To the untrained eye, California’s Mojave and Colorado deserts might appear like barren, lifeless places. It would seem like an ideal location for hundreds of square miles of solar arrays and transmission lines – power plants for alternative energy that will reduce the impacts of climate change on our planet. “The reality is that these deserts host a remarkable diversity of birds and other wildlife,” says Garry George, Audubon California’s chapter network director. “It would be a tragedy if we lost this beauty in a poorly considered effort to save it.”
George is a veteran of the early legal battles betweenAudubonchapters and wind and solar companies over energy development in sensitive habitat areas. This makes him the perfect person to represent Audubon California on a special panel created by the state of Californiato complete a long-term plan for the deserts that will help site alternative energy development in ways that avoid sensitive bird and wildlife habitat.
The group is comprised of industry, agencies, and conservation partners. Audubon California is the only voice for birds.
“There’s this misconception that we have to choose between alternative energy and protections for birds,” says George. “If we take the time to do alternative energy right–something we never did with oil and coal–we can have both.”
If the planning effort is successful, the solar industry will have to abide by long-term endangered species protections in exchange for approval of its projects.
“The goal is to have our cake and eat it too–to get the clean energy and the protections for wildlife,” says George.