Bureau of Land Management

READER’S EDITORIAL: BLM SHOULD FINALIZE WIND AND SOLAR LEASING RULE FOR PUBLIC LANDS

 

By Ryan Alexander, president, Taxpayers for Common Sense



September 19, 2016 (Washington D.C.) -- The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is expected to release its Wind and Solar Leasing Rule in the next few weeks.  The rule would create a system for competitive solar and wind energy development on federal lands. It would also establish megawatt (MW) capacity fees for wind and solar energy projects in order to capture a fair market value (FMV) and a fair return for taxpayers.  View the BLM proposal here.

BLM WITHDRAWS PLANS FOR SURGICAL STERILIZATION "RESEARCH" ON WILD HORSES FOLLOWING LAWSUIT BY FRONT RANGE EQUINE RESCUE

 

Nonprofit Horse Rescue Group Challenged Inhumane Experimental Surgery

East County News Service

Photo:  Wild mustangs, Bureau of Land Management

September 9, 2016 (Hines, OR) Front Range Equine Rescue (FRER), a national nonprofit working to end the abuse and neglect of horses through rescue, advocacy and education, announced today that, just six weeks after a lawsuit filed by FRER, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management has withdrawn its program to perform experimental sterilization of wild mares in Oregon. The BLM’s decision was formally vacated by the Interior Board of Land Appeals this morning.

FRER’s suit contended that the BLM’s intention to conduct surgical experiments on 225 wild horses, many in various stages of pregnancy, and potentially thousands more horses over time, causes harm and suffering in violation of federal law.

SHOOTING ON BLM LANDS BANNED FOR FIRE SEASON—BUT SOME RESIDENTS SAY MORE ENFORCEMENT IS NEEDED TO PREVENT FIRES IN BACKCOUNTRY

 

By Miriam Raftery

July 25, 2016 (San Diego’s East County) – Effective July 1st, the Bureau of Land Management has banned all recreational shooting on its federal lands in San Diego County due to high fire hazard declared by the California Department of Forestry.

CALIFORNIA'S 9TH CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS HEARS THE APPEAL ON IVANPAH

 

The Underlying Issue Is Freedom of Religion

Originally Published on the ECOreport

By Roy L Hales & Robert Lundahl

April 18, 2015 (San Diego's East County) - In a remote corner of the Mojave Desert, 15 miles from Las Vegas, stands the expansive Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System. Occupying 5 square miles, the facility seems to swallow up a stunning expanse of desert including animals, plants and now, spiritual and cultural resources.

WHY IS ROUNDUP, A PROBABLE CARCINOGEN, BEING SPRAYED OVER OCOTILLO'S ONLY WATER SUPPLY?

 

By Miriam Raftery

April 1, 2015 (Ocotillo) – Residents of Ocotillo after discovering in late March that a powerful herbicide was been sprayed on desert soil over a federally protected aquifer – the town’s sole-source water supply.

MORE RABID BATS FOUND; CHILDREN EXPOSED TO DEADLY VIRUS SOUGHT

 

East County News Service

Photo: Bureau of Land Management

October 21, 2014 (San Diego) – Five bats have tested positive for rabies in North County, the County reports. County health officials are asking for public help to identify five children who found a bat on Saturday outside the Pizza Nova outlet on North Twin Oaks Valley Road in San Marcos. The bat later died and was confirmed to have rabies.

DRAFT DESERT RENEWABLE ENERGY CONSERVATION PLAN RELEASED BY BLM AND U.S. FISH & WILDLIFE

 

Plan would open up 22 million acres of California to large-scale renewable energy development

By Miriam Raftery

September 26, 2014 (San Diego’s East County)--The Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week published in the Federal Register a Notice of Availability of the draft Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS).  A formal comment period is now open through January 9, 2015.

CALIFORNIA FIRE CHIEFS ASSOCIATION ISSUES STATEMENT ON FIREFIGHTING EFFORTS STATEWIDE

 

August 13, 2014 (Sacramento)—Today, the California Fire Chiefs Association has issued the following news alert with updates on firefighting and wildfire preparedness efforts statewide:

INVESTIGATION LAUNCHED INTO HYDRAULIC OIL LEAKS AT OCOTILLO WIND FACILITY

 

By Miriam Raftery

July 22, 2014 (Ocotillo)—A Summary of Violations has been issued to Ocotillo Wind Express (OWE) for alleged violations of state law due to hydraulic oil leaks observed during a complaint investigation, Sandy Nax at the Department of Toxic Substances Control with the California Environmental Protection Agency in Imperial County confirmed today.

THE OCOTILLO WIND FARM KEEPS LIMPING ON

 

By Roy L Hales

Photos Credit: Parke Ewing

Originally published in the ECOreport

The Ocotillo Wind Farm keeps limping on. According to a recent article in East County Magazine, the site was producing just under 18% of capacity during the first quarter of 2014. As that was the windy season, it seems unlikely that Ocotillo will beat the slightly less than 16% average they set for the first for year of operation (2013). Then there is what the Bureau of Land Management keeps refering to as "general maintenance."

BLM BANS SHOOTING ON PUBLIC LANDS DUE TO HIGH FIRE DANGER

 

By Miriam Raftery

Photo:  Otay fire caused by target shooting on BLM land

Effective immediately, the U.S.  Bureau of Land Management has banned recreational shooting g on all BLM lands in San Diego’s East County and the South Coast areas for the remainder of fire season.

“Collectively our staffs have discussed our emerging potentially very dangerous fire season given the prolonged drought,” Clayton R. Howe, Battalion Chief with the BLM, wrote in an email sent to County Fire Authority Acting Chief Greg Griswold on May 23. “We have also sought to reduce the threat of wildfires related to recreational shooting on BLM Administered Public Lands located within your Units.”

Cal Fire Chief John Francois, in an e-mail sent to fire officials and community leaders across our region, stated that fire agencies now have the authority to enforce the restriction on shooting.  “If you see anyone shooting, please contact your local law enforcement agency,” Chief Francois urged.

AN ECOLOGICAL DISASTER IN THE MAKING?

 

An analysis on the impacts of energy policies and projects on the future of East County

By Jessica Richmond and Miriam Raftery

May 29, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – A growing number of East County residents, fire chiefs, environmentalists and elected officials are voicing alarm over the proposed large-scale destruction of natural and scenic resources for numerous industrial-scale “renewable” wind and solar energy projects and related powerlines, substations and more.  A map reveals that East County is targeted for a disproportionate share of these projects, pushed forward by energy companies and politicians who contend such development is needed to disrupt disastrous effects of global warming and fill the regional energy gap left by closing San Onofre nuclear generation stations.

But opponents say these projects are not green or sustainable, instead setting up our region for an ecological disaster in the making. They raise some crucial questions:

How did San Diego’s East County come to be targeted for fast-tracking by federal, state and county governments to facilitate construction of so many massive-scale solar and wind projects and related transmission lines in rural, mountain and desert areas instead of urban locations where demand for power is highest? 

Why isn’t preference given to incentivize less destructive renewable options, such as rooftop and parking lot solar or small-scale wind turbines for use by residents, schools, municipal governments and businesses?

CHARIOT FIRE CAUSED BY BLM JEEP, CAL FIRE CONCLUDES

 

By Miriam Raftery

May 9, 2014 (Mount Laguna) -- CAL FIRE investigators have determined that the July 6, 2013 Chariot Fire southwest of Julian was caused by a Jeep Wrangler  owned and operated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which ignited the dry vegetation under the vehicle. The CAL FIRE finding confirms allegations previously made by an attorney representing fire victims, who had indicated a private investigation had revealed evidence that a BLM Jeep started the blaze.

The Chariot Fire started just before 1 p.m. in eastern San Diego County near Butterfield Ranch Resort and the Great Southern Overland Stage Route on land managed by the BLM. The fire burned 7,055 acres on both federal and public lands and destroyed 149 structures, including a historic lodge, cabins at the Shrine Camp, and others. Over 2,100 firefighters battled the fire during the 10 days it took to contain the blaze.

MCCOY & BLYTHE SOLAR PROJECTS APPROVED, DESPITE SACRED SITES WITH ANCIENT GEOGLYPHS

 

By Roy L Hales

Deadline for public comments on changes March 24

March 15, 2014 (Mojave Desert)--The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has approved “the construction, operation and maintenance, and decommissioning of an up to 750-megawatt (MW) photovoltaic (PV) solar energy generation facility and related infrastructure called the McCoy Solar Energy Project.This project follows on the heels of the California Energy Commission’s approval of a similar project by NextEra Blythe Solar Energy.

QUECHAN NATION MOURNS ANCESTORS IN OCOTILLO

 

By Miriam Raftery

January 28, 2014 (Ocotillo) – Tribal members from the Quechan nation traveled by caravan to Ocotillo on January 17 and 18 to mourn the desecration of their ancestors’ burial grounds by the Ocotillo Express Wind Farm. Tribal members met at the Ocotillo Community Center and staged a run carrying a banner reading "We want respect for our ancestors' remains" to the wind site, where they held an all-night mourning ceremony for their ancestors.

Pattern Energy's industrial wind facility was built  atop lands known as “Valley of the Dead” by Native American tribes for over 10,000 years. The Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians also objected to the desecration of ancestral remains and persuaded the California Native American Heritage Commission (NAHC) that the state should take action on their behalf, but those efforts were thwarted by California Attorney General Kamala Harris.

WILDLIFE OFFICIALS DISPUTE AP STORY ON EUTHANIZING DESERT TORTOISES, BUT SHELTER’S FUTURE STILL IN QUESTION

 

San Diego Zoo, which manages the shelter, disputes AP report

By Miriam Raftery; photo courtesy of the San Diego Zoo

August 29, 2013 (San Diego) – Earlier this week, Associated Press ran a story which stated, “Federal funds  are running out at the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center and officials plan to close the site and euthanize hundreds of the tortoises they’ve been caring for since the animals were added to the endangered species list in 1990.”

But the San Diego Zoo, which managers that center, told East County Magazine that while the center’s funding is in question, no healthy tortoises will be euthanized.  The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has also issued a press release finding fault with AP’s reporting.

MEETING ON PROPOSED FEES FOR IMPERIAL DUNES SATURDAY, AUGUST 17

 

August 6, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – The Bureau of Land Management Desert Advisory Committee (DAC) will meet Saturday, Aug. 17 to consider a fee proposal for the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area. The Council will meet from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Riverside Marriott Hotel, 3400 Market St., Riverside, CA 92501. The meeting is open to the public. However, discussion is limited to BLM staff and committee members.

FUTURE OF WILD HORSES LOCALLY IS IN PERIL: EVICTION NOTICED SERVED

 

 

Update July 15:  The property owner has granted a brief stay to allow Coyote Canyon Caballos d'Anza more time to relocate the herd.  The nonprofit group asks public help to contact federal and county elected officials and the Bureau of Land Management to urge that relocation on public lands in San Diego be approved and expedited.  Actions that could be taken include the county adding these wild horses to its protected species list and the BLM approving the horses for relocation to the Beauty Mountain area in northeast San Diego County.

By Miriam Raftery

July 14, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – Plans to restore San Diego’s heritage herd of wild horses to public lands is in peril. An eviction notice has been served on the nonprofit organization that recently found and brought back the last descendants of San Diego’s original wild horses.  Unless the property owner backs down, the horses will be evicted on Monday, July 15.

WORLD PREMIER: DOCUMENTARY FILM ON CONFLICTS BETWEEN MULTI-NATIONAL ENERGY COMPANIES AND NATIIVE AMERICAN TRIBES DEBUTS IN SAN DIEGO JUNE 22

 

“You can’t have ‘green’ without social justice.” – filmmaker Robert Lundahl

June 20, 2013 (San Diego)--EMMY® Award winning filmmaker Robert Lundahl takes a hard look at U.S. energy policy and its effects on desert ecosystems, Native American tribes and communities across the West. The film has special relevance locally, where major energy projects in San Diego and Imperial Counties have sparked legal actions as tribal members seek to protect their heritage and sacred sites from destruction.

The filmmaker and Native American elders from California, Nevada & Arizona will be present at the premier of  “Who Are My People?”  The San Diego premier is a special presentation by Activist San Diego on Saturday evening, June 22, 7:00-9:00 p.m. at. Joyce Beers Uptown Community Center, 3900 Vermont Street, San Diego, 92103. 

ARE ENERGY PROJECTS CAUSING LOSS OF TOURISM DOLLARS ON PUBLIC LANDS?

 

By Miriam Raftery

March 9, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) –Industrial-scale energy projects on Bureau of Land Management lands are pushed through by energy companies touting jobs and economic booms to communities. Not mentioned is the potential loss of tourism revenues if people stop coming to recreational areas that are visually blighted. That’s been a fear voiced by residents near McCain Valley and Ocotillo, both scenic public recreation areas where wind projects are slated or recently completed.

Now preliminary data from the Bureau of Land Management reveals a 12% drop in the number of visitors to the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreational Area over the past year. Sunrise Powerlink construction was completed in June 2012.  Is the loss of 72,275 visitors due to the  massive high voltage towers that dune buggies and other off-road enthusiasts now must dodge in the desert?

COURT HEARS ARGUMENTS IN DESERT PROTECTIVE COUNCIL’S CASE OVER WILDLIFE THREATS POSED BY OCOTILLO WIND PROJECT

UPDATE: February 28, 2013 -- Judge Curiel has denied the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment.  Plaintiff's have not yet announced whether they will file an appeal.  View decision here

 

The codes are quite clear …You can’t take a Swainson’s hawk. Not even one…There is also no take for Peregrine falcons and owls. If turbine curtailment  is good enough for golden eagles, it should be good enough for these species, too.” ----Laurens Silver, attorney for plaintiffs

It is not the BLM’s role to enforce state law…All through downtown there are glass buildings that could cause a take.” – Marissa Piropato, attorney for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management

By Miriam Raftery

Maris Brancheau also contributed to this report

February 27, 2013 (San Diego) – Is the federal government turning a blind eye to violations of state laws intended to protect raptors (birds of prey) and other wildlife at the Ocotillo Express Wind Facility?   That’s the contention of a lawsuit filed by the Desert Protective Council, an environmental group, and others against the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Pattern Energy and others.

CA NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE COMMISSION ISSUES REPORT BACKING VIEJAS AND QUECHAN CLAIMS OF OCOTOILLO WIND SITE HARM TO SACRED SITES

 

Commission urges CA Attorney General to file suit if mitigation requests not met

Update February 12, 2013: A hearing set for February 15 in San Diego has been postponed.

By Miriam Raftery

January 22, 2013 (Ocotillo ) – The California Native American Heritage Commission (CNAH) has issued a report in support of the Viejas Band of the Kumeyaay Indians and the Quechan Indian Nation claims that the Bureau of Land Management failed in its duty to protect cultural resources including human remains and sacred sites at the Ocotillo Express Wind Facility.  The draf staff report details a disturbing pattern by the BLM, Pattern Energy and a project archaeology consultant of ignoring tribal concerns and failing in its duty to protect cultural resources.

The tribes petitioned the NAHC to investigate and conduct a public hearing to consider tribal requests to declare the entire 12,500 acre site a ‘sanctified cemetery’.  Tribes also seek to have the project halted to assess damage and want agencies to consult with tribes to agree on mitigation measures to prevent further harm to a broader region. The case has broad national significance, with hundreds of millions of acres of public lands slated for renewable energy projects.

The NAHC has cancelled a Public Hearing that had been scheduled at the State of California Building on Front Street in Downtown San Diego for February 15, offering no explanation for the indefinite postponement.

FEDERAL JUDGE HEARS QUECHAN TRIBE’S CASE ON OCOTILLO WIND PROJECT HARM TO SACRED SITES

 

By Miriam Raftery

January 21, 2013 (San Diego) – On Friday, January 18, U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel heard arguments in a lawsuit filed by the Quechan tribe of the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation against the U.S. Department of the Interior and Bureau of Land Management, as well as Pattern Energy and other defendants.

The suit contends that the federal government failed to protect Native American cultural resources, including sacred sites, when it allowed the Ocotillo Wind Energy Facility to be built. Moreover, Quechan contends that the federal government's reclassification of protected lands to accommodate the wind project was arbitrary--and that a similar decision to industrialize almost any public lands regardless of damage to resources could be done if the government's action is allowed to stand. 

BLM PROCEEDS TO FINALIZE SOLAR PLAN THIS MONTH DESPITE PROTESTS

 

September 8, 2012 (San Diego) – The BLM expects to finalize its plan to fast –track solar projects as early as this month while ignoring written protests filed by several environmental groups (as previously reported by ECM http://www.eastcountymagazine.org/node/10908).  The projects affect more than a quarter-million acres across six Southwestern states, including California.

PHOTOS OF THE WEEK: ON THE ROCKS

 

July 23, 2012 (McCain Valley) - ECM reader Tom Lemon sent in these spectacular photos of McCain Valley, site of the proposed Tule Wind facility in San Diego's East County.

"I first visited McCain Valley around 1995 after reading Jerry Shaad's book Afoot and Afield in San Diego County. I began camping and hiking in the Valley and explored the trails and side roads to vista points where you can see the abandoned San Diego and Arizona Eastern Railroad tracks, the Salton Sea, and Castle Butte in Arizona. Yes, you can see all the way to Arizona," he wrote.

"My friend Brian getting into the spirit of McCain. Yeah, it does make you feel like that."

BLM RESPONDS TO ECM INQUIRY ON NATIVE AMERICAN REMAINS AT WIND SITES

By Miriam Raftery

July 19, 2012 (San Diego’s East County) – After forensic dog teams identified dozens of potential ancient human remain sites at energy projects on Bureau of Land Management property in Ocotillo and McCain Valley, as ECM reported this week, ECM asked the BLM what steps it intends to take to assure that any Native American remains are protected.

Two officials from the BLM have responded to our inquiry.

SILENCE OF THE LAMBS: U.S. GOVERNMENT AUTHORIZES KILLING OF ENDANGERED BIGHORNS IN PATH OF WIND PROJECT

By Miriam Raftery

May 19, 2012 (Ocotillo) -- In a precedent that has horrified wildlife experts, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has authorized the “take” (meaning harassment, displacement or even death) of 10 endangered Peninsular Bighorn Sheep – five ewes and five lambs. 

The decision comes after federal wildlife officials were provided photographic evidence by ECM  that the endangered animals were seen in recent weeks on the site of the just-approved Ocotillo Express wind energy facility—a presence federal officials and the project developer have long denied.

WIND STORM: POTENTIAL RISKS TO RESIDENTS FROM 20-SQUARE-MILE WIND PROJECT PROPOSED FOR OCOTILLO

 

Part III in our exclusive report on the proposed Ocotillo Express Wind project

By Miriam Raftery

March 27, 2012 (Ocotillo)-Ocotillo resident Jim Pelley dreads the prospect of the 456-tall wind turbines that may soon surround his home on three sides-some less than half mile away. 

Whirling blades, each weighing many tons, would be placed atop an active earthquake fault area capable of a 7.0 quake or more.  Fire danger, groundwater impacts, noise, electromagnetic sound waves and ground current are among the potential perils that he fears.

“Our quiet little town of Ocotillo with pristine views of the mountains will be destroyed forever. In return, we have to deal with the possibility of some serious adverse health effects and many other serious problems,” Pelley, an award-winning photojournalist and engineer, told ECM.   

WIND STORM: WHISTLEBLOWER ALLEGES GAG ORDER PREVENTED STATE PARK EMPLOYEES FROM REVEALING HARM TO ANZA-BORREGO DESERT STATE PARK FROM PROPOSED OCOTILLO EXPRESS WIND PROJECT

Part II in ECM’s exclusive report on the Ocotillo Express Wind project, a joint investigation with ABC 10 News. (See the 10 News portion of this investigation, a report on environmental impacts of the project here:   10 News text: http://www.10news.com/news/30776233/detail.html; 10 News video: http://www.10news.com/video/30776306/index.html)

“To have the Governor’s office tell our park officials NOT to comment on Ocotillo,  OR ANY OTHER alternative energy projects adjacent to the Park, is a travesty, a violation of the trust between the citizens and the state.” – Mark Jorgensen, retired Superintendent, Anza Borrego Desert State Park in an e-mail to ECM

 “These allegations are not true.   No such directive came from the the Governor’s Office or the California Natural Resources Agency saying that State Parks could not comment on the Ocotillo Wind Express Project. “ -- Richard Stapler, Deputy Secretary for Communications, California Natural Resources Agency

By Miriam Raftery

March 27, 2012 (Anza-Borrego) – The former Superintendent of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park (ABDSP) has contacted East County Magazine to allege a cover-up by the State Parks Department and the Governor of serious impacts that the proposed Ocotillo Express wind project would have on our largest state park and its natural resources.  The proposed wind project shares a five-mile border with ABSP and if approved, would erect up to 155 wind turbines each 456 feet tall—some just yards from the park.

CABLES STRUNG ACROSS ROADS IN OCOTILLO BY POWERLINK HELICOPTERS ENDANGER OFF-ROAD VEHICLES, MOTORCYCLIST CONTENDS

 

By Miriam Raftery

 

October 9, 2011 (Ocotillo) – ECM has received photos and an e-mail from Jim Pelley, a motorcyclist who reports finding metal cables strung two feet off the ground across roadways in Ocotillo frequented by off-road vehicle enthusiasts.

 

The cables were attached to an SDG&E helicopter “pulling cables from tower to tower,” Pelley reports.”This is a serious situation and I am worried that someone will not see this cable and a serious accident will result with either the off road vehicle or the helicopter.”

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