Bureau of Land Management Solar Energy Permitting and Program Resources
Quick Links

Solar Regional Mitigation Strategy for the Afton Solar Energy Zone in New Mexico

Note: With IM-2019-018, the BLM established policy that compensatory mitigation could not be required as a condition for project approvals. However, with the issuance of IM 2021-038 on July 14, 2021, the BLM rescinded the previous IM-2019-018. The BLM expects to establish policies which are aligned with EO 13990, SO 3398, and the priorities of the Department. During this interim period offices should consider and implement compensatory mitigation on a case-by-case basis, in consultation with state office and national office program specialists and the Office of the Solicitor as needed.

The project information on the Afton Solar Regional Mitigation Strategy provided below may be useful for consideration during future project permitting activities and/or mitigation activities.

Project Description

The BLM established the Afton Solar Energy Zone (SEZ) in New Mexico with the issuance of the 2012 Western Solar Plan. This SEZ constitutes nearly 30,000 acres of land in southern New Mexico designated by BLM for solar energy development. Through the 2012 Solar PEIS, the BLM committed to preparing an SEZ regional mitigation strategy (SRMS) to identify potential impacts of solar development in the SEZ and identify appropriate mitigation measures and processes to address these impacts. This SRMS process built upon the 2012 Solar PEIS to understand those unavoidable impacts and determine whether regional compensatory mitigation for those impacts may be warranted through a public, stakeholder driven process.

Public Workshop in Las Cruces, New Mexico, September 7, 2017

The BLM hosted a second public workshop to discuss the SRMS for the Afton SEZ on September 7, 2017, in Las Cruces, New Mexico. The workshop agenda and presentations (PDF) have been posted to the right. BLM requests comments on the SRMS, including recommendations for compensatory mitigation sites and actions, by October 6, 2017.

Please email your comments or feedback about the workshop to Treaver Ashby at the BLM Las Cruces District Office at [email protected] or (575) 525-4304.

Stakeholder Input Requested for Candidate Mitigation Sites and Actions

BLM requested recommendations from the public for mitigation sites and actions to offset unavoidable impacts of solar development on the Afton SEZ. The BLM is concurrently working to identify and evaluate several potential mitigation sites and actions to mitigate impacts to vegetation, visual resources, and special designations, through the use of mitigation criteria for importance, feasibility, effectiveness, timeliness, risk, durability, additivity, and other considerations. Details on these criteria are provided in the three candidate site screening tables listed below — separate mitigation evaluation tables are provided based on the primary resource impact being addressed by the mitigation site/action (either vegetation, special designations, or visual resource impacts):

Additional information is provided in the Process for Nominating Candidate Mitigation Sites and Actions document (PDF, 1.2 MB). The BLM requested that stakeholders provide the information requested in these candidate site screening tables for each recommended mitigation site, as an effective way of providing the BLM with information on the suitability of the recommended mitigation sites and actions.

BLM requested submission of candidate mitigation site location and action recommendations by July 21, 2017.

Webinar September 28, 2016

The BLM hosted a webinar to discuss the Solar Regional Mitigation Strategy (SRMS) for the Afton Solar Energy Zone (SEZ) in New Mexico on Wednesday, September 28, 2016.

Documents for stakeholder review are available below:

Elements of an SEZ Regional Mitigation Strategy

  1. Describe SEZ and regional baseline conditions against which unavoidable impacts are assessed;
  2. Assess unavoidable impacts and identify which of those warrant offsite mitigation;
  3. Identify regional mitigation goals;
  4. Identify a method for calculating recommended mitigation fees for unavoidable adverse impacts;
  5. Identify and recommend a management structure to hold and apply mitigation investment funds;
  6. Evaluate and recommend appropriate mitigation investment locations, objectives, and/or actions; and
  7. Plan to implement mitigation and develop long-term monitoring and adaptive management recommendations to evaluate and maximize the mitigation's effectiveness.