PALM SPRINGS – The push to fast-track renewable energy projects in America has led to some missteps along the way, Marcilynn Burke, deputy director for Programs and Policies with the Bureau of Land Management, said Wednesday at a tribal summit on renewable energy.
One installation, the Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound, led to litigation.
“We take this quite seriously,” she told 125 participants in Wednesday’s “Protecting Tribal Cultural Resources” summit at the Spa Resort Casino, Palm Springs. “What we’re doing now is being involved in lesson-learned type opportunities.”
Burke, in her address to tribal leaders, said the BLM is analyzing 50 projects this year and rating the impact the projects might have on tribal cultural, spiritual and natural resources. It’s a step toward taking a pro-active approach to renewable energy development on tribal land.
“We want to be smart from the start,” she said.
Milford Wayne Donaldson, chairman of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, said tribal consultation is paramount.
That hasn’t always occurred, or has come late in the approval process, he said.
Renewable energy development is a high priority for the nation and the state.
In a recent speech, Gov. Jerry Brown set a goal of having 20,000 megawatts of renewable energy by 2020. That’s enough to service 20 million homes, Donaldson said.
Tribal consultation has been the main objective in helping governments strike “middle ground” between economic development and preservation of Indian land, and a tribal nations’ cultural, spiritual or natural resources.
The summit is significant because many solar, wind and energy transmission projects are on a fast-track in the Southwest.
In Southern California, the projects involve more than 46,000 acres. The transmission project spans 169 miles. Tessera Solar’s “Calico” sun catcher project in San Bernardino County, alone, will be situated on 4,604 acres.
Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians Chairman Richard Milanovich, in his opening address, said tribal consultation on energy projects historically has been “sorely left out.”
“Without the work you do, who knows what would be happening in Indian Country with tribal – and aboriginal – resources?” he said.
Reno Keoni Franklin, vice chair of the Kashia Pomo tribe who chairs the National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers, which along with the association sponsored the summit, said Wednesday’s event, which brought federal, state, local and utility officials together, was a good start.
“We need to work at all levels to improve our consultation” on projects that may affect tribal and aboriginal land, Burke said. “We need to look at landscapes and realize our boundaries are not the same as your boundaries.”
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