Defending the Desert

A 501(c)(3) Non-profit organization



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Basin and Range Watch is a 501(c)(3) non-profit working to conserve the deserts of Nevada and California and to educate the public about the diversity of life, culture, and history of the ecosystems and wild lands of the desert. Federal and many state agencies are seeking to open up millions of acres of unspoiled habitat and public land in our region to energy development. Our goal is to identify the problems of energy sprawl and find solutions that will preserve our natural ecosystems, open spaces, and quality of life for local communities. We support energy efficiency, better rooftop solar policy, and distributed generation/storage alternatives, as well as local, state and national planning for wise energy and land use following the principles of conservation biology.

Come visit and experience the great beauty of spring wildflowers, vast open vistas, bird watching trails, and wildlife viewing.





Basin and Range Watch BLOG


























SolarReserve Proposes Ten More Power Towers in the Nevada Desert

October 25, 2016 - Tonopah NV - In a vague notice to select reporters, SolarReserve CEO Kevin Smith proclaimed he would build up to ten more solar power towers with molten salt storage. The 16,000-acre project would be called "Sandstone." The location was not made clear except that it would be in Nye County, perhaps in southern Big Smoky Valley near Tonopah, on public land.

We have concerns about the transparency of the original Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project that will be the model for new projects. For instance, the efficiency has been low, and we do not know exactly how much heat is stored after sunset to provide electricity. Does the molten salt storage work as advertised? Does efficiency drop in the cold winters around this southern Great Basin environment? How will bird mortality be avoided or mitigated? There are too many answers for us to support the huge land use cost of this proposal.

New transmission infrastructure will have to be built, and a new substation, causing more land impacts to desert ecosystems. Impacts to birds would be greater than urban starlings or house sparrows hitting an office building.

With California having problems now dealing with excess utility-scale solar energy at peak hours, storage is in demand. A much more efficient way to meet this demand would be Advanced Distributed Energy Resources: rooftop solar paired with local battery storage, energy efficiency, load-shifting technologies, and microgrids in urban centers. The impacts of more utility-scale solar projects to our public wild lands would be too great. More >>here.

Details of Nellis Test and Training Range Expansion Plans Discussed at Scoping Meeting

October 12, 2016 - Beatty NV - We attended the scoping meeting for Nellis Test and Training Range (NTTR) military base expansion in Beatty, which was well-attended. The base proposes to expand into adjacent public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and US Fish and Wildlife Service (at the Desert National Wildlife Refuge). More >>here.

Environmental Assessment Out for Pumped Hydro Project Gen-tie Line and Water Pipeline

October 24, 2016 - Desert Center CA - Although the pumped hydro project is on private land of an old mine pit, a proposed large 500 kiloVolt gen-tie line for power and a water pipeline would cross public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). An Environmental Assessment has been released. The transmission line would go to Southern California Edison's Red Bluff sub-station. The water line would draw water from an area below private land, traverse BLM land, and fill the reservoirs at the pumped storage facility. The Pumped Storage Project was licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on June 19, 2014.

We oppose both the pumped hydro project and these gen-tie and water lines because pumping groundwater in the desert during a drought to fill a mine pit to generate energy stored from renewable energy projects would be highly wasteful of water and a very inefficient way to store energy. We support designating this old mine as part of adjacent Joshua Tree National Park and using advanced Distributed Energy Resources such as rooftop solar, local battery storage, microgrids, load-shifting technologies, and energy efficiency as the best way to move forward to a clean energy future while preserving our California Desert wildlands.

Comment on the project >>here.

Non-Transmission Alternative: DRECP is Outdated

September 14, 2016 -- California state energy agencies explain the real situation with respect to renewable energy: over-generation of utility-scale solar projects in California and Nevada, high quality wind resources instate filled up, and the need for a massive and expensive transmission grid across the western US to try to balance it. Or we could have a Non-Transmission Alternative to the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan that does not allow streamlining of energy development on our public lands and deserts. Rooftop solar and Distributed Energy Resources at the better way. >>Here.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to Approve the Final Public Lands Part of the DRECP Today at Noon in the Coachella Valley

^Desert ironwood overlooking the San Jacinto Mountains at sunset, Colorado Desert CA.

September 14, 2016 - Coachella Valley CA - The grassroots desert opposition to the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) will also be at the event, showing support for real desert conservation in Distributed Energy Resource alternatives: rooftop solar, distributed battery storage, energy efficiency, and energy conservation. Plus, recent California energy agencies have discussed how the renewable energy picture in the state may not be so simple and clear--stay tuned for our story on this. We don't need to bulldoze more tortoise habitat or open up over 800,000 acres of desert wildlands to energy development.

See the Mojave Desert Blog for a primer on what we may expect today.

Our Distributed Energy Resources Alternative.

The California Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan needs to be implemented.

What the DRECP would mean.

Scoping Begins for Nevada Military Land Expansion

August 28, 2016 - The Nellis Test and Training Range, and Naval Air Station in Fallon are seeking to expand to accommodate "new advanced technology." They want to take ureau of BLand Management land in exchanges, but this is amazing desert that we hike in and visit. We are asking for more maps to be provided. There will be public meetings--see the websites for listings. More >>here.

300,000 acres to Nellis with no maps available yet.

601,000 acres to Fallon.

and 88,000 acres and 1,400 desert tortoises to be translocated at 29 Palms Marine Base in CA.

We hope people speak up about this! That is your public land.

San Bernardino County Supervisors Vote Against Soda Mountain Solar Project

August 24, 2016 - San Bernardino CA - At a meeting yesterday well-attended by desert activists, County Supervisors gathered to vote 3-2 against giving premits to the unpopular Soda Mountain Solar Project. Here is a wrap-up of articles:

Basin & Range Watch is a Science-Based Organization in Support of Desert Conservation and Distributed Energy Resources

August 9, 2016 - Basin & Range Watch contributed content to this letter and were signatories opposing the Soda Mountain Solar Project signed by scientists concerned with conservation of the California Desert - Scientists Letter to San Bernardino County Opposing Soda Mountain Solar and Asking to Support Distributed Energy Resources.

Bechtel Sells Soda Mountain Solar Project

August 17, 2016 - San Bernardino County CA - Bechtel, the multinational company that had previously purchased the Soda Mountain Solar Project from another entity, this month sold the project to developer Regenerate Power (

Birds Continue to be Injured at Crescent Dunes Solar Power Tower

July 28, 2016 - Tonopah NV - Basin & Range Watch had the opportunity on July 25 to examine a prairie falcon (Falco mexicanus) that had been found July 20 from Crescent Dunes solar project and found injured in the solar field.The bird injury was confirmed by US Fish and Wildlife Service. We examined it and took photographs. The feathers were melted and degraded and sores were still growing, matching descriptions by California Energy Commission of solar flux damage. The falcon was alive and active but both wings and tail appeared to be burned off--but not burned--rather melted or degraded to an extreme so that it was impossible for the bird to fly. The flight feathers were curled in places as if exposed to extreme heat energy, apparently from the solar flux. Open sores were present on the wrist of each wing, one larger than the other, and skin was visible as feathers had been degraded away. It is possible the follicles of the feathers were damaged and the feathers may or may not be able to grow back. See more photos >>here.

San Bernardino County Supervisors to Decide in Meeting on Soda Mountain Solar Project

Soda Mountain bighorn

July 21, 2016 - The next meeting of the County Supervisors will be on August 23, where they will consider the Environmental Impact Report under the California Environmental Quality Act review for the Soda Mountain Solar Energy Project. Please consider attending and making your voice heard.

See the Call to Action on the Morongo Basin Conservation Association and write a letter to the Supervicors.

Sign the Petition by Alliance for Desert Preservation.

See our letter to the County >>here.

Desert Tortoises and Mojave Yuccas Threatened by Utility-scale Solar: Yellow Pine Solar Project

July 8, 2016 -- South of Pahrump, NV -- Laura Cunningham and Kevin Emmerich -- On June 26 NextEra filed an application with the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada for a new 250 megawatt photovoltaic project proposed for Mojave Desert ecosystems with old growth yucca stands in Pahrump Valley along the Tecopa Road and close to the historic Old Spanish Trail.

But conflicts exist with land management here. This area was created to move tortoises out of harms way and to release tortoises that have been picked up or once have been pets. The Las Vegas, Nevada Desert Tortoise Conservation Center was closed in 2014 by the US Fish and Wildlife Service due to budget cuts. So these tortoises are tested for disease and released in the Pahrump Valley on two "translocation areas", Trout Canyon and Stump Springs designated last year. Now (July, 2016) the Bureau of Land Management will consider approving the Yellow Pine Solar Project on about 3,000 acres of this translocation site.

The proposed project site is less than a quarter mile from one of the tallest Mojave yuccas (Yucca schidigera) yet found. The project site itself contains numerous Mojave yuccas and Joshua trees, as well as healthy undisturbed old growth Mojave Desert scrub.

More >>here.

Policy Obstacles to Rooftop Solar Build-out

June 26, 2016 - Laura Cunningham

Basin & Range Watch for several years has tried to promote renewable energy alternatives to utility-scale solar and wind projects that are being constructed on desert ecosystems, better alternatives such as rooftop solar and distributed smaller projects like solar parking lot canopies and commercial building solar arrays. The technology is there, microgrids have modernized, exciting new developments in battery storage are on the market, and homeowners and businesses are lining up. So why are we not seeing urban areas covered to the maximum with rooftop solar? Time and time again we are seeing policy obstacles that inhibit rooftop solar incentives for homeowners, while utilities continue to receive solar tax credits, ratepayer-subsidized capital campaigns to build long transmission lines, and the huge benefit of inexpensive leases on public lands to develop large-scale solar projects. We beleive rooftop solar policy should be more supportive of homeowners who want to invest in solar.

We summarize the state of one such solar policy, net energy metering, that has erupted into controversy in Nevada. We have followed this case closely, as well as writing comment letters to the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN), and attended several hearings on the subject (as well as protests). See >>here

See News from the last 4 years >>here

photo of the month

^June 2016 - Aspen groves and mountain meadows, Monitor Range, Nevada.




The Better Alternative: Rooftop Solar and Energy Efficiency (California Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan) >>here - Sign the Petition



Net Energy Metering Controversy in Nevada >>here



Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) >>here


Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for CA, NV, AZ, NM, CO, UT >>here - Solar Done Right Response >>here



Inyo County Renewable Energy General Plan Amendment>>here

Las Vegas Resource Managament Plan >>here


Storage Projects:


Eagle Mountain Hydroelectric Pumped Storage Project

An area that should be part of Joshua Tree National Park, in Riverside County CA. Related to the renewable energy projects along the I-10 corridor >>here

ARES Rail Storage Project

Advanced rail energy storage project in Pahrump NV on the alluvial fan of the Spring Range >>here

Solar Projects (Active):




Blythe Solar Power Project

A huge 1,000 MW photovoltaic panel project in McCoy Wash, Riverside County with a 5,950 acre footprint. Cultural issues, Fringe-toed lizards, and Desert tortoise are concerns. >>here (under construction)

Crescent Dunes Solar Project

Solar Reserve Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project. A 100 MW power tower project with molten salt storage, near Tonopah, Nevada >>here

Crimson Solar Project

Recurrent seeks to construct a 4,000-acre 450-megawatt photovoltaic project with storage near Blythe, in Riverside County, California>>here

Desert Quartzite Solar Farm

A 2,500-acre photovoltaic project by First Solar near Blythe, in Riverside County, California >>here

Desert Sunlight Solar Farm

A large-scale First Solar photovoltaic project in Colorado Desert area of Chuckwalla Valley, Riverside County, California >>here (in operation)

I-10 Corridor Projects in Chuckwalla Valley >>here

Genesis Solar Energy Project

NextEra Energy proposes to build a 250-megawatt parabolic trough solar thermal plant near Ford Dry Lake in Chuckwalla Valley, Riverside County, CA. Water is a concern. >>here (under construction)

Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System

BrightSource's solar thermal power tower proposal in Ivanpah Valley, San Bernardino County CA >>here Updates >>here (online)

Luning Solar Energy Project

100 MW photovoltaic project in Mineral County, NV >>here (approved)

McCoy Solar Power Project

750 MW photovoltaic project in McCoy Wash, Riverside County near Blythe CA, by NextEra Energy. >>here (under construction)

Owens Valley Solar Projects

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and private companies are planning on developing large-scale solar facilities in Owens Valley in eastern CA at various locations. See >>here, and LADWP Solar Ranch; Northland Solar Project

Palen Solar PV Project

500 MW solar power plant in Chuckwalla Valley ten miles east of Desert Center CA, on good Mojave fringe-toed lizard habitat. EDF Renewables >>here

Silver State South Solar Project

Photovoltaic panel proposal in Ivanpah Valley, Clark County NV >>here (under construction)

Soda Mountain Solar Project

Photovoltaic panel proposal in San Bernardino County CA>>here

Last Spring at Soda Mountain? >>here

Stateline Solar Project

Photovoltaic panel proposal in Ivanpah Valley CA >>here (under construction)

See also Ivanpah Updates page >>here; May 2011 >>here

Sunshine Valley Solar Project

A 110 MW photovoltaic project by First Solar on private land in Amargosa Valley NV that is close to Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refgue. Federally Endangered Yuma clapper rails may be threatened by the "lake effect" of the solar panels >>here

Solar Demonstration Area in Nevada Test Site by Department of Energy >>here

Wind Projects (Active):




Crescent Peak Wind Project

Reactivated wind project in Clark County NV next to proposed Castle Mountains National Monument and Mojave National Preserve >>here

Ocotillo Express Wind Facility

Pattern Energy's project on the boundary of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Imperial County CA >>here (online)

Spring 2011 Field Trip >>here

Mohave County Wind Farm

On the White Hills and fan next to Lake Mead National Recreation Area in northwestern AZ, near Mt. Tipton Wilderness and by places where California condors have been sighted from Grand Canyon reintroductions >>here

Searchlight Wind Energy Project

Duke Energy's proposal to place giant wind turbines over the Searchlight Hills, Clark County NV >>here

Silurian Valley Wind and Solar Project

Iberdrola plans on various wind and solar projects in this remote Mojave Desert valley southeast of Death Valley National Park, San Bernardino County, CA >>here (Solar project rejected by Bureau of Land Management)

Spring Valley Wind Energy Project

Pattern Energy wants to build up to 85 giant 400-foot tall wind turbines in Spring Valley east of Ely NV, 12 miles from the boundary of Great Basin National Park. The site is home to Pygmy rabbits, Sage grouse, and Pronghorn antelope >>here (online)

Transmission Projects:


Coolwater-Lugo Transmission Project

A large Southern California Edison transmission project from Barstow CA south along State Route 247 which would open up huge swaths of desert and threaten local communities with energy sprawl >>here

Eldorado-Ivanpah Transmission Project

Southern California Edison proposal to upgrade and add lines in southern NV and eastern CA in Ivanpah Valley, to deliver future renewable energy to coastal cities >>here (completed)

Sunrise Powerlink

Southern California proposed mega-powerline to supposedly link wind and solar in the eastern deserts and Baja, Mexico to coastal cities in San Diego County CA, but also tied to fossil fuel >>here (completed)

SCE Proposes two New Renewable Energy Transmission Projects in the Mojave Desert >>here

Inactive or Withdrawn Solar Projects:


Amargosa Farm Road Project

Proposal with storage in Amargosa Valley, Nye County NV >>here (not active)

Big Dune Solar Prohject

7,500-acre project in Amargosa Valley NV by Pacific Solar, on rare and endemic beetle habitat >>here (inactive)

Calico Solar Project

This project is larger than the city of Berkeley. K Road project by the proposed Cady Mountains Wilderness, San Bernardino County CA >>here. Updates >>here (withdrawn)

Hidden Hills Solar Electric Generating System

BrightSource Energy's second solar thermal power tower proposal in Mesquite Valley, Inyo County CA >>here (withdrawn)

Imperial Valley Solar Project

Former Tessera Stirling dish project on 6,500 acres sited on archaeologically sensitive Colorado Desert with Flat-tailed horned lizards, west of El Centro, Imperial County CA >>here (withdrawn)

Lathrop Wells Solar Facility

An older Abengoa application. In Amargosa Valle NV, a 250-megawatt parabolic trough solar thermal plant that may be upgraded to 500 MW, with 70 MW photovoltaic >>here (withdrawn)

Lucerne Valley Solar Project

Chevron Energy Solutions is proposing to build a 516-acre photovoltaic project on Mojave Desert with Joshua trees and tortoises in Lucerne Valley CA. Some call the area disturbed, but we disagree >>here (inactive)

Rice Solar Energy Project

A 500-foot tall power tower in a remote CA desert by Solar Reserve >>here (inactive)

Ridgecrest Solar Power Project

Photovoltaic panel proposal for Kern County CA, in the West Mojave Desert >>here Updates page >>here (terminated)

Rio Mesa Solar Electric Generating System

BrightSource Energy's third solar thermal power tower proposal along the Colorado River near Blythe, San Bernardino County CA>>here (inactive)

Inactive or Withdrawn Wind Projects:

Granite Mountain Wind Energy Project

RES proposal to place wind turbines on a roadless pristine mountain in San Bernardino County CA, home to the rare Ford's Indra swallowtail >>here

Wilson Creek/Table Mountain Wind Project

This project has been canceled. A proposed 990 MW wind farm on 30,000 acres of beautiful Great Basin mountain range with elk and sage grouse, a popular recreation area in Lincoln County NV near Pioche >>here (withdrawn)


Wind Project Impacts - Photos of Construction in the Mojave Desert and Tehachapi Grassland >>here

Wind Project Proposed for Eastern Edge of Joshua Tree National Park >>here

Inactive Transmission Projects:


Green Path North Transmission Project

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power high-voltage line would cut through Big Morongo Canyon Preserve in San Bernardino County CA >>here (not active)


Better Renewable Energy Alternatives:



Sign the Petition by Solar Done Right (scroll down to petition on left front page)


This initiative will bring citizens together to demand a more cost-effective, faster, less damaging, and more democratic path to renewable energy. Our goal is to move renewable energy development away from our ecologically rich and agriculturally important lands and onto rooftops and already-developed areas. Solar Done Right will take this petition to top energy policymakers in our government: the White House, Department of Interior, Department of Energy.

Rooftop Solar and Energy Efficiency (California Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan) >>here - Sign the Petition






Desert Tortoise Recovery: Science and Politics Clash >>here

New Desert Tortoise Species Described, Mojave Population Unique, Implications for Big Solar and Conservation >>here

Revised Desert Tortoise Recovery Plan Fails to Address Renewable Energy Sprawl >>here

Golden Eagle Research in the Desert: Renewable Energy Impacts >>here

BRW Recommends Agencies Follow the Final Report of the Independant Science Advisors to the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan >>here

Desert Pavement: A Natural Soil Type >>here

Sand Lizards of the Desert: Fringe-toed Lizards >>here

Flat-tailed Horned Lizard in Trouble in Imperial Valley, California >>here

Evolutionary Hotsports in the Mojave Desert >>here

Carbon Sequestration in the Desert: Dr. Michael Allen Paper on Gaps in Desert Research >>here

Letter From an Ecologist: Solar Development Threatens the Desert >>here

Renewable Energy Issues >>here







Calendar of Comment Deadlines

Comment on a 500 kV gen-tie line and water pipeline to Eagle Crest Pumped Storage Project EA, November 6, 2016 >>BLM

Comment on Nellis Test and Training Range base expansion in Nevada, December 10, 2016 >>here

Of Interest:

We are now a nonprofit! >>here

Sign the Petition: Save Searchlight Desert and Mountains >>here

"Streamer" Video Obtained by Basin & Range Watch of Crescent Dunes Solar Project Birds Vaporizing >>here

Net-Metering Rooftop Solar Presentation >>pdf





More Renewable Energy NEWS >>here




Hiking the Desert














"In the first place you can't see anything from a car; you've got to get out of the goddamned contraption and walk, better yet crawl, on hands and knees, over the sandstone and through the thornbush and cactus. When traces of blood begin to mark your trail you'll see something, maybe."

--Edward Abbey, 1967, Desert Solitaire


"Polite conversationalists leave no mark, save the scar upon the earth that could have been prevented had they stood their ground."

--David Brower













All text and photographs Copyright 2014 Basin and Range Watch unless otherwise stated. Basin and Range Watch is an all-volunteer group which does not accept donations from any corporation, individual, or entity.
Web Design by Laura Cunningham, Basin and Range Watch.