This week, Cleveland Plain Dealer bird blogger, Jim McCarty, wrote a delightful article on the successes of Audubon's Seabird Restoration Program in nurturing and tracking the return of rare seabirds to Maine's coastal areas. Mr. McCarty is obviously a bird enthusiast who has spent time researching and writing about the risks to migrating birds should a "string of colossal power-producing windmills" be erected in Lake Erie.
This week he offered an update to his research by reporting on the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service ("USFWS") Advisory Committee now preparing turbine siting guidelines designed to protect birds from wind turbines. He wrote that this action by USFWS "came in response to pressure from environmental conservation groups" including the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and opined that a "bird-friendly boost from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service" will convince wind proponents to make necessary concessions in order to protect our feathered friends.
Unfortunately, Mr. McCarty's optimistic explanation for why USFWS established the Advisory Committee reflects a rewrite of history dating back to 2003. Windaction.org warns that he and other wildlife activists not take any solace in the Committee's work for a host of reasons.
A time line of the events as they relate to this Committee may help reveal why skepticism of its work product is warranted.
May, 2003: The US Fish and Wildlife Service released its Guidance on Avoiding and Minimizing Wildlife Impacted from Wind Turbines. USFWS regional directors were informed that "wind energy facilities can adversely impact wildlife, especially birds and bats, and their habitats. More facilities with larger turbines can lead to cumulative effects that will initiate or contribute to the decline of some wildlife populations." The Service made it clear that the guidelines did not negate or otherwise weaken existing federal laws protecting wildlife. The guidelines called for a minimum of three years of preconstruction studies to assess risk to migrating birds.
January 2006: The wind industry viewed the USFWS Guidelines as "impractical, inappropriately restrictive, and developed without adequate industry input". A letter surfaced, authored by Mark Sinclair of Clean Energy States Alliance, a wind advocacy group, announcing a collaborative process for resolving wind/wildlife conflicts. His letter stated the outcome of this process "may result in a product that is significantly different than the existing USFWS Interim Guidance". Members of the collaborative included USFWS, the American Wind Energy Association - the powerful wind industry trade group - National Audubon Society, Sinclair's Clean Energy States Alliance, and others. The meetings were not publicly noticed, nor were they open to the public. Laurie Jodziewicz, spokeswoman for AWEA, said the point of the group was to "develop guidelines that everyone could agree on."
Make no mistake. This effort was not triggered by environmental conservation groups. To the contrary, such groups, including National Audubon, were complicit in the industry's effort to weaken our national Guidelines.
January 31, 2006: The founders of Windaction.org with others sent a letter to Interior Secretary Gale Norton inquiring about the collaborative process and asking whether USFWS intended to "comply with the basic openness and accountability provisions of the Federal Advisory Committee Act ("FACA"), 5 U.S.C. App 2." FACA applies to any committee established or utilized by one or more agencies in the interest of obtaining advice or recommendations for the Federal Government. Its provisions also require that committees be fairly balanced in terms of points of view represented and the function to be performed.
We were rightly concerned that closed-door meetings would simply be an opportunity for the wind industry and its advocates to force revisions of the agency's Guidance in a manner that made turbine siting and operation easier, but detrimental to wildlife.
February 9, 2006: Scheduled first meeting of the Collaborative. Upon receipt of our January 31 letter, the process was canceled.
March 2007: The USFWS announced it would be forming an Advisory Committee based on FACA. The intent of the Committee was to evaluate and develop guidelines for the safe siting of wind energy facilities.
October 2007: The Committee and members list were formally announced. Of the 22 members (including Mark Sinclair) none possessed research expertise or experience involving bat interactions with wind turbines nor expertise in bird impacts especially with respect to effects on migratory birds using the Appalachian mountain ridges in the eastern U.S. Other expert deficiencies were glaring.
January 17, 2008: Windaction.org and others submitted a letter to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorn informing him that the composition of the committee was illegally skewed in favor of wind industry representatives and the selection process ignored leading experts on critical wildlife impacts.
Shortly after, Dr. Clait Braun declined his appointment to the Committee telling Windaction.org that one reason was that the Committee was stacked in favor of wind interests. Others declined participation leaving a few openings. In response to our letter, the Service scrambled to fill the slots with bat "experts".
March 6, 2008: USFWS Career Deputy Director Ken Stansell responded in a proforma letter stating "We believe the selection of the members met the goal of achieving balance" among geographic regions, wildlife interests and industry interests.
January and April, 2009: The first few drafts of the guidelines were released by the Committee for public comment.
May 11, 2009: Windaction.org and others submitted a second letter to Secretary Salizar requesting he immediately suspend work on the committee citing excessive industry influence in preparing the Committee's draft recommendations.
To date, our concerns with the Committee's membership have been ignored.
Scientists have written to USFWS expressing concern with the draft guidelines including Dr. Shawn Smallwood, a prominent biologist in the area of impacts of wind turbines on avian life. Those familiar with the history of the Committee and the 'agendas' of its individual members have little faith that its work product will serve any value in protecting vulnerable wildlife resources - a job we would have thought to be the highest priority for the USFWS.
Windaction.org encourages greater Congressional oversight by the House Natural Resources Committee. Some States are being more proactive than the Feds. For instance, Mr. McCarty and other bird enthusiasts may wish to look to New York State for its guidance released in January 2009.
Wildlife Slows Wind Power .337992011-12-10T23:26:41Z2011-12-10T23:26:41ZSome scientists believe thousands of bats, including non-endangered species like the Seminole bat, are dying each year in wind turbines, based on available counts of bat deaths at existing wind farms.
"Most biologists will tell you that over time and cumulatively, [bats] won't be able to sustain these fatality rates," said Ed Arnett, the director of science and policy for Bat Conservation International.
WIND: Bats and birds face serious threats from growth of wind energy.327022011-08-08T18:11:11Z2011-08-08T18:11:11ZHowever, the rapid growth and expansion of wind farms has had an increasingly significant effect on birds and bats, especially since, according to the GSR, the average wind turbine size has increased. The American Bird Conservancy (ABC), an avian conservation group, observes that upward of 14 birds per megawatt of wind energy are killed each year.TransAlta urged to shut down wind farm during migration season.326572011-08-03T10:44:58Z2011-08-03T10:44:58ZNature Canada says the project's 86 turbines are among the most destructive of wildlife in North America. The organization argues TransAlta should shut down parts of the wind farm - one of the biggest in the country - during high-risk periods in the late summer and early fall.New wind guidelines anger bird, bat groups.326212011-07-30T13:16:52Z2011-07-30T13:16:52Z"More important, however, it is a direction that will inevitably be disastrous for the many birds, bats, and other wildlife that will be killed and injured by poorly sited wind power projects, since the industry will have little if any incentive to take such impacts into consideration in making siting decisions."
Solano County's wind farm plan has bird fanciers worried.323862011-07-06T14:10:27Z2011-07-06T14:10:27ZThe group concluded in written comments that the project falls short of state law by failing to address the "expected cumulative fatalities" of birds and bats.
However, project consultants for the county and the applicant, Nextra Energy Montezuma II Wind, LLC, pledged to provide habitat for wildlife and birds elsewhere.
Science fiction? Turbine study made public.323182011-06-25T05:24:44Z2011-06-25T05:24:44ZTesting at wind energy sites throughout the state shows approximately 25 bats and four birds killed every year at each of the state's 420 active turbines ...That puts the estimated kills through June 2010 at some 10,500 bats and 1,680 birds. Wind turbines could conflict with endangered bats.282922010-07-14T02:24:57Z2010-07-14T02:24:57ZAnd with congress pushing for states to develop alternative energy like solar, nuclear and wind, agencies and local government are working to enact wind ordinances to control development as well as the ecological impact on birds--and bats. From Fayetteville's KUAF, Jaqueline Froelich has the story.Bird and bat deaths don't seem to tar wind industry.281992010-07-10T11:15:24Z2010-07-10T11:15:24ZClearly, this is a double standard. Syncrude faces fines of up to $800,000, while Wolf Island's bird and bat mortalities are accepted as part of the cost of going green. The oilsands get unfairly labelled as "bloody oil," but nobody complains about "bloody wind."Windfarm turbines deadly for birds, bats .277172010-06-10T12:46:05Z2010-06-10T12:46:05Z"Shockingly high" numbers of bird and bat deaths caused by one of Canada's biggest wind farms should serve as a warning to planners of other projects that may be built in crucial wildlife zones, one of the country's key conservation groups says. ..."We should not be putting these farms in places where the risk is going to be high," he said. "It is a disaster that we can see coming." At the very least, turbines should be shut down at certain times of year to reduce bird kills, he added.Scientists study wind-farm risks to birds.276852010-06-07T18:47:03Z2010-06-07T18:47:03ZThe surveys, which are financed by the wind industry, indicate that wind power is a relatively minor hazard to birds. But some scientists say it is still too soon to discount the risks posed by the rush to develop Northwest wind power. They are particularly concerned with the plight of hawks, eagles and other raptors, which are large, long-lived birds at the top of the food chain.Study: Wind Farms = Bird Killers.276842010-06-07T18:42:01Z2010-06-07T18:42:01ZA recent study in Klickitat County, Washington shows that active wind farms in Washington and Oregon kill more than 6,500 birds and 3,000 bats annually.
Biologist Orah Zamora works for West, Inc., an ecological field study company, monitors the Windy Flats project, one of the largest wind farms in the United States. Zamora looks for dead birds and bats that have been severed by the spinning blades.Report paves way for wildlife-friendly wind power in Monterey County.238282009-10-27T20:21:39Z2009-10-27T20:21:39ZThe thousand of birds killed by the wind turbines at Altamont Pass tainted the reputation of the renewable energy source.
But according to a recent report by the Ventana Wildlife Society and the Stanford Solar and Wind Energy Project, smaller wind-power projects may be able to harvest energy in some parts of Monterey County without harming the endangered California condor.
"The condor is the main thing that's been holding up the development of wind-power projects in Monterey County," said John Roitz.
Do wind turbines kill wildlife? .233282009-09-27T01:55:49Z2009-09-27T01:55:49ZWind turbine memorial. Illustration: Rob Biddulph Imagine that at the flick of a switch, you could not only turn a light on or off but select which power source you were going to use. Would an eco warrior choose wind power or coal? Surely this is a no-brainer.
Windmills called threat to raptor migration route.226992009-08-16T07:35:40Z2009-08-16T07:35:40ZTurbines already are taking a heavy toll in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Game Commission released a report last spring showing the death rate is highest for bats, which additionally face being wiped out by a mysterious phenomenon called "white-nose syndrome."
The evidence has mounted since studies in 2004 showed 1,500 to 4,000 bats annually were killed by the 44 turbines on West Virginia's Backbone Mountain.
Birds vs. Environmentalists? The wind industry may be green, but it's proving deadly to wildlife.226762009-08-13T15:39:10Z2009-08-13T15:39:10ZWind energy has been touted as cost-effective to produce clean energy as well as jobs. That promise, along with new government subsidies, has helped wind turbines pop up on hills and fields throughout America. But not every environmentalist is happy about that development. Critics charge that wind-energy development can cause habitat fragmentation-a displacement of a species that can eventually reduce its numbers-as well as the deaths of birds and bats (a species that is especially vulnerable due to its low reproductive rates) that collide with the wind turbines' massive rotor blades. Wind creates energy, problems for Okla..217252009-06-24T19:17:09Z2009-06-24T19:17:09ZWind turbines in Oklahoma may be good for producing clean energy, but they are bad news for bats and the lesser prairie chicken.
As government officials try to harness the Oklahoma wind as a practical power source, they must also be mindful of the birds and bats most affected by wind farms.Western Oklahoma is home to bat colonies and the lesser prairie chicken, but the area also has some of the best real estate for wind farms.
Wind project will kill wildlife, biologist says.214792009-06-07T12:45:45Z2009-06-07T12:45:45ZA state wildlife biologist says the Whistling Ridge Wind Project, proposed for a timbered ridge in eastern Skamania County, could cause high wildlife mortality, especially for bats and raptors.
Surveys of the 1,152-acre site, including those done for the applicant, Bingen-based SDS Lumber Co., show the area is heavily used by bats, raptors and other birds, biologist Michael Ritter said in formal comments to the state agency that will decide whether to approve the project.