Elk NetworkRMEF: Solar Development May Stifle Wildlife Movement, Habitat, Public Access

General | April 26, 2024

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation warns the construction of large, new solar energy developments across 11 western states, as currently being presented, will have detrimental effects on elk, mule deer, pronghorn antelope and other wildlife while thwarting public access to public land.

“We express concerns over the large geographic scale of this assessment, along with the lack of protection for big game crucial habitat and loss of access to millions of acres of public land,” wrote Karie Decker, RMEF director of wildlife and habitat.

RMEF sent six pages of official comments to the Bureau of Land Management in response to an Energy Act of 2020 directive for the secretary of the Interior to authorize 25 gigawatts of renewable energy on public lands by 2025. As of December 2022, the BLM permitted nine gigawatts of approved capacity with 66 more projects under preliminary review that would consume nearly half a million acres of public land.

By regulation, solar facilities require seven-foot-high fencing that prevents unauthorized access by people and can cover 5,000 acres or more. Such installments would also cut off migratory corridors, keep wildlife out of crucial winter range, severely limit both natural resource and wildlife management, and impact hunting, fishing and other uses of public lands.

The plan’s current preferred alternative would allocate 22 million acres for utility-scale solar development. According to the BLM, four million of those acres include big game winter range and 1.8 million are identified as migration corridors.

RMEF remains engaged in the process and will track future stages of the project.

(Photo credit: Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation)