Annotated notes on environmental assessments
of 17 solar power plant projects
(37 pp.) - pdf
These notes provide sources and background information on 16 currently proposed and
one constructed solar power plants, in the southwestern U.S. 13 of these projects are on the
Bureau of Land Management's fast-track list (Bureau of Land Management, Fast-Track
Renewable Energy Projects, August 13, 2010).
Solar Power Plants, Water, and Climate by Howard Wilshire (January, 2011).
Extra chapters not included in the book
Exclusive feature - Not included in the published book.
Click on links below to download PDFs.
Fast-Tracking Solar Development in the Desert
(10 pp.) - pdf
Since solar power is believed to be a prime solution to U.S. dependence on foreign energy
sources, a rapidly growing U.S. solar industry is supporting grand proposals for utility-scale solar
power plant developments on essentially free public lands in the southwestern deserts. With
blessings from assorted environmental groups, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) is
accelerating the process for approving solar development.
(7 pp.) - pdf
How good is the record of nuclear power plants really? The 30-year record of plant safety since the Three Mile Island accident and the proposals being pushed to replace our aging fleet of inefficient reactors provide some unsettling clues.
Sowing Pandora's Fields
(20 pp.) - pdf
American agriculture is becoming part of a great genetic experiment for natural forces to
play with. After brilliant research
confirmed RNA and DNA as the means of replicating and passing genetic traits to offspring,
mere mortals suddenly worked out ways to access the genetic codes and genetic functions of all
life forms--the very building blocks of life. Today, DNA is little more than another industrial
Mayhem at the Dunes
(5 pp.) - pdf
Many people think natural sand dunes are barren of life, but dunes in western United States support rich and diverse ecosystems of distinctive plants and animals. California's Algodones Dune is the nation's largest sand dune field, which attracts 70,000 to 200,000 people, riding nearly as many Off-Road Vehicles, each one having the capacity to wipe out animals in and out of burrows, and the plants which support dune food chains.
Click on thumbnail images to view larger photos with captions. Slide show will allow you to scroll through the photo gallery.
1. 1942 tank track left, 1964 track right, California, April 1985. Mojave Desert, south of Needles, CA. Tracks are especially persistent on desert pavement surfaces, but compressional effects also remain for decades, even where the tracks are no longer visible..
2. Abandoned 5-acre ranchette, Mojave Desert, California, May 1977. Created in 1938 in response to the 1930s depression, the Small Tract Act of 1938 designated 457,000 federal acres for disposal. The southern California desert is dotted with failed developments—originally just bulldozed grids of “streets” boxing land parcels. Getting title to a 5-acre parcel required building a small shack, but staying in it defeated most of the owners. This Act was repealed in 1976.
3. Abandoned ranch house, Highway 58, California, September 2003.
4. Abandoned yacht clubhouse, Salton Sea, California, October 1989. Showing undercutting of structure by wave action (left side).
5. Acid mine drainage, abandoned Friday-Loudan Mine, Shasta Co. California, September 1993. (Photo by D. D. Trent)
6. Single pass of tank in 1942 inhibits annual plant growth 40 years after it was made, south end of Turtle Mountains, California, April 1983.
7. Borax Mine, approximately 1.5 miles long, ¾ miles wide, 700 feet deep. Boron, California, May 1999.
8. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, April 1989.
9. Center pivot irrigation, south of Farmington, New Mexico, July 1990. This irrigation method led to widespread destruction of wind breaks.
10. Centralized photovoltaic solar power plant, Carizzo Plains, California, July 1985.
11. Cheatgrass invasion of overgrazed land, east of St. George, Utah, May 1997.
12. Coast redwoods, California, August 2001.
13. Drop in level of Lake Mead, caused by drought beginning in late 1999, persisting at least through 2006.
14. Erosion and sediment burial of dryland crop, Highway 58 east of Paso Robles, California, January 1978.
15. Erosion in abandoned windfarm, north of Mojave, California, June 2001.
16. Erosion of offroad vehicle trails on either side of juniper caused deep erosion exposing the roots of the 30-foot tree. Within a year the tree had blown down. West of Reno, Nevada, May 1978.
17. Failing yucca transplants on Kern River gas pipeline, Clark Mountains, California, March 2003.
18. Forest clearing for vineyard planting, Sonoma County, California.
19. Satellite image of Jonah gas field, Wyoming, 1986. All Jonah images courtesy John F. Amos, SkyTruth (satellite images and digital mapping for environmental protection, education and advocacy)
20. Jonah gas field, Wyoming, 1999
21. Jonah gas field, Wyoming, 2001
22. Jonah gas field, Wyoming, 2002
23. Leaves on water, King Range, California, August 1988.
24. Mesquite, cactus invasion of grazed land, San Angelo, Texas, April 2000.
25. Mine wastes burying landscape, Yerington, Nevada, May 1978. Note small hill barely emerges in center of tailings. This is a Superfund site as the waste is contaminating groundwater.
26. Mine wastes fill main drainage channel west of Tonopah, Nevada, May 2001.
27. Mojave asters, Mojave Desert, California, May 1998.
28. Oil contamination of stream, Lost Hills, California, May 1979.
29. Oil development mars Red Rock plateau, southeastern Utah, September 2002. Such developments are marginal producers (“strippers”); pump runs on propane, so energy efficiency is debatable.
30. Oil well waste pit, unlined and abandoned. Southeastern Utah, September 2002.
31. Map of off-road vehicle trails in Wilderness Study Area, southeastern Utah. (Redrock Wilderness Newsletter, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Redrock Wilderness vol. 17, Spring 2000.)
32. Yesterday’s energy, Nevada, March 1980.
33. Pinyon pine and junipers squashed by seismic thumper trucks, southeastern Utah, September 2002.
34. Primroses and desert lily, east Dale Dry Lake, Mojave Desert, California, April 1983.
35. Map showing locations of radioactive waste dumps in U.S. Modified from U.S. General Accounting Office, GAO/RCED-00-64 (2000). [PDF]
36. Roads in remote subdivision, Stagecoach Trails 40-acre “ranch” development. Equally spaced left-right roads not visible in this photo. Dutch Flat west of Hualapai Mountains, Arizona, April 2003.
37. Angel Trail, Wayne Co., Utah, an example of an inappropriate RS 2477 highway claim. (Photo by Gordon Swenson, courtesy Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.)
38. Sex in the wild, Anza Borrego State Park, California, April 1998.
39. Pictographs, Sinbad country, Utah April 2000.
40. Residual subsurface soil deformation caused by single pass of a tank in 1942. Desert Training Center, California. (Photo by Doug Prose, February 1982.)
41. Road building in steep terrain, Tehachapi Mountains windfarm, California, March 1985.
Photos included in the book
The American West At Risk summarizes the dominant human-generated environmental challenges in the 11 contiguous arid western United States - America's legendary, even mythical, frontier.
It now faces depletion of many of these resources, and potentially serious threats to its few "renewable" resources.
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