The Coalition of National Park Service Retirees includes over 1,050 members who collectively represent over 30,000 years of experience managing America’s most precious natural and cultural resources. CNPSR studies, educates, speaks and acts for the preservation of America’s National Park System.
The purpose of this piece is to declare our opposition to the Soda Mountain Solar Project, which would be located less than a quarter mile away from the boundary of the Mojave National Preserve.
If developed as proposed, this project would disrupt efforts to restore bighorn sheep corridors, destroy tortoise, kit fox and burrowing owl habitat, harm scenic vistas, threaten special status birds, draw down precious groundwater resources and impair air quality.
We strongly support the development of renewable energy for a clean, green future, but we also firmly believe that such projects must be designed and located so that they do not adversely impact our national parks, wildlands, communities, archaeological sites and those lands that are sacred to Native American Tribes. We appreciate that over the past seven years the Department of Interior has developed comprehensive rules and regulations with the intent of making sure that our investments in renewable energy do not erode the widely recognized values of our public lands and our national parks.
Now is the time to implement these policies in a fashion that protects designated wilderness and special places like the Mohave National Preserve.
We have experienced the occasional disconnect between Washington policy and field-level decision making. The proposed Soda Mountain Solar project appears to us to be a particularly harmful example. If built, it would impede the restoration of the best opportunity to reestablish bighorn connectivity across Interstate 15, a migration corridor which would connect bighorn populations that reside in the Mojave National Preserve with those in the Avawatz Mountains, Soda Mountains and Death Valley National Park.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has been aware of the importance of the North/South Soda Mountain connection for bighorn for over 40 years. Even if the Department of Interior decides to limit construction to the south side of I-15, bighorn sheep that forage in the South Soda Mountains, as well as a variety of other important wildlife species, will still suffer substantial harm.
The Department of Interior has now had years to learn how to craft renewable energy policy smart from the start, and the agency has the unique opportunity – the duty – to make the right decision regarding this proposal in the Soda Mountains.
We call on Secretary Sally Jewell to take action to protect the wildlife corridor and important habitat by designating it as a Bureau of Land Management Area of Critical Environmental Concern and to relocate the Soda Mountain Solar Project.
Chair, Coalition of National Park Service Retirees