Phase I of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (“DRECP”) is underway on the 9.8 million acres of public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”). As discussed in our previous post, the four lead agencies responsible for the plan introduced a phased approach to implementing the DRECP in March 2015 in response to public comments. Under Phase I of this approach, between 81,000 and 718,000 acres of BLM-managed land will be designated as Development Focus Areas for renewable energy development, between 1.6 and 5.3 million acres will be added to the National Landscape Conservation System, and between 2.4 and 3.6 million acres will be designated as Special Recreation Management Areas.
On June 15, 2015, the BLM, US Fish & Wildlife Service, and state partner agencies preparing the DRECP posted additional information about the timing of Phase I of the DRECP. Later this year, the lead agencies will release a final BLM Land Use Plan Amendment and Final Environmental Impact Statement for Phase I. According to the recent update, the agencies are still determining how best to use private lands for conservation and renewable energy development in the remaining two components of the DRECP. In the Natural Community Conservation Plan (“NCCP”) component, the agencies are considering multiple options, including a plan-wide NCCP, individual county NCCPs, and a coordinated but less formal approach to siting and mitigating the impacts of renewable energy projects. In the federal General Conservation Plan (“GCP”) component, the agencies similarly are continuing to explore their options with local governments.
The agencies have indicated that they will continue to engage with federal, state, and local partners as they complete Phase I. The agencies will review the comments received during the public comment period on the Draft DRECP as they work to finalize the Land Use Plan. Depending on the scope of public comments, the agencies anticipate that a final EIS will be released in late fall 2015, with a Record of Decision in 2016.