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January 22, 2013


BLM Blends Conservation and Renewable Energy into Newly Approved “Restoration Design Energy Project”

Previously disturbed lands and areas with few natural, ecological, or cultural conflicts are identified as priority areas for renewable energy development.


Contacts:              Les Corey, Arizona Wilderness Coalition/ / 520-326-4300

                       Ian Dowdy, Arizona Wilderness Coalition/ / 623-680-5913


PHOENIX – On Friday, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar signed the Record of Decision for the “Restoration Design Energy Project,” which identifies 192,100 acres of federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land as low conflict Renewable Energy Development Areas (REDAs) and just over 2,500 acres as a Solar Energy Zone (SEZ), all intended for the siting of solar and wind facilities that will allow Arizona to become a formidable player in the renewable energy industry. 

Flat lands like these within the Agua Caliente Solar Energy Zone may be perfect for solar generation infrastructure according to the analysis performed within the Restoration Design Energy Project. Courtesy Ian Dowdy.

Since 2011, a group of unlikely partners have worked together to craft a public policy solution that both protects Arizona’s critical natural, ecological, and cultural resources while facilitating  renewable energy development on public lands.  The Arizona Wilderness Coalition (AWC) was a participant and contributor in the Arizona Solar Working Group (ASWG), spearheaded by the Tucson-based Sonoran Institute. ASWG rose to the challenge, bringing together representatives from over a dozen environmental and conservation groups, public utilities, members of the solar power industry, and other key stakeholders in an effort to make the Restoration Design Energy Project live up to its promise. These REDA lands have been mapped and evaluated to ensure that there is little overlap between areas identified for development and places with known archaeological features or wildlife values that are unsuitable for energy development projects.

“Over the past few years, siting renewable energy facilities on public lands has been a key element of our work at the Arizona Wilderness Coalition,” says Ian Dowdy, conservation outreach associate with AWC.  “We have seen proposals for dozens of huge projects all throughout the state, many of which are located in conflict with key wildlife habitat, recreation areas, or cultural sites.  The RDEP brings order to the chaos, allowing both the conservation of lands and the development of important new infrastructure.”

Key components of the plan that affect conservation values:

  • Incentives for development in the Renewable Energy Development Areas (REDAs) identified in RDEP, such as amending all of the resource management plans to be consistent with these future renewable energy development priority areas;

  • Proactively integrating water availability and conservation into the identification of REDAs, and the BLM will require water-related design features that are consistent with water availability at any given project site.

“From the beginning, we have recognized that large-scale renewable energy projects cannot occur in Arizona without finding ways to avoid conflict with critical resources,” says Les Corey, executive director with the Arizona Wilderness Coalition.  “The whole purpose of the RDEP has been to find common ground with the diverse interests in our state and find areas where we can agree to place renewable energy facilities.”

With the leadership of conservation groups like the Arizona Wilderness Coalition, The Wilderness Society, and the Sonoran Institute, and the collaboration of the Arizona Solar Working Group, the RDEP has made important strides toward achieving the sustainable development of renewable energy facilities. These projects provide longterm benefits to the solar industry, wildlife conservation, and Arizona’s robust tourism industry that relies on the beauty of spectacular scenic vistas.

“We are very pleased with the results of this process and applaud BLM for their creativity and leadership on this project,” says Corey. “No other state has the benefit of an innovative project like this that simultaneously identifies places for renewable energy, defends critical wild lands and ecological values, and develops stronger relationships between the developer and the conservationist. We are proud to have been a part of this process.”

To view the press release by Secretary Salazar, visit

For more information about the proposal, visit



The Arizona Wilderness Coalition’s mission is to permanently protect and restore wilderness and other wild lands and waters in Arizona for the enjoyment of all citizens and to ensure that Arizona's native plants and animals have a lasting home in wild nature.


-Arizona Wilderness Coalition mission statement