"We see a huge opportunity to create a solar program that uses BLM lands to develop energy that's clean and green," Daue said. His organization fears, though, that the BLM may use its study to throw open millions of Western acres to development applications, reviewing them all as they come, the way it does for oil, gas and coal leases.
If the agency recommends opening more than the previously identified solar zones, he said, people should register their complaints before the study's final version comes out.
A BLM official overseeing the study did not return a phone call Monday seeking comment.
Ted Wilson, environmental adviser to Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, said he believes it would make more sense to leave options open for each county to negotiate with environmentalists and others about land uses such as renewable energy. But he agreed the west desert has energy potential that would create fewer conflicts than in Utah's more contentious red-rock areas.
"It shouldn't be a dictum at this point. It shouldn't be an absolute," Wilson said of the BLM's upcoming decision. "What we need is recommendations [for solar development] that we can look at and reflect on."
Milford Flats, 12 miles south of Milford and 28 miles north of Cedar City, is among the two dozen zones that the BLM has suggested for solar-energy production. In its report, called "In the Zone: Powering the Future and Protecting Wildlands With Guided Solar Development," The Wilderness Society said it's a good spot because it already has roads, transmission lines and degraded wildlife habitat. The area is home to massive pig feedlots, the group notes, and many nonnative weeds that don't favor resident wildlife species.
The state's largest wind farm is eight miles north of Milford.
More on the Web
O The Wilderness Society's report about proposed solar-energy zones is available at http://wilderness.org/content/pr-energy-20101213.