Press Release Sep 18, 2012

Feeling the Heat: Protecting Desert National Parks from Industrial Solar

National Parks Conservation Association Releases New Report, Video on Solar Development

Barstow, CA – Providing an in-depth look at the building tug-of-war between the solar “gold rush” of development and its impact on fragile desert habitats and our iconic national parks, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) today released a new report and video. In the video “Feeling the Heat” and a corresponding report by NPCA’s Center for Park Research, the reasons for striking a sound balance between enhancing alternative energy sources while protecting park resources are explored.

A recent push to develop industrial-scale solar developments has occurred across the Southwest’s landscape. The new report, Solar Energy, National Parks, and Landscape Protection in the Desert Southwest explores impacts to plants, wildlife, water sources, and scenic vistas for three currently approved solar facilities. The report outlines how some of the facilities’ plans were altered to reduce such impacts; provides recommendations that encourage collaboration between federal and state agencies and other stakeholders when evaluating solar proposals; urges management agencies to gather data on which resources will be impacted by proposed solar facilities; and, most importantly, calls for solar development to occur on previously disturbed lands or areas that have been studied and deemed appropriate.

“We need to be vigilant about where we site industrial solar facilities, particularly where our national parks and fragile desert lands are involved,” said Guy DiDonato, Natural Resources Program Manager for NPCA’s Center for Park Research.

Given the strong potential impacts, we need a sound framework for decision-making. To address that need, the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is currently evaluating its final “Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement” (PEIS) to help guide future solar development in six southwestern states: California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico. The document considers three alternatives: allowing solar development on 99 million acres of BLM land across the region; encouraging development in designated solar energy zones, while leaving an additional 19 million acres of “variance lands” open for solar development; and restricting future solar energy development to designated solar energy zones.

“We commend the Administration’s efforts to take areas of high conflict out of consideration, but more work to protect areas surrounding our national parks is needed,” said David Lamfrom, California Desert Senior Program Manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. “Our desert lands, including those surrounding our national parks, are brimming with unique, and diverse plant and animal life, and need protection.”

The National Park Service identified areas around 53 national park sites in the six state region, including Joshua Tree, Mojave National Preserve, and Death Valley in California, where significant conflicts with and impacts to resources would result from industrial solar development.

“We have entrusted the Department of the Interior to care for and steward our most precious lands, and are entering the final decision process that will determine the desert’s eternal fate,” said Lamfrom. “This decision is far too important to get wrong.”

Click here to view the video and full report


About National Parks Conservation Association
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit