Plan Divides Desert for Conservation

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Swaths of public land in the California desert will be opened to solar and wind farms under a federal plan released Wednesday that preserves much of the landscape for conservation and recreation. The long-awaited blueprint finalized by the U.S. Interior Department after a yearslong process seeks to balance renewable energy development and species protection on 17,000 square miles (44,030 sq. kilometers) of desert managed by the federal government. The California desert — a mix of sand dunes, jagged canyons and colorful rock formations — stretches 350 miles (563 kilometers) from Owens Valley east of the Sierra Nevada to near the Mexican border. Home to the threatened desert tortoise, bighorn sheep and other animals, its vastness and ample sunshine make it an attractive hotspot for sprawling solar, wind and geothermal plants.

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