As the need for renewable energy becomes more pressing, some of the fiercest duels in the West are now being fought over where to put power lines, wind turbines, solar farms and other needed energy development projects. There is so much at stake in the beautiful landscapes of a place like Colorado that we must be careful to strike the right balance in siting these types of infrastructure.
Thankfully, advocates for conservation and a commonsense approach to development now have a whole new range of tools to use in finding the best places for clean energy projects – tools they can access from their laptops and smartphones.
Smarter energy siting is the goal. That means more efficient projects that don’t waste money while preserving iconic landscapes that birds and other wildlife call home.
Take the case of the greater sage-grouse, a native of the American West. Its numbers are shrinking as development chews into its habitat and breaks up the landscapes it needs to survive. It’s what we call an indicator species because what’s good for the grouse is good for 350 other species that share the same landscape.
Individual advocates, conservation groups including the National Audubon Society, government agencies, landowners and industry together came up with plans to protect the places most vital to the sagebrush ecosystem. Those plans include protecting critical areas from future infrastructure development. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently said that these plans were robust enough to keep the greater sage-grouse off the endangered species list.