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

  • Solar PEIS Orientation Talks

    Stoffle, Richard W.; Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology, University of Arizona; Argon National Lab; Bureau of Land Management (2013)
    These presentations were designed to provide orientation information for the Solar Energy Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement.
  • Tavicha’impimu: To Catch the Sun: Large Scale Solar Energy Development in the Great Basin and the Cultural Implications for Numic-Speaking Peoples.

    Van Vlack, Kathleen A.; Stoffle, Richard W.; Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology, University of Arizona (2013)
    The United States government is considering areas in the five states for the large-scale solar energy development. These solar energy zones (SEZs) contain important Native American resources ranging from traditional use plants, healing places, and trail networks. During the environmental impact assessment, Numic-speaking peoples shared with University of Arizona ethnographers their thoughts regarding cultural uses of the SEZ and associated resources and potential impacts. This session focuses on unique cultural resources and the cultural implications of solar energy development.
  • Ethnography in Bits and Pieces in Social Assessments.

    Stoffle, Richard W.; Van Vlack, Kathleen A.; Johnspn, Hannah; Simmons, Kristen; Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology, University of Arizona (2012-03)
    The Ethnographic Research team at BARA in the School of Anthropology, UofA has shifted to what we are calling “ethnography in bits and pieces” for situating American Indian cultural concerns. We wanted to provide essays that would more directly target the resources, places, and landscapes actually identified by tribal representatives during field work. We chose to negotiate the essays with the tribal representatives. We chose to have the essays follow the discussion of tribal cultural concerns and thus be directly responsive to those concerns. This session provides cases from three studies and assessment of this new methodology.
  • Solar PEIS Native American Ethnographic Study Photographic Collection

    Stoffle, Richard W.; Van Vlack, Kathleen A.; Dukes, Phillip; De Sola, Stephanie; Johnson, Hannah; Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology, University of Arizona (Bureau of Applied Anthropology, University of Arizona, 2013-09-05)
  • Ethnographic and Class I Records Searches for Proposed Solar Energy Zones in California, Nevada, and Utah for the Bureau of Land Management’s Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement

    SWCA Environmental Consultants; Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology, University of Arizona; Stoffle, Richard W.; Van Vlack, Kathleen A.; Johnson, Hannah; Dukes, Phillip; De Sola, Stephanie; Simmons, Kristen; Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology, University of Arizona (SWCA Environmental Consultants, 2011-12)