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Soon we may see new wind turbines and solar power plants spring up across the California Desert like Spring wildflowers.  Applications for new alternate energy production facilities have inundated staff throughout the Bureau of Land Management's California Desert District.

BLM Solar Energy Project Applications According to reports available on the BLM web site, through February 2008 the Desert District received some 95 applications for new solar energy projects totaling more than 875,000 acres, and approximately 70 applications for new wind energy projects totaling more than 450,000 acres.  Combined, some 165 applications were submitted covering over 1.3 million acres, nearly one-eighth of the 10.7 million acres managed by the BLM's California Desert District.

In January 2008 the BLM's Ridgecrest Field Office rejected eight of the thirteen applications it received for solar energy projects, seven of which were denied because the proposed sites were within the newly created Mojave Ground Squirrel Habitat Conservation Area.

Read more: BLM Nixes Solar Apps

In just two weeks DeathValley.com learned of the passing of two friends.

Don Connolly  On August 8th we lost the unique wit and charm of Don Connolly, the beloved "Mayor of Panamint Valley."

Countless Death Valley tourists remember Don Connolly as the "informative" caretaker of the Ballerat ghost town and proprietor of the general store there.  His friends and regular visitors would keep company with him at the Ballerat store underneath the only decent shade for miles around.  For years he enjoyed the self-bestowed, yet widely honored title of Mayor of Panamint Valley, and he openly enjoyed and shared in all of the privileges thereof.

Don also workied at Panamint Springs with then owner Jerry Graham, and later made Ridgecrest his home.  Click here to read the thoughts of some of Don's friends on our Death Valley Talk forum.   Don was 67.

Robert FunkhouserOn August 10th we lost another friend, Robert Funkhouser, the co-founder of the Western Slope No Fee Coalition.

Robert dedicated the last years of his life to the goal of keeping public lands free and open to all.  He worked toward the goal of rolling back, first the Recreational Fee Demonstration Program (Fee Demo), and later the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, which replaced Fee Demo and made access fees for Forest Service and BLM lands permanent.

At the time of his death, he was extremely optimistic about legislation being drafted by Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) that promises to roll back the worst fee abuses by the public lands agencies. 

Our first Guest Opinion article here at DeathValley.com was that by Robert.  Click here to read his May 19, 2007 submission .  To learn more about Robert and his work, visit the Western Slope No-Fee Coalition web site . Robert was 50.

In court documents filed on August 6, 2007, a group of property owners are asking a U.S. District Court Judge to hold the Bureau of Land Management in contempt of a 2001 order that closed Surprise Canyon Road to vehicle use by the public, but did provide owners of private property vehicular access to their property near Panamint City, California.

"The BLM has continually disregarded Federal District Judge Alsup's order by refusing to provide land owners a key to the gate across Surprise Canyon Road" said Kris Tholke, a property owner. "We are asking the court to ensure the BLM and other parties involved abide by the original court order".

Read more: Owners File For Access

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released on May 10, 2007, a proposed plan amendment to the California Desert Conservation Area (CDCA) plan to re-open a 3.75 mile segment of the Furnace Creek Road in the White Mountains, just north of Death Valley National Park.

Furnace Creek Road has been closed to motorized vehicles under an interim order for more than four years, and it remains closed pending the outcome of the current plan amendment process.  The proposal affects only the lower 3.75 segment of the road that is located on BLM managed lands, whereas the remaining 7.5 miles of the 100+ year old road remain closed by order of the Inyo National Forest.

Read more: BLM Proposes to Re-open Portion of Furnace Creek Road