The Escalante Valley Solar Energy Zone (SEZ) is a designated leasing area (DLA) located in Utah in the Escalante Desert. The SEZ is located on BLM-administered land within the Cedar City Field Office.
The Escalante Valley SEZ has a total area of 6,614 acres (27 km2). In the 2011 Supplement to the Draft Solar PEIS, 12 acres (0.05 km2) of dry lake area and 69 acres (0.28 km2) of dune area were identified as non-development areas, leaving the SEZ with a potentially developable area of 6,533 acres (26.4 km2). No additional changes to the SEZ developable area were made in the 2012 Final Solar PEIS.
The Escalante Valley SEZ is located in Iron County. The SEZ lies in the south-central portion of the Escalante Desert, bounded by Mineral Mountains to the northeast, Black Mountains and the Antelope Range to the south and southeast, and Shauntie Hills and Wah Wah Mountains to the northwest. In 2008, the county population was 45,833, while adjacent Washington County to the south had a population of 148,256. The largest nearby town is Cedar City. Several small towns are located closer to the SEZ.
Land within the Escalante Valley SEZ is undeveloped scrubland characteristic of a high-elevation, semiarid basin. An area of low dunes is located in the western portion of the SEZ, where there is slightly more relief and large expanses of sand.
A number of unpaved roads cross the SEZ. The land within the SEZ contains livestock ponds (typically dry), cattle trails, and wire fences. No electric transmission lines are located within the SEZ. Part of the SEZ is authorized by the BLM for grazing. The SEZ may be used by local residents for general outdoor recreation, including backcountry driving and off-highway vehicle use, recreational shooting, and small and big game hunting.
Distant mountains surround the SEZ. The Union Pacific Railroad is northwest of the SEZ and a spur passes just to the northeast. There are also transmission lines and a few low structures east of the SEZ.
The nearest major road is State Route 56, about 15 mi (24 km) south of the SEZ. Access to the Escalante Valley SEZ is via county road; Lund Highway passes northeast of the SEZ. A 138-kV transmission line ends about 3 mi (5 km) from the southernmost part of the SEZ.
In the 2012 Solar PEIS, the BLM committed to establishing a monitoring and adaptive management strategy for each solar energy zone (SEZ). Through these strategies, the BLM will take an active role in the collection of baseline data for the SEZs.
The BLM has not yet begun the monitoring and adaptive management strategy for the Escalante Valley SEZ. However, the BLM has conducted a pilot monitoring and adaptive management strategy for the Riverside East SEZ. In May 2016, the BLM released the Riverside East Solar Energy Zone Long Term Monitoring Strategy Final Report. The monitoring strategy document (PDF, 16.6 MB) is now available.
In the 2012 Solar PEIS, the BLM committed to preparing solar regional mitigation strategies (SRMSs) for the solar energy zones (SEZs). These regional mitigation strategies were intended to simplify and improve the mitigation process for future solar projects in SEZs.
In 2016, the BLM began development of a solar regional mitigation strategy (SRMS) for three Utah SEZs: the Escalante Valley, Milford Flats South, and Wah Wah Valley SEZs. Information on the draft Utah Solar Regional Mitigation Strategy is available on the project website, linked below.
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.
Interested parties can learn more by visiting the Utah SRMS project website at: