DENVER – A first-of-its-kind rule that launches competitive leasing and environmental reviews for wind and solar energy projects on public lands will help protect fish and wildlife while charting a course to a cleaner energy future, a national sportsmen’s coalition said Thursday.
The Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development coalition said the Bureau of Land Management’s new solar and wind leasing rule will be essential while considering the needs of fish and wildlife populations and the interests of hunters and anglers when large-scale renewable energy projects are proposed. The coalition’s representatives lauded provisions establishing rates and fees to ensure a fair return to the public, the land’s owners, creating designated leasing areas and taking a region-wide approach to mitigating the impacts of development.
Coalition members encouraged the BLM to support the kind of funding model found in the Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act. The bill, which has bipartisan backing, would distribute revenue produced by the projects to state and local governments and a fund for fish and wildlife habitat restoration, enhancement of outdoor recreation and improved access to public lands for hunters and anglers.
Smart from the start
“Hunters, anglers and other wildlife advocates welcome the ‘smart-from-the-start’ approach the BLM’s new rule promotes for wind and solar energy development on public lands. Expanding our nation’s clean-energy portfolio is important, but large-scale renewable installations will have impacts on the landscape and we need to anticipate and avoid negative impacts on fish and wildlife habitat,” says Kate Zimmerman, the National Wildlife Federation’s public lands policy director
“As we continue to get more of our energy from renewable sources, including wind and solar, it is important that we balance development on public lands with fish and wildlife,” says Joel Webster, Western lands director with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “All energy development has an impact, and the BLM’s final renewable leasing rule takes a positive step towards ensuring that popular game species, including mule deer and upland birds, get a fair shake in the process.”
“Public land wind and solar development offers the prospect of energy security and cleaner, more sustainable sources of energy. If done responsibly, this development can coexist with our outdoor traditions,” says Corey Fisher, senior policy director for Trout Unlimited’s Sportsmen’s Conservation Project. “The BLM rule is a good start for finding that balance, but we also need Congress to pass the Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act and ensure that there is dedicated funding for improving fish and wildlife habitat in areas affected by development. Doing so will help to offset some of the unavoidable impacts and help ensure that the BLM’s new leasing rule is implemented successfully.”
Sportsmen welcome a new rule for leasing wind, solar energy projects on public lands. Image: Matt Vincent