Some More Questions on the Bundy Fiasco (Updated w/footnotes)Submitted by wacko bird on Wed, 04/16/2014 - 04:40
There's an aspect of this Bundy story that I haven't seen mentioned.
(And please understand - I'm making no accusations here, just asking questions.)
It's been reported elsewhere that the BLM Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone report was the initiative leading to the BLM aggression against Bundy. That report was the outcome of the process used to measure the impact of (and mandate a strategy for) "compensating for the unavoidable (environmental and other) impacts that are expected from the development of the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone".(1)
It seems that the poor desert tortoise, as well as plant species such as the "rosy two-toned penstemon, (also known as pinto beardtongue)", were discovered by BLM to be so threatened by the solar plant, (even after mandated protections would be implemented on the land occupied by the solar plant), that land use restrictions had to be placed on adjacent lands, so as to "mitigate" the environmental destruction caused by the solar plant.
Well if you slog through that report, and especially the accompanying FAQ, you will learn that the "Solar Regional Mitigation Planning" (SRMP) process that resulted in this report is a new process, a pilot process actually, that just coincidentally happened to be tried for the first time on this project. Hmmm. (2)
Evidently, the usual environmental impact process requires the developer to propose an environmental "minimization strategy" to the BLM, which might go back and forth between BLM and the developer until finally approved. (Admittedly, one can imagine how frustrating this might be.)
This new SRMP pilot process, implemented (according to the BLM) to reduce developer frustration, has BLM actually initiating and conducting the impact study process themselves, resulting in a report complete with their own proposed solutions (3), one of which (in this case) was to offset, or "mitigate", the environmental impact of the solar plant with aggressive protection of affected species on adjacent lands, including the land Bundy's cattle were grazing.
So here's what we have:
- The BLM, headed by a Harry Reid crony, just happens to initiate a brand new pilot mitigation planning process on THIS Nevada solar project, the same project where the solar energy developer happens to be represented by one lawyer, Rory Reid.
- This new SRMP process results in a "mitigation strategy" requiring (among other adjacent land use restrictions) Mr. Bundy to cease and desist his cattle from "trespassing" on (claimed) BLM managed land.
- It has also been reported that the solar energy firm got a helluva deal on the land. (Typical crapitalism in action?)
Now, I'm far from an expert on environmental "mitigation" requirements resulting from western land development, and while there appear to be some solid dots here connecting them will require the attention of an investigator with access to the principals for questionsing. In the meantime, inquiring minds wonder:
1. If this Reid represented solar energy firm, in addition to getting a sweet deal on the land acquisition, didn't also get a sweet deal on the environmental impact cost from this new "pilot" BLM managed impact study and proposal as well?
2. In addition to the Bundy grazing land, what else the BLM grabbed as a result of this study?
3. Who made the decision to institute a new, BLM led, "mitigation" strategy, and why was the Dry Lake SEZ chosen as the SRMP pilot site?
4. If this SRMP strategy is going to be the new one going forward, where the BLM decides what nearby occupied land it's gonna grab and control as a result of every new development proposal - all for the protection of the poor impacted species of course, and at the expense - not of the developer - but of the owners/users of adjacent "mitigated" land?
(1) Clive Bundy's cattle reportedly "trespass" on the Gold Butte ACEC (Area of Critical Environmental Concern). The Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone report identified the Gold Butte ACEC as the primary location for "mitigation" of the environmental damage likely to be caused by the solar energy plant.
The proposed regional mitigation locations and actions will mitigate for the temporary loss of some of the resources that will occur as a result of solar development in the Dry Lake SEZ (e.g., loss of creosote-bursage vegetation, loss of general and BLM special status species habitat, loss of cryptobiotic soil crusts and desert pavement, and loss of the ecosystem services these resources provide). The BLM Southern Nevada District Office considered several regional mitigation action alternatives. The suite of potential mitigation actions were generated by soliciting proposals from the public and from BLM staff in the district. The proposals included:
• Restoring disturbed land in several ACECs and one national conservation area in the vicinity of the Dry Lake SEZ.
• Preventing further degradation in several ACECs and one national conservation area in the vicinity of the Dry Lake SEZ.
• Acquiring private land in the vicinity of the Dry Lake SEZ and managing it for conservation values.
The following proposed mitigation locations were screened and given a preliminary ranking using criteria based on the regional mitigation goals described in Section 2.5. The results of the ranking are summarized in the screening table for candidate regional mitigation locations for the Dry Lake SEZ (Appendix D):
• Gold Butte ACEC.
• Mormon Mesa ACEC.
• Coyote Springs ACEC.
• Piute-Eldorado Valley ACEC.
• Coyote Springs ACEC, plus adjacent lands as proposed by the The Nature Conservancy
...The Gold Butte ACEC is preliminarily recommended as the best recipient location for regional mitigation from the DryLake SEZ.
The resource values found in the Gold Butte ACEC are threatened by: unauthorized activities, including off-road vehicle use, illegal dumping, and trespass livestock grazing; wildfire; and weed infestation.
Section 2.8 (p 35,36) of Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone report (linked above).
(2) In August 2012, the BLM initiated the pilot Dry Lake SEZ Solar Regional Mitigation Planning Project, which constitutes the first SRMS developed for an SEZ. The Dry Lake SEZ SRMS originated simultaneously with, and served as a pilot test case for, the establishment of BLM guidance for developing SRMSs for other SEZs (BLM forthcoming).
Section 1.3 (p 10) of Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone report
(3) Currently, mitigation plans are developed on a case-by-case basis. Each plan applies and tailors the ‘avoid and minimize’ strategy to the specific site and the proposed facility. Where off-site mitigation is stipulated, the BLM generally provides solar developers with off-site mitigation objectives. The developers then develop a proposals for consideration by the BLM (which may involve acquiring preliminary agreements with private land owners). If the BLM finds a proposal sufficient, it is approved. If not, the developer goes ‘back to the drawing board’ to try again. Going round-and-round with proposals and rejections is a source of frustration for solar developers. Under the SRMP approach, the BLM will execute a collaborative process to:
1.Identify the unavoidable adverse impacts that will be mitigated off-site
2.Establish quantifiable off-site and/or regional mitigation objectives
(Answer to Question 4, p 2) SRMP FAQ accompanying Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone report.