Greens ask Haaland to nix solar project to save tortoises

By Scott Streater | 03/19/2024 01:29 PM EDT

The solar farm is proposed to be built on federal land in the Nevada desert.

The face of a desert tortoise.

A desert tortoise. Environmental groups want the Interior Department to reject a solar project that they say will harm tortoise habitat. Desert Tortoise Recovery Office/Fish and Wildlife Service/Flickr

A coalition of conservation groups petitioned Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on Monday to cancel her agency’s ongoing review of a major solar power project in southern Nevada, saying it would wipe out thousands of acres of habitat for federally protected desert tortoises.

At issue is the Rough Hat Clark Solar Project, which is proposed to be built on about 2,400 acres overseen by the Bureau of Land Management in the Pahrump Valley, just outside Las Vegas. The project is one of six major solar farms proposed to be clustered together in the valley.

The coalition of eight groups, led by Nevada-based Basin and Range Watch and the Western Watersheds Project, sent a petition to Haaland, BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning and two other senior officials urging the bureau to drop its ongoing environmental review of the project because it would contribute “to the large-scale elimination of viable, intact habitat” for the Mojave Desert tortoise.


The Rough Hat Clark project “would replace nearly 4 square miles of good quality Mojave Desert tortoise habitat with solar panels, battery storage banks, and new transmission lines,” the petition says.