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Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan Phase Two Kicks into Gear

Phase two of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan is now moving forward, targeting private lands. (Timotale/iStockphoto)
Phase two of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan is now moving forward, targeting private lands. (Timotale/iStockphoto)
September 19, 2016

PALM DESERT, Calif. -- Private lands in the southern California desert will have a large role to play in fighting climate change, according to conservation groups.

The U.S. Secretary of the Interior signed the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan last week, which covers 11 million acres of federal land. It set aside 600 square miles for energy development zones, while protecting habitat for such species as the bighorn sheep, desert tortoise and Mohave ground squirrel.

Kim Delfino, California program director with Defenders of Wildlife, said that during phase two, counties will identify private lands that are considered "low conflict" and thus more suitable for renewable energy development.

"The idea is that the more degraded lands will have a role to play in hopefully being where projects will get built,” Delfino said. "And the more intact desert lands - which actually have a climate benefit because it sequesters carbon - those will remain intact."

Private lands are often closer to transmission lines and population centers where energy is needed. Los Angeles, Inyo and Imperial counties have already started their land planning processes. The focus will now move to the west Mojave Desert that stretches across San Bernardino and Kern Counties.

Erica Brand, California Energy Program director at The Nature Conservancy, said her group has done multiple analyses to identify the best locations for renewable energy, and found that most are on private land. She praised the state and county land planners and wildlife managers who are working on phase two of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan.

"California is leading by example and showing the world that we can have a strong clean-energy economy while protecting nature,” Brand said.

Phase two of the plan is expected to take several years to complete.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA