Proposed Solar Project Sparks Fear of Desert Tortoise Wipeout

Party Rooster

Unleash The Beast
Apr 27, 2005
The Inland Empire State
Proposed Solar Project Sparks Fear of Desert Tortoise Wipeout

By Stephen Clark
Published August 12, 2011

This Sept. 3, 2008 file photo shows an endangered desert tortoise, sitting in the middle of a road at the proposed location of three BrightSource Energy solar-energy generation complexes in the eastern Mojave Desert near Ivanpah, Calif.

A proposed massive solar project in the California desert that is part of President Obama’s commitment to clean energy has sparked fears that rare tortoises in the area will be pushed to brink of extinction even though the Interior Department is forcing the developer to purchase habitat elsewhere.

But environmental activists say it remains to be seen whether the tortoises will ultimately survive the changes.

“Only time will tell,” said Donna Charpied, executive director of Citizens for the Chuckwalla Valley, who does not "openly support" the project but has worked with the developer on mitigation measures.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar approved the 550-megawatt project this week. The Desert Sunlight Solar Farm will be built in the desert east of Palm Springs on 4,100 acres of public lands.Federal officials say the solar project will generate enough energy to power over 165,000 homes, create more than 630 jobs and infuse $336 million into the local economy.

The company, Desert Sunlight Holdings, a subsidiary of First Solar, has entered a 30-year contract to rent the public lands, paying $1.37 million per year until the project is operational, when the rent rises to $3.9 million. The total will amount to more than $41 million for taxpayers over 30 years.

First Solar will purchase an additional 6,400 acres of habitat for the desert tortoise.

“The BLM is committed to supporting a clean energy future for America by responsibly developing renewable energy on our country’s public lands,” BLM Director Bob Abbey said in a statement. “And part of that responsibility lies in mitigating the potential impacts of energy development on our wildlife and our lands.”

A BLM spokeswoman told that the agency identified some area of private lands that it would prefer First Solar to acquire as part of the mitigation for the project. But it is up to the company to find willing sellers and negotiate a price.

First Solar did not respond to a request for comment.

The private lands “would provide connectivity for desert tortoise, allowing them to move from the Chuckwalla Bench area to Joshua Tree and areas north,” BLM spokeswoman Erin Curtis said.
She said the project will be built on “already disturbed lands that are considered marginal habitat for desert tortoise.” The area has already been used heavily by industry, including Kaiser mine and the Colorado River Aqueduct.

If tortoises are encountered during construction, they will be translocated, Curtis said.

During initial surveys, only a two or three tortoises were found in the project area, she said.

But Charpied said she has seen many more than that over the past 30 years that she has lived on her farm that is 600 feet away from the project. She noted that tortoises are shy creatures that may not have revealed themselves during the count.

Charpied said she has cooperated with the company after raising concerns because she realized “the project is going to happen.”

“So just to ignore it and not have anything in place would be sheer murder,” she said.

She said by engaging with the company, “we were able to forge the best mitigation that will provide extra levels of protection for our home, farm and community.”

Curtis noted that BLM reduced First Solar’s proposed total footprint from 19,000 acres down to 4,144 during a year-and-half review and came up with additional mitigation measures after hearing concerns about a number of issues.

“We have a multiple-use mission and part of that is protecting natural resources and part of multiple use is considering the use of land,” Curtis told “It’s certainly part of our multiple-use mission, conducted throughout our analysis, to come up with a project that is a win for all.”

Charpied said the BLM is doing its job and just following orders from the president. But she took issue with the president’s energy plan.

“I believe that President Obama’s energy plan is misguided,” she said. “It would be nice to have solar panels on rooftops, parking lots, next to transmission lines. But a lot of these projects targeting this area are the complete opposite of what the energy plan should be.”
So three tortoises stand in the way of a multi-million dollar development project in green energy. This state is DMFD.


Liberal Psycopath
Dec 9, 2004
Loveland, CO
The desert tortoises are kings of the endangered species in California. We had to put up 20 miles of foot-high fencing to keep them out of our construction sites. And those that managed to breach the fence had to be removed by a biologist while all work halted. Ponderous.


Registered User
Dec 11, 2007
tortoises rule!

put the solar array in Nevada and leave the tortoises alone.


Registered User
Aug 26, 2002
Ronkonkoma, Long Island
Fuck em. If they can't move fast enough to get out of the way, that's just evolution proving that turtles are too slow to survive.


Mar 23, 2008
Kingdom of Charis
So the environmentalists are fucking up the environmentalists? Head assploe.


PR representative for Drunk Whiskeyguy.
Jan 12, 2010
Northern California
All environmentalists need to kill themselves. It's the best thing they can do for the planet.

I work in the timber industry and it's gotten so expensive and difficult to log in California that we're shipping logs from South America and Canada into our bay. We have fucking redwood trees here. So instead of employing people and harvesting a renewable resource, they burn fuel shipping logs in.

Party Rooster

Unleash The Beast
Apr 27, 2005
The Inland Empire State
I had a friend who brought one home from the desert for a "pet" for his kid. He had it a few weeks. When I told him that was probably a federal offense and that he should take it to a pet shop to see if what could be done about it, he panicked and ended up just releasing into the wild. He was afraid the pet store would rat him out to the feds.