Monday, March 23, 2015

See those wildflowers now, they will be gone soon

Whenever we visit wildflower areas in California, we are conscious that the flowers will wither and fade as the plants cycle progresses. When we visited Antelope Valley and the Carrizo Plain area this year, we saw that solar energy installations had replaced some fields of flowers. We had a sense that we we return in coming years, there will be fewer fields of flowers and more development.

Wildflower field in the Carrizo Plain area

The Carrizo Plain National Monument itself is not threatened but the private land north of the monument is being converted into large scale solar energy farms. The installation of dense rows of solar panels disturbs the soil and the panels shade out vegetation beneath the panels. As more of these developments fill the north end of the plain, the National Monument will be cut off from the land farther north. The Carrizo Plain has been part of a band of undeveloped land that stretched for about 150 miles from the south end of the monument to the edge of the city of Hollister. The value of the monument as part of a larger natural environment is being diminished.

Solar energy farms are replacing fields of flowers in the Antelope Valley as well. We saw new solar installations along Highway 138 and the side roads where we had seen flowers in the past. The Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve is not threatened but many of the best flower areas are outside the reserve. Development for homes and businesses as Lancaster and Palmdale expand westward also threaten to replace fields of flowers. Antelope Valley's flowers can be enjoyed on an easy day outing by the large urban populations of Southern California. If we expect urban Califorians to value California's natural environment, we need to preserve places like the flower fields of Antelope Valley so that people can see experience the beauty of nature for themselves.

For several years, the development of solar energy has had a gold rush character fueled by government land give-aways, massive subsidies and short-circuited review processes. The result has been to site installations without adequate consideration for the effect on the natural environment. It will take much more public awareness and concern to replace the gold rush by a process that doesn't permanently damage the natural environment in California.

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