Developing the Carrizo Plain

Another Solar Development, Another Lost Landscape ?

the Carrizo Plain | Creative Commons photo by Bill Bouton

Chris Clarke gives a remarkable account of another landscape that has found its way into the cross-hairs of Solar Developers and Big Green, and of the locals’ abiding love for the land:

Solar Energy Development in the Carrizo Plain Draws LawsuitsKCET – The Back Forty

It’s been called California’s Serengeti: a broad and expansive grassland with remarkable biodiversity nestled among the hills of the southern Coast Ranges. Fifty miles long and up to ten miles across, the Carrizo Plain is home to 13 species listed under the state and federal Endangered Species Acts as endangered or threatened, the densest concentration of Endangered Species in the state. Dozens of additional species that are candidates for further protection occur here too, and at least two animals that were once extirpated from the Plain but which have since been reintroduced: the tule elk and the pronghorn.



  1. mike post Avatar
    mike post

    A beautiful but harsh landscape. Most people in California dont even know its there, just 2 hours north of Los Angeles but way off the beaten path. Super hot right now, impassable in wet weather, but a wildflower super garden in wet years. Settled in the 1880s for cattle and dry wheat farming, it has been a small boom large bust ag wise and that allowed for the creation of the monument. It is also home to one of the premier native american prehistoric rock art sites (not close to the solar site which is just outside the huge monument).

  2. Sal_N Avatar

    There is plenty of room in there to develop the solar arrays. Soda lake drive leads to the monuments and soda lake which is amazing to see on a nice spring day, I think that area is not to be touched.
    But having been quail and chukkar hunting there for over twenty years along with watching the California condor and the newly re-introduced proghorn, I may dare to suggest there is an area that they could develop and that is in the range beyond elk horn grade road. the valley is completely isolated since the last few years of rain. I have only seen coyotes and some jack rabbits there. I am sure there could be an enviromental issue eventually or problems with the soil on real rainy day, or san andreas can open up and swallow the plant. The area is being used by off-roader right now.
    That area is between soda lake drive and simmier soda lake west of elk horn ridge road. Unless you are on a peak in the south part of the plains (like we usually are) or south of Taft on the ridges, you will never see this area. In the western part of the range wild hogs are destroying some plains habbitat.
    I am trying to be open minded about saving the carrizo, the need for clean energy.
    But there is a bigger issue brewing back-up very silently there. Now that the water is slowly coming back, the cattle ranchers are trying to get access back to the BLM land they gave up on some ten years ago. Where we go quail hunting used to have cattle on it in the winter and now that the springs are slowly coming back, they are trying once more to come back on the south hills of this range.
    If it was up to me, I would let electricity over cows on the small section of the east carrizo plains.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar

      Thanks for the additional information Sal_N.

      I know we have suggested wind and solar would best be placed where cows are, although it sounds like their return here is yedt only a possibility.

      1. mike post Avatar
        mike post

        Ralph, they do bring cows on now as some of the endangered/threatened species benefit from managed grazing, like burrowing owls and a grasshopper eating bat.

    2. mike post Avatar
      mike post

      The solar site is up in California Valley off behind where the school is, north of hwy 58.

  3. Chris Clarke Avatar

    Thanks for the link!

    As it happens, the Westlands area, mentioned in the article, is suitable for solar development and has transmission already there. No need to punch extra transmission into the Carrizo along route 58.

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Brian Ertz