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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

one land trust's view of Eastern Sierra solar power

L.A. should agree to conservation easement on their Owen's Valley land empire in exchange for rights to build solar power "farms"

--says the Eastern Sierra Land Trust

Large-Scale Solar Development Plans Bring Potential Far-reaching Opportunities - If Done Right!

1/14/2010--Although ESLT has a focus of working only with willing landowners who want to preserve their land, when it comes to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) lands in the Eastern Sierra, we have always been vocal advocates for permanent conservation of their important lands. These lands - over 300,000 acres in Inyo and Mono Counties - are not only important as the pure water source for much of Los Angeles, but really represent the lifeblood of our region. Beautiful and productive farms and ranches that are also important to wildlife, clean water and wetlands, unique opens spaces that frame views of the high Sierra and majestic White Mountains - these lands are an unparalleled treasure to many residents and visitors.

Managed primarily for water export, these lands are also the heart of many ranching operations. Ranchers move the water and maintain the green valleys as they raise cattle, creating our beautiful rural landscapes and contributing to the local economy and way of life. By permanently preserving these lands, Los Angeles would provide security to the ranching community and to future generations of LA residents who depend on clean and cheap water.

As LADWP proposes large-scale solar development in the southern Owens Valley, we believe they should pursue a dual track of creating environmentally responsible renewable energy while permanently preserving the 95% of their lands that are not suitable for solar development. Through a binding but flexible land conservation agreement, LADWP could protect the interests of their constituents while allowing for modest growth around existing communities in the Eastern Sierra, in addition to the continuation of existing uses. If local ranchers and leaders can be at the table to design this landmark protection agreement, the benefits would extend far and wide, to future generations who would then have the chance to know the awe-inspiring Eastern Sierra as we do.

David Freeman, LADWP interim General Manager, said at the public meeting in Bishop the other night that there was a giant "not-for-sale" sign on LA's lands in the Eastern Sierra and that they would never be opened for development. Let's ask him to make that a real promise rather than a sound byte - let's create a binding, flexible, and permanent land conservation agreement!

Thank you all for your interest and support as we work to make this vision a reality. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas.


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