Solar Plan Ignites Some Environmental Concerns

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You're destroying habitat and creatures to save the planet?" Weiner says.
Around the Southwest, local groups like the Desert Protective Council have similar concerns. But national environmental groups have a slightly different point of view.

"All of our energy has to come from somewhere," says Alex Daue, renewable energy coordinator for the Wilderness Society. "I would rather not see a single additional industrial development on the land. But if we don't develop renewables, we're just going to have more mountaintop coal mining removal or additional drilling in the Rockies."

Daue says his group also is concerned about losing the benefits of recreation and habitat for plants and animals. But he says the effects of climate change have a significant affect on public lands and endangered species, too.

The Wilderness Society has pushed the Interior Department to choose properties that already are degraded in some way by past industrial activity or farming, for example. And they've encouraged the department to select parcels that are close to existing transmission lines so new ones won't have to be built.

Daue echoes arguments made by the solar energy industry that rooftop panels alone aren't enough to supply the country's energy needs.