's proposed Solar Energy Zones (SEZs), including the Antonito Southeast area of Colorado.

TWS renewable energy coordinator Alex Daue explains that their independent review and research show the BLM looks to be on track in outlining areas suitable for large-scale solar energy development. Antonito Southeast is profiled as ideal because it has fantastic solar resources and the low-quality shrub and rabbit brush landscape isn't critical for wildlife habitat.

"It's very flat land. It's immediately adjacent to a major highway, Highway 285, so that will ease construction in terms of not having to build a whole bunch of new roads."

Daue says they are recommending the far western edge of the zone be avoided because there is a Gunnison's prairie dog colony there.

TWS is asking that the BLM require that projects be sited in these zones as a way to protect wildlands and wildlife habitat, as well as speed up responsible development. That being said, Daue points out that more detailed studies and public input opportunities would happen before construction.

"If there's a place that turns out it is a place that someone wanted to use for hunting, or has other resources and values there that should be addressed, the public is encouraged to go to the meetings that the BLM will be holding, to send in comments."

Other SEZs reviewed in New Mexico, Utah, Nevada and Arizona each also get a "thumbs up" in the report. The BLM has identified 24 solar energy study areas throughout the Southwest. A so-called Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement is are expected to be released Friday.

The full report, "In The Zone: Powering the Future and Protecting Wildlands with Guided Solar Development," is at

Deb Courson, Public News Service - CO