China Mountain/Brown's Bench Wind developer wants to keep its deals secret

Browns Bench © Katie Fite 2008, (Click to view Slideshow)
Brown's Bench © Katie Fite 2008, (Click to view Slideshow)

You might remember the controversial project that resulted in an IDFG regional supervisor to lose his job after pointing out the obvious – namely, that energy developments (yes, even ‘blessed’ Wind) on public lands impact wildlife and habitat in southern Idaho.  The wind company at issue on China Mountain/Brown’s Bench is RES Americas Inc., and recently it looks as if the only thing “renewable” about RES Americas is the questionable contracts it keeps producing.

They seem to want to keep their contracts secret. For example, they prevented a daughter from blowing the whistle on an RES wind-contract that her mother was asked to sign in South Dakota.  Mom asked her daughter to look over the contract because she worked as a lawyer for NV Energy, RES Americas Inc.’s partner on the China Mountain project :

Wind companies want to nix contract disclosuresAP

Sannes asked her daughter to look over the lease, and when she did, she “called me and said, ‘This is the worst contract I have ever seen,’” Sannes said in an interview. She said company representatives told her 80 of her Barnes County neighbors had signed it.

It just goes to show, Wind’s got good PR people – but with the same investors and business model as before is it really fair to call them “clean”.  It looks as though folk are getting blown over all over the country. Let’s not let our public lands be next.

Regarding Brown’s Bench, check out the Photo Gallery I put together on it after visiting last year and then again just the other week.  I’ll be adding context, but this story came up so I thought I’d share the important stuff anyway.  Brown’s Bench is a beautiful landscape, one of the best strong-holds of sage-grouse in the state, open space, and a spectacular example of vibrant sagebrush-steppe.  All that will change if RES Americas Inc. gets to extend its current business practices in a way that impact our public lands.

Happy Earth Day !



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  1. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Is there a map available, or could this project be located approximately on a Google maps mashup?

  2. Brian Ertz Avatar

    I’ve added a map – you can zoom in and get an idea of the location and topography/terrain.

  3. kt Avatar

    Here is a link to the BLM Website The Second Map in the list shows the project sprawling over 30,000 + acres – and lines of turbine arrays. Almost 50 square miles – and a visual Footprint far greater.

    RES Americas will destroy the heart of the ecosystem.

    And how is Ken Salazar’s Jarbidge BLM celebrating Earth Day? By closing its comment period on the placement of 3 more MET(wind monitoring) towers (160 feet tall towers designed to drive grouse away) – supposedly to find out how windy it is. The thing is: RES already has 5 MET towers strategically placed in the low sagebrush plateau lands critical to grouse. The existing towers are already poisoning what are supposed to be baseline sage-grouse, pygmy rabbit and other biological studies. Now with 3 more MET towers in the low sage areas RES seeks to impose on BLM land with this EA, that should help drive more grouse away. Of course, getting rid of grouse not only greases the skids for the wind farm, it also makes the ranchers happy.

    Part of the RES wind disaster is to be built on some private land adjacent to the BLM and owned by one of Id Senator rancher Bert Brackett’s relatives and others Brackett along with rancher and State Senator Bedke – good buddies of Otter – got IDFG’s Parrish removed.

    Cow and wind crony fascism.

    Yeah, speaking of cows and cronies – what is Ken Salazar up to today – promoting reckless renewables everywhere and anywhere on public lands.

    I Googled RES’s U. S. arm RES “Americas” and found they were based in Colorado. Part of the Colorado energy cabal I do wonder? Good buddies with big hat Salazar, i do wonder?

  4. kim kaiser Avatar
    kim kaiser

    kinda makes the Wyoming gas field foot print look kinda nice!

  5. kt Avatar

    There is no doubt that industrial wind sited recklessly in inappropriate palces on public lands has an ecologically devastating Footprint, just like Oil and Gas in Wyoming. It is not “renewable” or “green” energy if it causes the collapse of wildlife populations, or dynamites roads back and forth across a mountain. AND there is a Hydro facility now proposed in the midst of this at Corral Creek – building dams, piping water from somewhere (not yet determined) up to higher elevations into the dams.

  6. smalltownID Avatar

    Hey Brian and Ralph…how did the meeting go, I was really bummed I was unable to attend. Any chance you could give a synopsis on what was said, general sentiment, etc.?

    It was the 2nd worst day of the year for me to go to a meeting like that in poky.

  7. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    There wasn’t much media coverage.

    I was pleased with the 3 hour long forum, but everyone came with their own point of view, of course.

    Of those that had a view, I’d put the crowd at about 50:50. Anti-wolf folks were more vocal. I was pleased that some of them clearly read this blog.

    A lot of the anti-wolf folks kind of looked like hunters, but upon listening to them and questioning I think they were livestock folks, with a few exceptions.

    It was a little different from most wolf forums, I think, in that Brian and I concentrated on blaming livestock operators for the failure to delist (indirectly), and argued that if folks want to see more elk and other wild animals, there needed to be fewer cows and sheep on public lands. I blamed governor Otter for scaring wolf advocates to death with his bombastic speech saying he would take wolves down to just 100. So he was indirectly responsible for the lawsuit to stop delisting as well as the strident Idaho legislature.

    We criticized Idaho Fish and Game, not because they are bad folks (most of them are plenty good folks), but they simply are pushed around by politicians and livestock concerns, making their plans on paper hard to implement on the ground.

    Mike Jimenez gave one of the best explanations of what was wrong with the Canadian wolf theory that I have heard in public.

    Jesse Timberlake did an exceptionally good job for Defenders of Wildlife. He concentrated on facts and arguments that Brian and I didn’t have time to raise using our style.

    The person for the Cattlemen’s Association was, in my view, deceptive from the beginning to the end; and given the realities of Idaho politics she was the politically most powerful person in the room.

    I don’t know if Brian wants to comment. He got in a lot of good zingers. Much more could be written.

  8. Ken Cole Avatar

    This is off the topic that the thread is about but did you see the story announcing the forum?

    Notice anything wrong? Could that be a coyote?

  9. Brian Ertz Avatar


    Nice catch. Looks like it might be one of them smaller 30 lb. “native” pygmy wolves the antis keep talking about. They must be wrong about the devil Canadian subspecies of the dark night wiping all of them out – we should put together a petition.

  10. smalltownID Avatar

    I didn’t know there was a need for a “best” explanation for canadian wolves…maybe relative to the audience? What was his explanation?

    I wish a few more local folks could have been there, especially hunters. I take it Ron didn’t show up.

    I am surprised to hear that about Jennifer Ellis (I believe is her name – ICA president from two years ago). My experience with her in that type of setting she has seemed genuine but it was only one time and a slightly different circumstance. Maybe she has changed in the last 2 years.

    Thanks for the heads up.

  11. Brian Ertz Avatar

    i felt that the panel and the crowd gave a pretty good representation of the issues and motives involved all around. I think the key issues were hit honestly by everyone involved as much as I’ve ever seen. There’s disagreement – there’s good reason for such.

    Ralph and I leaned into it pretty good, and I felt like the fact that we were given 3 hours with an engaged audience helped everyone get a full idea of what’s going on.

    I thought Ralph’s point about the governor’s loose lip was really good, he also made a good point about the bighorn sheep and David Perrish issues really demonstrating the vulnerability of the IDFG to political influence and manipulation via legislators and Livestock dominated politics. Also, that the numbers of wolves are good right now – but that the states’ management plans (particularly Idaho) allowed for significant reduction – and the reduction they allow for (even promote) is not OK with regard to recovery.

    I tried to explain a few of the main reasons that people value wolves and that none of those things or people will be represented proportionally in the state. I brought it down on Livestock pretty good, explained that I’m not principally opposed to a hunt, but the management plan isn’t just about a hunt – it’s about making the IDFG a surrogate of the Livestock industry – the heavy/problematic “management”/slaughters will take place in areas of conflict with livestock – and on public lands, there are just too many landscapes invaded by cattle and sheep in the state for their heavy-handed intentions not to have a significant impact.

    We emphasized that public lands belong to all of us – which I think is really important. Livestock likes to make people believe that the land belongs to them – that our public land is their private pasture – and that they’ve got greater right to influence management. We need people, especially students, to know, take pride in, and ‘ownership’ of our common public lands.

    People got excited when I told hunters that if they really want to see more elk and deer – it’s time to get livestock off of our public lands. Right now, 90% of available grass on BLM lands is appropriated to livestock – think of how the carrying capacity for wildlife, elk, deer, antelope, moose, etc. would increase should that 90% be restored rather than blown out shit holes that we see across hundreds of millions of acres now !

    The immediately former Cattleman’s Association President took aim at me by name on several occasions – which was good. She mentioned something about the ESA being unconstitutional (private property rights), and WWP’s hidden agenda to use the ESA to drive the livestock industry off of public lands. I felt I did a good job of explaining to her and another audience questioner that the agenda wasn’t hidden – we’re proud of our commitment to restore public lands in the west, and that public lands in the arid west are inappropriate for livestock production. There was a positive response to those points.

    Mike Jimenez gave a good explanation of the different values choices associated with wolves – but articulated a really minimalist (and I think unfair) idea about what the Endangered Species Act was made to accomplish. He did the bureaucrat dance of pretending like there are values choices involved – but inferred that somehow we should pretend when we make the decision to delist that the politics isn’t a threat – that we shouldn’t consider that the values of Livestock are disproportionately enfranchised to the detriment of wolves.

    Lots of positive response speaking one on one with the students and people afterward.

  12. smalltownID Avatar

    If nothing else it is good to hear about a “wolf meeting” so to speak in a setting that allows for facts to be presented rather than an emotional rally cry filled with falsehoods.

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Brian Ertz