APRIL 18, 2011

Sportsmen Call for Responsibly Siting New Solar Projects on Arizona’s Public Lands

Public Comment period extended through May 2, 2011

MESA – Sportsmen in Arizona are calling on the U.S. Department of Interior to site new solar projects on public lands in Arizona in pre-determined zones that create new jobs while protecting Arizona’s water and wildlife habitat.

“It’s our hope that this planning effort can help chart a course that is much better balanced relative to the development of energy and the protection of important fish and wildlife habitats,” the Arizona Wildlife Federation today said in formal comments submitted to the agency.

Saturday, May 2, is now the last day that the public can comment on a Department of Energy and Department of Interior process to determine where solar energy should be developed on public lands in six western states, including Arizona. The current planning effort is an opportunity to demonstrate how balanced energy development can be achieved along with the protection of important fish and wildlife habitat.

The Arizona Wildlife Federation (AWF) and its members believe that the best way forward is to cluster projects in appropriately-sited zones with high solar potential and minimal wildlife conflicts. There are three proposed Solar Energy Zones in Arizona, totaling 13,735 acres near Lake Havasu City, Blythe, and southwest of Phoenix. The federal government’s current preferred alternative, however, would open up an additional 4.4 million acres on public lands in Arizona to new development.

“The Solar Energy Zones alternative will provide more than enough acreage to allow for the projected amount of solar development in Arizona, and it will also protect important sporting opportunities and game species such as mule deer and pronghorn. It’s perplexing that the agencies’ current preferred alternative calls for opening up so much additional land,” said Brad Powell, Vice President with the Arizona Wildlife Federation.

AWF also wants to make sure that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and other decision-makers in Washington work with local stakeholders such as sportsmen to refine the zones and make sure there is flexibility built into the process for refining the zones in the future.

“It’s up to Secretary Salazar to make sure this development is done in way that protects the sporting traditions that are so important to our heritage,” said Tom Mackin, president of AWF. “He needs to get personally involved and hear the concerns of sportsmen.”

For maps of the proposed zones, or more information on this public process, visit: http://solareis.anl.gov/maps/alternatives/index.cfm

The Arizona Wildlife Federation is the State’s oldest wildlife conservation organization and is an affiliate of the National Wildlife Federation. Our membership represents a wide spectrum of Arizona’s outdoor community. We are committed to the stewardship of Arizona’s public lands, to protect and enhance fish and wildlife habitats and to increase public access to quality hunting and fishing. Visit www.azwildlife.org/ht/d/Home/pid/56694.