If you want to conduct your business on federal lands without angering the Obama administration, make sure you’re building a solar power plant.
The Obama administration has been in a standoff with a Nevada rancher because his cattle has allegedly trespassed on federal land that has been designated as protected habitat for desert tortoises.
The land used by cattle rancher Cliven Bundy was declared off-limits by the federal government in 1998 when it was designated as a protected habitat for desert tortoises, which makes its home in the American Southwest and is listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act.
Bundy has refused to move his cattle off of the land, arguing that he has “preemptive rights” to the land as his family has been using it for grazing since the 1800s. But the federal Bureau of Land Management disagrees and has sent armed officers to force Bundy to comply with a 2013 court order to remove his cattle.
“I have raised cattle on that land, which is public land for the people of Clark County, all my life. Why I raise cattle there and why I can raise cattle there is because I have preemptive rights,” Bundy told the Blaze.
The Bureau of Land Management addressed the case on its website.
“Cattle have been in trespass on public lands in southern Nevada for more than two decades. This is unfair to the thousands of other ranchers who graze livestock in compliance with federal laws and regulations throughout the West,” BLM stated. “The Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service have made repeated attempts to resolve this matter administratively and judicially. An impoundment of cattle illegally grazing on public lands is now being conducted as a last resort.”
Compare Bundy’s treatment to the government’s of federally-subsidized solar power plants built in the California desert — right on top of desert tortoise habitats.
First Solar, which has been a huge recipient of federal funding is building two solar power plants totaling 4,039 acres on federal lands. The green energy company’s Stateline and Silver State South power plants sit right on top of desert tortoise habitat and would have a largely negative impact on the reptile, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).
FWS reported last year that up to 2,117 desert tortoise eggs, juveniles and adults live where the two large solar plants will be built, threatening the survival of the tortoises and their ability to move around to other parts of their habitat.
“We expect that many of the small desert tortoises and eggs within the boundaries of the solar facilities are likely to be killed or injured during construction, although the applicants would likely find some small animals and translocate them,” the FWS reported. The Service even suggested removing the tortoises to an alternative habitat.
Stateline and Silver State South have been celebrated by the Obama administration as part of their push to permit more green energy production on federal lands — despite the impact to threatened and endangered species.
That’s not all. NRG Energy’s Ivanpah solar thermal plant, which just went online this year, is basically adjacent to the ones planned by First Solar. NRG Energy got a $1.6 billion loan guarantee from the Obama administration (along with their partner’s Brightsource Energy and Google) to build the massive Ivanpah solar thermal plant that has 173,500 large mirrors that reflect sunlight onto boilers in three 459-foot towers.
Pretty amazing, unless you’re a nearby desert tortoise. In 2011, biologists found that the Ivanpah facility would “harass,” to the point of death, 2,325 juvenile tortoises living within two miles of the project.
The Ivanpah facility is also blinding pilots flying between Los Angeles and the Las Vegas area. But the Obama administration still celebrated the opening of Ivanpah.
“This project speaks for its self,” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said. “Just look at the 170,000 shining heliostat mirrors and the three towers that would dwarf the Statue of Liberty. Ivanpah is the largest solar thermal energy facility in the world with 392 MW of capacity — meaning it can produce enough renewable electricity to power nearly 100,000 homes.”
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