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."

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