Tribes Challenge Mojave Solar Plants

Native Americans fear for wildlife, sacred sites
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 12, 2012 8:46 AM CDT
Tribes Challenge Mojave Solar Plants
This Sept.3,2008 file photo shows traffic passing on Interstate 15, foreground, beyond which is the proposed location of three solar-energy generation complexes, in the eastern Mojave Desert.   (AP Photo/Reed Saxon,File)

(Newser) – Sure, solar energy plants are aimed at helping the environment—but planned sites in the Mojave Desert area could do more harm than good, Native American groups argue. That's because making way for the plants would damage the habitats of the horny toad and desert tortoise, Alfredo Figueroa, a 78-year-old Chemehuevi Indian tells the Guardian. "Of all the creatures, the horny toad is the most sacred to us because he's at the center of the Aztec sun calendar," he notes. "And the tortoise also, who represents Mother Earth."

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What's more, the region is full of huge geoglyphs—carvings perhaps 10,000 years old—as well as what the groups say could be an ancient cremation site. A rep for the Bureau of Land Management notes that "all the projects were thoroughly assessed for their impact on cultural and biological resources. As part of that process we developed agreements with the tribes to deal with any potential conflicts." But tribal organizations have filed lawsuits against six development sites, including the $2.2 billion Google-backed Ivanpah project. Ivanpah's operators counter that its planned 11 plants will ultimately cover just .026% of the desert's 25,000 square miles; it also says that it has spent $22 million to assist desert tortoises. (Read more Mojave Desert stories.)

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