Green Energy and Our Still Wild West

July 27, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

To me, wild horses and our "still" wild West are symbiotic... I am both a mustang/burro, and wild public lands advocate.

Green energy~ I'm all for it. But I'm also aware that there are serious long-term ramifications. My specific areas of interest are OUR public lands and wild horses. Eco-friendly green energy, built on rooftops in the vast urban sprawl, makes more sense to me... we have no shortage of buildings and parking garages. But there's only so much of wide open spaces left of our public lands. Me- I'm all about protecting this last little piece of our west, and keeping our west "wild". There are other alternative places to keep the masses comfortable in their air-conditioned homes. As I see it, the American people have no say where these man-made structures are to go. I'm alarmed as I'm researching and learning that they are beginning to dot all over our west, from the solar, and wind turbine energy farms, to the Ruby Pipeline from Wyoming to Oregon, etc. There are so many scarring the west, that I can hardly keep up (follow "Wild West Watch" for periodic updates about our public lands...!/pages/Wild-West-Watch/175024789189766  ). The toll on the natural environments and wildlife will be astounding, it's happening already and we've just begun. The toll on the human psyche, as well. My humble and narrow scope of vision:

My "piece of Heaven" is a mountain, the Steens in se Oregon. It's here that I watch wild horses and their social/familial interactions and following each generation... following specific band and herd dynamics-even the results of what happens following a roundup. I also watch and learn about other wildlife in the area; also geology, archeology, and even via fossils- paleontology; I also am an observer of extreme weather there and how this mountain creates it's own storms, and with each returning year, watch and learn about the beneficial effects of wildfires. All in a nutshell.

My Soul food is standing on the top of this mile high mountain with it's wild horses, and thunder resounding through it's canyons, the wind in my face, and looking as far as my eyes can conceivably see... seeing nothing but wilderness. Steens is a 30 mile long fault block caused by uplift, and you can see down the spine of this mountain with nothing but a few spotty ranches below it, but otherwise expanses of pristine high desert, to it's east the Alvord Desert- with a 10 mile playa- alkali dried up lake bed, to it's west also, expanses of the living breathing natural earth.. toward Hart Mountain and many spectacular vistas and valleys. Recently, it was proposed that a portion of this wilderness area will have 415 foot wind turbines in a row on the north flank of this mountain.... visible from the summit and northern regions of the mountain. These turbines are so monstrous, along with their ghastly transmission lines crossing the Kiger/Riddle Mt. wild horse HMA's on public lands), that they can even be seen from the nearest larger town of Burns.

Steens mountain in SE Oregon is a designated wilderness area. On October 30, 2000, the Steens Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Act of 2000 (PDF), providing additional protection to approximately 900,000 acres of Federal land in southeastern Oregon, was signed into law. However, on the north flank of this pristine wilderness area of Steens mountain, is a private landowner with the interest and proposal to build 300-415 foot tall wind turbines, viewable from the summit and from the town of Burns and surrounding areas over 30 miles away with binoculars. These wind turbines will only benefit of a small portion of home owners in California.

That private land on north Steens is also the breeding grounds for the federally protected grouse. And no doubt, the migratory paths with wind turbines is a hazardous proposal. Nearby Steens mountain, is one of the 'crown jewels' of the National Wildlife Refuge System, Malheur Refuge protects a vast complex of wetlands in the high desert of southeastern Oregon. The refuge is famous for its tremendous diversity and concentrations of wildlife. There are over 320 bird species and 58 mammal species. The area is more than 186,500 acres of prime habitat, including 120,000 acres of wetlands. Particularly important to colonial water birds, sandhill cranes, and redband trout, the refuge also encompasses upland and riparian habitats vital to many migrating birds and wildlife.

The effects would be degrading to the landscape and environment, and devastating to wildlife.

"...this fight underscores the precarious politics of renewable energy as the industry has grown from a feel-good niche to a deep-pocketed and influential lobby that has wrapped itself in the 'protective rhetoric' of sustainable development and energy independence." July 25, 2012, The Source Weekly, by Eric Flowers...

Green energy is good. But in terms of our wilderness... in my small and humble opinion, not so green. There must be better planning where these "farms" go, such as on lands are already overtaken by multitudes of homes, factories, and buildings, or public approved designated areas, so be it... good as any place, but not just where ever someone can build on "free land" (our public ranges) and make an easy buck, scarring our west.

Where the wild winds blow,

Sonya, aka Mustang Meg


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