In fact, by siting projects only within SEZs, we can achieve the development levels predicted by the Interior Department for the next 20 years, using less than 1 percent of public lands in the six states to power over 7 million homes. That is a great return on investment.
The fact is, even clean energy like solar requires significant infrastructure including roads, transmission lines and massive arrays of photovoltaic panels or mirrors. Fortunately, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar understands the Western way of life and the importance of sustaining America's hunting and fishing traditions.
Here are several ideas for how Salazar can lead our transition to clean energy and protect our sporting heritage for the next generation:
Give sportsmen a voice in making decisions. Transparent processes that encourage public comment on important decisions, such as where to locate energy projects, distribution facilities and transmission lines, are essential.
Conserve roadless backcountry, national parks, national wildlife refuges and local and state public lands. Prioritize renewable energy development on disturbed or occupied land where energy infrastructure might already exist.
Conserve habitat for game birds like sage grouse and quail, trout streams, deer and elk winter range, migration corridors and fragile wetland and riparian habitats.
In developing renewable energy on federal public lands, involve state fish and wildlife agencies in decisions. Base decisions about renewable energy development projects on the best available scientific information on local fish, wildlife and waterways.
Strengthen the permitting and leasing process to conserve public land, recognize the value of fish, wildlife and recreation, consider the cumulative effects of development, and balance the multiple uses of these lands.
Monitor impacts to fish, wildlife and water and make adjustments when effects on these resources exceed predetermined thresholds.
Establish a fund to mitigate damage and reclaim affected land and water.
Comply with all relevant environmental laws such as the National Environmental Policy Act and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act.
Hold industry accountable for development costs related to the permitting process, including the time of state and federal wildlife professionals.
With the leadership of Secretary Salazar, collaboration, and consideration of wildlife habitat, we can forge a new path that realizes the tremendous clean energy potential on our public lands and sustains the high quality of life and majestic landscapes and waterways where families have hunted and fished for generations.
These are the places we have a responsibility to protect for our children and grandchildren. Working together, we can ensure they will enjoy them as much as we do now.
Bill Burbridge retired from the U.S. Forest Service in 2001 as regional director of fisheries and wildlife in Ogden. He also served on the board of the Mule Deer Foundation and the Utah Wildlife Federation.