Defending the Desert

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



...Hiking.............BLOG...............Flora...............Birding................Wildlife.................Cartoons..................Links .............About Us...........Contact............Donate




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


























New Palen Solar PV Project Reactivated With Little Public Notice

June 21, 2016 - Palm Springs CA - The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is proposing a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the re-awakened 500-megawatt Palen Solar Photovoltaic Project (formerly a concentrated solar thermal project) for 4,200 acres of undisturbed desert ecosystem west of Desert Center in the Chuckwalla Valley of Riverside County CA. See the BLM notice mailed to a few parties.

Basin & Range Watch has long been an intervenor in the former California Energy Commission proceedings (CEC), although the CEC does not review photovoltaic solar projects, only those that have a thermal energy component. In 2015 the project switched owners and the CEC had made a decision on jurisdictional matters to continue reviewing the case once the applicant changed the technology, but then denied a request to extend deadlines of the project in the matter of amended reviews. This means the CEC opted out of any further review, leaving the BLM as sole permitting agency along with Riverside County.

A scoping meeting will be held June 29, 2016 from 3:30 PM to 5:30 PM at the Palm Springs City Hall, Palm Springs CA 92262.

Comments will be collected until July 18, 2016.

This is a very short notice for a single public meeting for so important a project in the California Desert. We were only made aware of it by our extensive network of desert advocates, not by receiving a BLM notice. BLM should place this notice on their website. Public meetings should also be held in Blythe CA.

EDF Renewables is proposing single-axis tracking photovoltaic panels, but does not have a Power Purchase Agreement with a utility yet for the project that we are aware of. See more >>here.

Bats and Wind Projects: Study

June 10, 2016 - All energy sources have impacts, and why we support energy efficiency and distributed generation in the built environment first and foremost.

"A research review published in January of this year found that wind turbines are, by far, the largest cause of mass bat mortality around the world. White-nose syndrome, the deadly fungal disease that has decimated bat populations throughout the northeastern U.S., came in second."

Nellis Test and Training Range Proposed Expansion

^The upper Amargosa River watershed which would be included in the proposed expansion.

June 8, 2016 - Following the approved Ft. Irwin and the 29 Palms Marine Base expansions, the US Air Force has a proposal to expand the boundaries of their range in central-south Nevada.

We talked to the Air Force about the large military expansion proposal for the range in Nevada which would potentially transfer up to 230,000 acres of public land to the military, mostly in the Mojave Desert.
They are proposing the following alternatives:

1. Keeping the existing range
2. Adding 18,000 acres to the base in the northern section
3. Adding 64,000 acres to the base along the west side of the South Range (this would include more of the upper Amargosa River watershed)
4. Adding 230,000 acres of land to the range along the east side of the South Range. This would all be BLM land and you would have no longer have access.

In August, scoping for Legislative Environmental Impact Statement will take place. At this time, maps will be released although the agencies have the maps now. This is all part of a request by Congress to expand the range and even remove some of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge. More >here.

West Mojave Hammered by Energy Development

^Piles of Joshua trees bulldozed for a utility-scale solar project (photo by Tony Molina).

June 8, 2016 - We believe this new solar project is called the Astoria Solar Project being built on about 2,000 acres of private land in the West Mojave Desert near Rosamond, California. Who needs biological diversity when you can bulldoze it all for a "green" solar project? This is the classic example of killing the planet to save it. More >>here.

Rail Storage Project Approved Near Pahrump, Nevada

Spring Range

June 2, 2016 - Pahrump NV - Mt. Charleston area seen from Carpenter Canyon, Spring Range, Nevada
This view will likely be quite different by this time next year. The Bureau of Land Management approved the Advanced Rail Energy Storage Project (ARES) in this location. It will extend far up onto this bajada. The proposed project is a 50 megawatt gravity based energy storage system that would be constructed on 72 acres (but will disturb over 150 acres for roads and transmission) of BLM managed public land.

We feel that the BLM undermined the visual impacts this development will have in their review. It will be visible from the summit of Mt. Charleston. BLM determined that over 4,000 Joshua trees and Mojave yuccas will be destroyed for the project. The project can only produce the full 50 MW capacity for about 20 minutes. More photos of the project site >>here

Multiagency Avian-Solar Interactions Workshop


May 26, 2016 - Sacramento CA - We hear a lot of comments that say, why care about birds dying in solar flux at power towers or colliding with photovoltaic panels in large-scale projects out in the desert, thinking they are lakes, why bother? The argument goes, so many more birds die from collisions with buildings or vehicles on highways, or are caught by domestic cats. Yet cumulative impacts should not be ignored -- why add even more sources of bird mortality? And importantly, largescale solar and wind projects are often placed in remote wildland habitats that do not have high mortality rates from structures or urban effects. Associated transmission lines add sources of mortality and disturbance. Species of birds such as golden eagle, which are not killed by domestic cats, are at risk from these largescale renewable energy projects. Many government agencies are concerned with avian mortality at solar projects, and this workshop focused on this.

About 70 people attended the Multiagency Avian-Solar Collaborative Working Group meeting, many from industry and government to discuss the issues. Only a few non-governmental orgnaziations were present, including Basin & Range Watch. Following are summaries of each presentation and our commentary. See our report >>here.

Eagle Surveys Taking Place at Crescent Peak Wind Project

May 23, 2016 - Clark County NV next to Castle Mountains National Monument in CA - The applicant for the Crescent Peak Wind Project is doing eagle surveys right now, according to Bureau of Land Management (personal coomunication), which is not following protocol. Using the contractor SWCA, surveys right now are to look for birds and bats, including eagles. US Fish and Widlife Service protocol for eagle nest surveys calls for surveys to be done in Fall and Winter for this geographic area. This is when eagles are beginning to nest. By May eagles have often flegded and nests may be unoccuppied. The applicant should be undertaking eagle nest surveys starting in November-December-January of 2016. See more >>here.

Ivanpah Power Tower Catches Fire

May 20, 2016 - San Bernardino County CA - Misalignment of mirrors at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System yesterday caused some to accidentally focus intense concentrated solar flux on the Unit 3 tower instead of the receiver. Damage was caused to steam pipes and the plant was shut down, reducing output of the solar project by a third. NRG told Bloomberg that no one was hurt and that the Unit is offline during damage assessment and development of a repair plan.

This is almost exactly what was predicted by expert witnesses in 2010 during the California Energy Commission (CEC) evidentiary hearings for ISEGS -- there was concern that if three mirrors accidentally misaligned together it could cause damage to something off the project site. CEC had an expert on this that was concerned a misalignment could aim toward drivers on Interstate 15 and cause damage to a person's eyes.

We speculate that perhaps the Ivanpah project is having problems with heliostats getting off kilter by the flooding that continues to happen through the solar field on the active alluvial fan they decided to build on, causing erosion around mirror poles. Plus mowing the desert there instead of grading might have allowed small burrowing animals like rodents to continue to live in the solar field, perhaps digging around heliostat bases. The poles were pounded/vibrated in, they do not have cement bases as far as we can tell. All this could cause small misalignments, throwing their precise heliostat geometric aiming off.

A good argument for smaller and distributed solar.

See the Las Vegas Sun:

Eagle Take Rule Proposed by US Fish and Wildlife Service

May 7, 2016 - US Fish and Wildlife Service is issuing a proposed regulation that could allow wind companies to accidentally kill more eagles at wind turbine projects as long as certain mitigation measures are followed. The proposed revisions would be to the "eagle nonpurposeful take permit regulations and eagle nest take regulations" that were promulgated in 2009.

FWS also is issuing a "draft programmatic environmental impact statement" -- the previous regulation was tossed out because FWS did not do environmental review on it.

This new plan was developed after a federal judge in California blocked a 2013 rule that gave wind energy companies a 30-year permit to kill bald and golden eagles. The American Bird Conservancy was the sued and won initially to stop this rule from going forward, but now the administration has come back with a new proposed rule that allows greater Take of eagles.

There is a 60-day comment period on the proposed regulation and draft PEIS. See the Federal Register page >>here.

Wind Project Next to Castle Mountains National Monument Notice of Intent

April 23, 2016 - Crescent Peak Wind Project Update: Eolus Wind has submitted a Draft Notice of Intent (NOI) for the Crescent Peak Wind Project to be reviewed by the Bureau of Land Management. An NOI is the first stage of an official federal review of a big project like this. The BLM has placed the NOI on hold until October 1st, 2016 due to other large pending projects including a land exchange with Nellis AFB. But we could be engaged in this issue this coming fall.

The Crescent Peak Wind Project would be built on Nevada public lands and be adjacent to the Mojave National Preserve and the new Castle Mountains National Monument in California. It would surrond the historic Walking Box Rance and be visible from Searchlight, Nevada. A wind project surrounding Searchlight has been held up due to golden eagle and other wildlife threats. More >>here.

Interior Department Approves Soda Mountain Solar Project Despite Opposition and Lack of Need

Soda Mountain

^Desert lily and Moon, on proposed project site.

April 6, 2016 - San Bernardino County CA - The Interior Department approved the Soda Mountain Solar Energy Project next to the Mojave National Preserve against great public opposition. The project was reduced to 287 megawatts, on 1,767 acres of Bureau of Land Managament lands about six miles southwest of Baker, California. This was reduced from an originally proposed 2,222 acres. Yet Interior calls this site "disturbed," yet it is largely Mojave Desert creosote-bursage ecosystems, with areas of undistrurbed sand sheets and desert rock pavement. We have visited the site numerous times and witnessed beautiful wildflowers displays across the site.

More >>here.

Crimson Solar Project: Photovoltaic with Storage

Mule Mountains

March 27, 2016 - Blythe CA - A 4,000-acre, 450-megawatt solar proposal is proposed for Colorado Desert next to Mule Mountain Area of Critical Environmental Concern. Recurrent seeks to integrate storage -- such as battery banks or fly wheels -- with the solar field. But the area is home to desert tortoises, Mojave fringe-toed lizards, and possible elf owls and gila woodpeckers, as well as being important to Native tribal groups in the region. More >>here.

Ten West Link Transmission Project

March 26, 2016 - Western Arizona - Public scoping meetings for the Ten West Link Transmission Project (partially running through the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge) are taking place for a 500 kiloVolt transmission line in Arizona and California. Calendar of public meetings, map, and Federal Register notice >>here.


See News from the last 4 years >>here

photo of the month

^May 2016 - Beehive cactus (Coryphantha vivipara) in the New York Mountains, Mojave National Preserve CA after good April rains.




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



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 Electric Generating System

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

US Fish and Wildlife Service Proposed Rule Change for Eagle Take Permits -- July 5, 2016 >>Federal Register

Palen Solar PV Project comments on scoping -- July 18, 2016 >>Frank McMenimen BLM

Of Interest:

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.