Our members with Bureau of Land Management (BLM) grazing allotments may have seen our earlier articles about solar developments that could be installed on BLM variance lands, which, in some cases, overlapped and impacted active grazing allotments. BLM is currently in the process of updating its Western Solar Plan and has made available its Draft Utility-Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Members with BLM grazing allotments or who may ranch near BLM land are highly encouraged to review the Draft EIS and either share your concerns with Arizona Farm Bureau staff or submit your comments directly to BLM.

The current Western Solar Plan includes six states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah. The updated plan would expand solar development to BLM lands in five states, including Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming. The draft EIS also includes five alternatives, with Alternative 3 identified as BLM’s preferred alternative. Each alternative makes areas open or closed to solar development proposals, as the current variance lands as a category is eliminated. Consequently, the “variance process” is also eliminated. In its place, BLM has identified a set of proposed programmatic design features that would be required for all future utility-scale solar energy projects. The design features are project requirements to avoid, minimize, and/or mitigate potential impacts on various land and activities, including rangeland resources.

None of the alternatives outright prohibit the potential siting of a solar project on grazing allotments. (See Table below) Thus, as noted earlier, members are encouraged to review the Draft EIS, which can be found online at eplanning.blm.gov. Once there, search for “Draft Utility Scale Solar Programmatic EIS.” Under the “Documents” tab, you will find the 2023 Draft Solar PEIS Volume 1 and 2, appendices, and other documents. Volume 1 includes the description of the alternatives beginning on pages ES-8; maps noting BLM lands available for solar projects under each of the alternatives begin on pages ES-12. The section on Affected Environment and Rangeland Resources starts on page 4-71, and the section on Environmental Impacts and Rangeland Resources starts on page 5-145. Comments can be submitted to BLM by clicking the “Participate Now” tab. The comment period ends on April 18, 2024. You are also encouraged to contact Arizona Farm Bureau staff with comments and concerns that can be incorporated into the organization’s comment letter.

Table 5.13.1-2 (Source: BLM Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for Utility-Scale Solar Energy Development, Volume 1: Executive Summary, Chapters 1-7)A black and white table with numbers and textDescription automatically generated