Friday, December 16, 2016

Rule allowing 30-year wind farm permits expected to cause more deaths of bald eagles, other birds

Reuters photo by Bob Strong
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's rule to give 30-year permits to wind farms could result in thousands of bird deaths, including bald eagles, Laura Zuckerman reports for Reuters. "The newly finalized rule, to go into effect on Jan. 15, extends the current five-year term for permits that allow for the accidental deaths of bald and golden eagles. The permits, which are meant for any activity that could disturb or kill eagles but will mostly apply to wind farms, are required under federal law."

Wind energy companies argued that "they needed the longer permits to provide more stability to investors in the growing renewable power industry," Zuckerman writes. In 2013, Fish and Wildlife "approved a similar plan extending 'eagle-take' permits to 30 years, but a U.S. judge overturned it last year. The judge agreed with conservation groups that the agency had failed to properly assess the impact on federally protected eagle populations."

Fish and Wildlife said the current population of 140,000 bald eagles could "withstand the loss of about 2,000 birds annually" and "could sustain as many as 4,200 fatalities a year without endangering the species," Zuckerman writes. The agency estimates that about "545 golden eagles are thought to perish annually from collisions with obstacles ranging from turbines to vehicles."

1 comment:

Greg Alvarez said...

This is a gross misinterpretation of what this rule does. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s eagle conservation rule isn’t specifically designed for wind energy—it applies to any person or industry who might impact an eagle through normal activities.

USFWS Director Dan Ashe explained,

The vast majority of human-caused deaths result from intentional poisoning and shooting — federal crimes that we aggressively investigate and prosecute. Most other eagle deaths are caused by collisions - with cars, buildings, power lines and other structures. Wind energy facilities represent a fraction of these deaths, and the media’s singular focus on wind turbines is a gross distortion of the truth.

Nor do these permits allow companies to kill up to 4,200 eagles without penalty. The 4,200 figure in the rule pertains to the maximum number eagle mortality could increase above current levels, by both natural and ALL human-related sources (not just wind), before the population faces a threat.

Impacts on bald eagles are vanishingly rare, with only a handful in the four decade history of the wind industry.

Wind farms cause less than three percent of human-related golden eagle deaths, and more than 90 percent have zero impact. Of those that do, the vast majority impact a single eagle over 30 years. Most golden eagle impacts occur at older California wind farms from the 1980s. Modern turbines are replacing outdated equipment, reducing impacts by 80 percent.

The U.S. wind industry proactively works to minimize its limited impacts and conserve eagles, and will continue to do so.