When Mike Quigley heard about a new energy transmission line the federal government was considering from Arizona to California in 2018, his feelings were mixed. Quigley serves as the Arizona state director of the conservation organization The Wilderness Society, and supports looking to public lands for the multiple roles they can play in addressing climate change. So in 2018, he supported a shift toward renewables to fight climate change. But the proposed transmission route bisected a wildlife refuge that offered important habitat to several desert species, and also threatened a beloved canyon.

This was a problem. To him, the role of public lands in the climate fight goes beyond their renewable energy potential, or reducing the oil, gas and coal emissions that stem from them. Quigley says healthy public lands naturally clean air and water, support natural carbon storage, and help buffer communities against both the physical and emotional impacts of living with climate change.

And he wasn’t the only one concerned. Officials said the 500kV powerline was needed to connect substations in Tonopah, Arizona, and Blythe, California, in order to provide more renewable energy in the Southwest. But the 125-mile Ten West Link electrical transmission line initially faced significant opposition because of its preliminary proposed route, which cut through Johnson Canyon and the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge near Yuma, Arizona.

A series of public meetings revealed deep community opposition to the project. Sanders is vice-chair of the Arizona Peace Trail, a coalition of 14 Southwestern off-highway vehicle groups advocating for a 675-mile trail from Bullhead City to Yuma. He and his counterparts met multiple times with the project engineers, even taking them to the prized Johnson Canyon site.

Read the full article about green energy transitions at Grist.