Utility-scale solar plants have been given priority over mining claims on federal lands, according to a decision announced Friday.
The federal Bureau of Land Management withdrew more than 300,000 acres of federal land in six Western states from eligibility for new mining claims in an effort to preserve the land for commercial-scale solar energy development.
The decision, published in the Federal Register, formalizes an earlier announcement to prohibit new claims for the next 20 years on public land previously identified for solar development in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.
The bulk of the withdrawn land -- nearly 150,000 acres -- is in California.
The decision is in line with President Obama’s recent climate change pronouncements, challenging the Interior Department to approve an additional 10,000 megawatts' worth of renewable energy projects on public lands by 2020.