July 5, 2016
San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors
c/o Laura Welch, Clerk of the Board
385 North Arrowhead Drive, #2
San Bernardino, CA 92415
Subject: Soda Mountain Solar Project
Honorable and Respected Supervisors:
The Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks urges the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors (BOS) to deny the Soda Mountain Solar project, which is proposed to occur within the jurisdictional boundaries of San Bernardino County (County) adjacent to Mojave National Preserve. The Coalition requests that the BOS deny the permit request in accordance with its discretionary authority under the California Environmental Quality Act in response to significant unmitigated impacts that will occur to the natural, cultural, and social values of the County.
This letter is submitted on behalf of over 1,100 members of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks (Coalition). Our membership is composed entirely of retired, former, or current salaried employees of the National Park Service (NPS) and includes former employees of Mojave National Preserve. As a group, we collectively represent more than 30,000 years of national park management experience. Our membership is unified in its 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, and irrevocably harm the park’s protected resources and values. If developed as proposed, the Soda Mountain Solar project would destroy tortoise, kit fox and burrowing owl habitat, harm scenic vistas, threaten special status birds, draw down precious groundwater resources, impair air quality, and disrupt efforts to restore Desert Bighorn Sheep corridors.
Maintaining the genetic variability of Desert Bighorn Sheep (Bighorn) meta-populations in the California desert is of critical importance for their long-term survival and health. The Bighorn’s existing migratory pathways must be preserved to connect and protect isolated populations.
Moreover, other wildlife corridors – such as the north / south Soda connection – must be restored for the long-term preservation of the species in the California desert. The presence of a utility-scale solar facility adjacent to the Mojave National Preserve and the South Soda Mountains would disrupt this corridor and foreclose on the possibility of reestablishing the connection between Bighorn living in the Mojave National Preserve and those to the north residing in Death Valley National Park and the Avawatz Range.
While we strongly support the development of renewable energy for a clean, green future, we also firmly believe that such projects must be designed and located so that they do not adversely impact national parks and their related wildlands, adjacent local communities, archaeological sites, and lands that are sacred to Native American Tribes.
The proposed Soda Mountain Solar project would fundamentally undermine local communities and violate the spirit and letter of the County’s renewable energy ordinance. To date, thousands of County residents as well as numerous local organizations, businesses, scientists, recreation groups, and gateway communities have spoken out against this project. Nationally, renowned scientists Thomas E. Lovejoy (professor of environmental science and policy at George Mason University) and Edward O. Wilson (emeritus professor of biology at Harvard) are familiar with and oppose the Soda Mountain Solar project. Finally, the National Park Service opposes the project and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has expressed significant concerns.
Despite these voices, extensive national media coverage, and the known significant harm to County and community resources, the Soda Mountain Solar project continues to move forward. We respectfully request that San Bernardino County take immediate action to stop one of the most harmful utility-scale solar projects in the nation.
Maureen Finnerty, Chair
Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks
Laura Welch, Clerk of the Board, San Bernadino County Board of Supervisors (CA)
Todd J. Suess, Superintendent, Mojave National Preserve, National Park Service
Laura Joss, Pacific West Regional Director, National Park Service