Solar: Native American Ethnographic Study Proposed Solar Energy Zones in Nevada, and Utah for the Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement5

Logo The United States Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) National Operations Center obtained American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 funding to conduct an ethnographic overview of select proposed solar energy zones (SEZs) to augment the research that had been conducted for the Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for Solar Development in Six Southwestern States (Draft Solar PEIS). The objective of this project was to solicit tribal identification of traditional cultural properties and sacred landscapes, religious and traditional use sites, significant ethnobotanical resources, other sensitive or significant resources (including visual), and tribal perspectives on the direct and indirect effects of solar energy development through oral interviews and on-site visits to proposed SEZs in Arizona, California, Nevada, and Utah. SWCA Environmental Consultants (SWCA) was selected to perform this work, assisted by the University of Arizona’s Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology (BARA).

As the project progressed, the list of participating tribes was modified to accommodate changing tribal needs and requests. When the tribe that had requested to participate in an ethnographic study for three of the California SEZs (Imperial East, Iron Mountain, and Riverside East) was unable to participate, the scope of the project was modified. In the Draft Solar PEIS, the high cost of conducting Class I archaeological records searches for the four California SEZs had precluded that research; the current project was modified from ethnographic interviews to a Class I records search for all four California SEZs (Imperial East, Iron Mountain, Pisgah, and Riverside East) by SWCA. BARA conducted ethnographic studies for Amargosa Valley, Delamar Valley, Dry Lake, East Mormon Mountain, Gold Point, and Millers in Nevada (inclement weather prevented visits to Dry Lake Valley North), and for Escalante Valley, Milford Flats South, and Wah Wah Valley in Utah.

This Solar PEIS collection is very complex because the Ethnographic studies conducted by the School of Anthropology at the University of Arizona involved 9 spatially unique and unconnected Environmental Impact Assessments. These individual ethnographic impact assessments were reviewed, edited, and approved by the tribal representatives who participated in the study and their respective American Indian tribal governments. Initially each SEZ Ethnographic assessment was placed on a web page so it could be separately reviewed and considered by the public. At the end of the process an integrated report was compiled by SWCA and submitted for inclusion as the Ethnographic contribution to the overall PEIS. It too is available on the Solar PEIS web site ( and

The University of Arizona Stoffle collection for the Solar PEIS contains all 9 ethnographic studies. In addition the collection contains a number of power point presentations, which can be used to better understand various dimensions of the project(s) and the findings. These presentations involve two technical overviews of the PEIS and the technology being considered that were prepared for public consumption by the Federal agencies involved (that is the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of Energy). The remaining presentations were prepared by the study participants from the School of Anthropology, University of Arizona.


Recent Submissions  RSS Feed Subscribe for email notification

Browse all submissions