BLM must do more to protect wildlands alongside transmission development for TransWest Express

Deep Canyon LWC and Lower Little Snake LWC (both impacted by TransWest Expreess)

Soren Jespersen. 

The TransWest Express Transmission line would help deliver wind power from Wyoming to the southwest, but BLM must ensure wildlands and wildlife habitat are protected along the way.

The BLM is required to address impacts to wildlands and wildlife habitat on our public lands from major transmission development. The agency can do so by selecting routes that avoid sensitive areas or offsetting unavoidable impacts by protecting nearby lands.

The BLM’s preferred route for TransWest Express in the agency’s Final Environmental Impact Statement cuts across roadless lands in Northwest Colorado and would have serious impacts to lands with wilderness characteristics, greater sage-grouse habitat, and prized big game hunting areas.

The proposed route also requires amending the BLM Little Snake Resource Management Plan to designate a new transmission corridor, despite the fact that there is already a designated corridor in the region.

The best option for getting this energy to market and avoiding impacts to lands and wildlife habitat is by choosing the alternative, lowest impact route through the already designated corridor, which follows existing transmission lines and highways.

Whichever route is ultimately selected, the BLM has the opportunity to continue improving the outcome for this project as they move toward a final Record of Decision in the coming months.

Though the Final Environmental Impact Statement did not require that BLM protect other nearby lands to offset impacts to wildlands, it did state that offsets of some kind may be required.

BLM should take advantage of this opportunity to help fulfill the Interior Department and BLM’s renewable energy and mitigation goals, and that will require the agency to make significant additional commitments in the final Record of Decision to avoiding or offsetting these impacts by following a better route or protecting nearby lands within the region.