Friday, April 22, 2011

Wind industry, Fish and Wildlife Service agree to work on plan for protecting birds and bats

Representatives of the U.S. wind energy industry and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced this week they have signed a memorandum of understanding to work on developing a formal habitat conservation plan for Midwestern wind farms. The plan is aimed at "reducing the negative impacts of wind farms on migratory birds and bats while providing greater regulatory certainty to energy developers," and was signed by several wind energy companies and their trade group, the American Wind Energy Association, Scott Streater of Environment & Energy Daily reports.

The conservation plan will cover Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin. "The Midwest is among the fastest-growing wind power regions in the country, but it is also a critical flyway for millions of birds that migrate seasonally between Canada and the United States and Central and South America, as well as federally endangered Indiana bats," Streater writes. The participating states will spend $3.2 million in federal grant money on the project, and the industry has promised to match 10 percent of the grant money.

Tom Melius, FWS's Midwest regional director in Fort Snelling, Minn., told Streater the agreement is a "positive step" that should allow the agency to devise "scientifically sound" approaches to wind development to ensure "the conservation of endangered species and facilitate the development of a renewable energy source at the same time." The industry expects the plan "will streamline the permitting process" in ways that protects wildlife, "while also allowing for more wind energy to be deployed nationally," said John Anderson, the wind energy association's siting-policy director. (Read more, subscription required)

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