First of its kind conservation effort removes grazing rights for land mitigation, permanently protecting a swath of the Mojave Desert seven times the size of San Francisco
LOS ANGELES AND SAN FRANCISCO, November 16,–(COMMERCIAL WIRE)–Avantus (previously 8 minutes), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) have partnered to conserve and reallocate more than 215,000 acres from an active grazing allotment to a permanently dedicated wildlife forage area in Kern County. The Onyx Conservation Project (Onyx) is among the largest mitigation projects in the nation and will provide critical, permanent protection and enhancement for Mojave Desert plants, including the western Joshua Tree, and animals that live in the extensive site.
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Onyx stands out for its contiguous historic size and marks the first time grazing rights have been withdrawn to mitigate solar projects, a novel approach that balances clean energy development and conservation. A contiguous area seven times the size of the city of San Francisco, Onyx will provide greater benefits for desert species to thrive than traditional mitigation strategies, which typically involve small disconnected parcels of land resembling a chessboard. Avantus will also invest additional millions of dollars to improve habitat on Onyx to drive restoration of desert plants and wildlife species.
“Our Department is committed to conserving, protecting, and restoring the habitat of the Golden State, and this innovative state and federal public-private partnership provides a roadmap for how renewable energy can continue to combat climate change while, at the same time, provide ecosystem benefits at the landscape level for native plants and wildlife,” said CDFW Regional Manager Julie Vance. “By purchasing and permanently retiring grazing rights, Avantus ensures that this rich and vibrant land is preserved and that its inhabitants can prosper.”
Located between Ridgecrest and Mojave in Kern County, Onyx is particularly well-suited for conservation as the area’s habitat includes 20 sensitive wildlife species, including the California condor, Mojave desert tortoise, American badger, Mohave ground squirrel and golden eagle. It is also estimated to include more than 80,000 acres of western Joshua tree habitat, including 3,000 acres of dense forest. This conservation effort will help maintain the health and diversity of the desert ecosystem, which is supported by designated Wilderness Areas, National Desert Conservation Lands, and Areas of Critical Environmental Concern. All 215,000 acres will also be open for public recreational use, including hiking and camping.
Onyx demonstrates how collaborative public-private partnerships can work to develop innovative approaches to conserve precious land and meet President Biden’s goals. America the BEAUTIFUL Campaign. The initiative set a national goal to conserve at least 30 percent of US land and freshwater by 2030, commonly known as 30×30, and is designed to help address the climate crisis at home and around the world. Foreign.
“The biggest single threat facing desert ecosystems is climate change, and Avantus is proud to drive climate solutions that are decarbonizing our planet at the gigatonne level. Our portfolio of utility-scale solar and energy storage centers will deliver energy to tens of millions of Americans, allowing us to embark on innovative mitigation strategies of the same magnitude,” said Dr. Tom Buttgenbach, founder and CEO of Avantus. “In keeping with our ambitions to become a major clean energy company, the Onyx Conservation Project will provide critical habitat preservation and environmental benefits on a scale our industry has never seen before. This is a prime example of our relentless pursuit of smarter and more sustainable solutions”. And we thank our federal and state partners for working with us in this pioneering effort.”
Avantus is one of California’s leading solar and energy storage providers, with a long track record of success in Kern County, including the first operating solar plant to beat fossil fuel prices and an innovative project to deliver solar energy with storage at record prices. The company is on track to provide more than half of California’s large-scale solar energy and storage demand over the next decade.
Avantus works closely with wildlife agencies and environmental organizations to advance environmental efforts and safeguard species at all stages of a project’s life. Previous Avantus projects have received support from respected groups, including the Sierra Club, Audubon California, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Avantus is shaping the future by making reliable and affordable clean energy a global reality. Our legacy of leadership in next-generation solar power includes building the nation’s largest solar array and the first plant to outpace fossil fuel prices. Today, we are pushing the boundaries of existing technologies to build one of the largest portfolios of smart power plants with integrated storage, capable of providing low-cost, zero-emissions power to 30 million people, day and night. Through our relentless pursuit of something better, we are decarbonizing our planet to the gigaton level and bringing the benefits of clean energy to all of us.
ABOUT THE CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE
The mission of the Department of Fish and Wildlife is to manage California’s diverse fish, wildlife and plant resources, and the habitats on which they depend, for their ecological values and for use and enjoyment by the public.
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