WASINGTON -- The Bureau of Land Management has announced that the Federal Register will publish a Notice of Segregation of Public Lands for approximately 677,000 acres in six Western states to set aside solar energy zones.
With this notice, 24 tracts of BLM-administered land located in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah will be temporarily segregated from the location of mining claims or other land appropriations for a two-year period. This Notice of Segregation is made in accordance with an April 2011 Interim Temporary Final Rule designed to facilitate renewable energy development on public lands by temporarily closing them to the location of mining claims. The segregation applies to the filing of new mining claims and does not affect valid existing rights.
In June 2009, as part of the draft Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS), these 24 tracts, then called Solar Energy Study Areas, were segregated from surface entry and mining for a two-year period in order to evaluate their environmental and resource suitability for utility-scale solar energy development; this temporary two-year segregation expires on June 29, 2011. To allow for continued analysis of these lands, the BLM published a notice in the Federal Register proposing a five-year withdrawal on April 21, 2011.
The proposed five-year withdrawal requires preparation of an Environmental Assessment through an open, public process that includes a public comment period. Temporarily segregating the SEZs for a two-year period under the interim rule published in April 2011 ensures the segregation of these lands does not lapse and will give the BLM time to complete its environmental review and make a determination on future solar energy development in the SEZs.
Taking the time to fully evaluate these lands for their large-scale solar potential will identify those that are most appropriate for solar development and that have limited conflicts with wildlife or other resources and land uses. Through coordinated environmental studies and responsible landscape-scale planning decisions, the BLM is facilitating accelerated solar energy production that will help build a clean energy economy for America.