War on Trees: Harry Reid, Ag Extension Agents, and Chinese biomass companies promote liquidation of old growth forests……. in Nevada

Pinyon and juniper trees, demonized by ranchers, miners and water mining entities, are being eyed by Chinese “biomass” companies with the backing of politicians.

Pinyon Juniper Forest, Nevada.  Photo - Katie Fite

Pinyon Juniper Forest, Nevada. Photo - Katie Fite

Recently the Nevada Pinyon-Juniper Partnership, aided by USDA, set up a conference to discuss pinyon and juniper trees. At the conference were several players in government and business who have an interest in the removal of pinyon and juniper trees in the Great Basin. Bob Abbey, the director of the BLM, attended the meeting.

Most people don’t think of the Great Basin when they think of old growth forests but the pinyon-juniper forests there are ancient forests with several hundred year old trees that provide important habitats and food for many species of birds like pinyon jays, Clark’s nutcrackers, black throated gray warblers, small mammals, nesting raptors. The charismatic seed-caching Clark’s nutcracker faces catastrophic food shortages in the Rockies due to whitebark pine die-off. It relies on large-seeded pines – and the pinyon pine has a superb large seed that was also vital to supporting Native American cultures in the Great Basin.

The refuge provided by these trees are probably the only reason that central Nevada has any elk at all. They are one of the important components that keep the entire Great Basin Ecosystem together because they retain snow later into the year due to their shade and absorb CO2. Their destruction would promote global warming and desertification by making the area hotter and drier. Read the rest of this entry »

WWP Sues to Stop Fast Tracked Ivanpah Power Plant in California

Endangered Desert Tortoise Further Imperiled by Remote Solar Plant

Female desert tortoise resting on the apron of her burrow about to get a power plant built on her doorstep. (2010) © Michael J. Connor

Female desert tortoise resting on the apron of her burrow about to get a power plant built on her doorstep. (2010) © Michael J. Connor

For several months we’ve been covering the progress of the, now approved, solar power plant at Ivanpah near Las Vegas on the California side of the Nevada/California border. Initial construction has begun and biologists have rounded up as many desert tortoises as they can to prepare the site for what essentially amounts to sterilization. In past studies where desert tortoises had been moved, half of them died while an equal number of tortoises at the site where they were moved to were subsequently displaced and died.

The energy company BrightSource Energy says that they want to mitigate the loss of the desert tortoise by restoring Castle Mountain Venture land and mining claims in an area to the north and add them to the Mojave National Preserve. This is all well and good but the lands are very poor desert tortoise habitat and would not compensate for the habitat lost due to the destruction that the new solar plant will cause.

It’s hard to call a project like this “green” when there is no corresponding reduction in greenhouse gas emitting coal or natural gas power plants and when the habitat destruction being caused further imperils the endangered desert tortoise and other species. This project keeps power generation in the hands of big corporations at the expense of taxpayers who would benefit more from subsidized use of less environmentally damaging rooftop solar.

One article, by the solar industry news site Solar Novus Today, about the lawsuit editorializes about the solar plant this way:

“One begins to wonder, aren’t we all on the same side? One of the main purposes of renewable energy is to protect the environment and help halt global warming. True, making money is a prime desire as well but if it wipes out the environmental concerns, we have, so to speak, thrown the baby out with the bathwater. Do we really need to put solar plants on pristine desert landscapes or on Native American sacred sites? It may take more time, effort and a little more money to research other less obvious sites, such as brownfields, but solar plants in these locations will accomplish both goals: keeping the environment safe and making money.”

Read the rest of this entry »