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When Dueling Government Policies To Save The World Collide

It is good to generate power using renewable sources like the wind. The Spotted Owl is good as well. In the State of Washington the Spotted Owl is more good then wind power. The state's Department of Natural Resources (DNR) was thinking of leasing a few thousand acres of land to a lumber company for a possible wind farm.

Windmills may be built along a ridge line to catch the wind. Unfortunately for the DNR the land being considered is also a Great Northern Spotted Owl "emphasis area". This land is already restricted for logging which may be why SDS Lumber might be thinking about going into the energy business with some of their own land. The Federal Government through the Endangered Species Act gets to play a big role in the management as does any number of groups or citizens willing to sue over it.

The DNR after having gone through a fight recently over another tract of land and another endangered species has decided that it is not worth trying to use this land for wind power. In Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick is pushing a law to make it easier to site windmills on state land. This has met much opposition in the Western part of the state where the Berkshire mountains would be ideal to have them on their ridges. Here the complaint is that turbines and their service roads would destroy the scenic quality of the area.

The problem is that the U.S. and state governments for years have promoted laws to prevent industry and development of areas either to protect species or natural beauty. President Clinton protected most of Southern Utah and prevented miming of coal that has caused increases in imports. The courts have also played a big role and there is any number of ways groups or citizens can sue to stop development -- even for something considered worthwhile as renewable energy.

The U.S. Department of the Interior had big plans to use desert land it owned to build solar plants. These though require large acreage of reflectors to concentrate the suns energy. Some of these plans have been put on hold to allow further comments. In the past the Department has halted all plans for solar installations due to concern with endangered species. Under pressure from Congress this halt was ended. Another example is a plan to build solar farms on abandoned farmland near Riverside, CA. There was concern expressed at one public hearing of the effect on desert tortoises and wildlife.

The issue is what is more important: Animals, pristine land or energy? There is no doubt the U.S. needs more energy and it is probably a good idea to get as much as possible with renewable sources. At the same time should land and animals be protected from this development? It is especially a difficult question as for the last forty years private and economic development in these kind of areas has been stymied by environmental groups, the government and the courts. Some would say that the current situation is just desserts. With the Obama administration proposing to invest billions in "green energy" with money from the "stimulus" and other sources this land management conflict could be the difference between fairly rapid and no development at all.