Impact on Wildlife and Wyoming
Wildlife conservationists and energy developers alike found some encouragement in Friday's announcement that the sage grouse won't be listed as a threatened or endangered species.
Many agreed that such a listing would have had a chilling effect on the agriculture and minerals industries, which are the foundation of Wyoming's economy.
The Laramie-based Biodiversity Conservation Alliance released a 50-plus page study on Friday, offering recommendations for places in the state the group deems most suitable for wind power development.
The report also outlines locations that should be avoided, and the places where the group says developers must tread carefully, for environmental reasons.
In the high-stakes game of preserving sage grouse, biologists say they're still figuring out how the birds will react to the influx of wind turbines rising up from the wide-open sagebrush plains where the birds evolved.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 15 months ago commenced a review of whether sage grouse should be protected under the Endangered Species Act.
Pauley's preliminary survey of experts identified four primary 'drivers' that could affect future wildlife populations. They are: expanding rural subdivisions, energy development, invasive nonnative species and climate change. ...Much of the meeting, which wrapped up Friday, highlighted ongoing research efforts to understand the potential impacts of energy development -- from fossil fuels to wind farms -- on sage grouse, songbirds, elk, mule deer and other species across the state.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is telling its field offices to mark certain fences and guy wires to make them more visible to sage grouse, sharp-tailed grouse and lesser prairie chickens.
Studies have shown that barbed-wire fences can be deadly when these bird species fly into the fences without seeing them
The Uinta County Commissioners voted unanimously to deny two conditional use permits that would have allowed an additional 120 wind turbines on Bridger Butte.
Bridger Butte Wind Power and Bridger Butte Wind Power II, being run by Tasco Engineering, wanted to add the turbines in the general area of Bigelow Road, and extending southward from the current project.
The federal government has charged PacifiCorp and Exxon Mobil Corp. in two unrelated cases with killing scores of migratory birds in Wyoming, according to court documents filed last week in U.S. District Court in Cheyenne.
PacifiCorp, which does business in Wyoming as Rocky Mountain Power, is charged in a 34-count criminal information document with the deaths of 38 golden eagles at power poles in six counties from December 2007 to February 2009.
Federal officials are again delaying whether to list sage grouse in 11 Western states as threatened or endangered -- leaving in limbo until at least 2010 a spate of industries that could face sweeping restrictions if the bird is protected.
The chicken-sized grouse ranges from Montana to California alongside livestock grazing, oil and gas drilling and an increasing number of wind power turbines.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it opposes construction of any wind farms in Wyoming's core sage grouse population areas, a position that wind developers say could have a chilling effect on their plans in the state.
Brian Kelly, supervisor in the agency's Wyoming field office, made the comments in a letter Tuesday responding to an inquiry from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
Freudenthal's executive order consists of 12 guidelines and a map of "core" areas where the stipulations could be implemented.
"The executive order does not create any new authority and legally only applies to state agencies, but is a vehicle to at least align the existing authorities of state government to ensure that we move forward under a more unified framework," Freudenthal said in a prepared statement.
New development will not be prohibited within the state-identified "core areas," but several stipulations may apply in order to demonstrate that activity will result in no loss of sage grouse or sage grouse habitat, according to the executive order. Reclamation efforts and fire suppression will be "enhanced" in the core areas.
A decision to block wind energy development from key sage grouse habitats in Wyoming could effectively nullify a significant portion of the state's wind energy resource. But exactly how much is unclear.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering listing the sage grouse as a threatened and endangered species. Half of the bird's remaining prime habitat in the West lies within Wyoming's borders.
Horizon Wind Energy has suspended development of the Simpson Ridge wind farm in Carbon County because of Wyoming's rigid position on protecting key sage grouse habitat.
Houston-based Horizon is not scrapping the project, but is placing it on hold indefinitely, project manager Nate Sandvig said Friday.
Idaho and the federal government have signed an agreement that offers incentive and protection for ranchers and landowners who voluntarily take conservation steps to improve the plight of the sage grouse. ...Todd Tucci, attorney for Advocates for the West, said the bigger challenge is dealing with sage grouse habitat on public land, where wind energy development, oil and natural gas drilling and cattle grazing pose thornier policy questions.
Of Wyoming's 15 resident bat species, three of them are most susceptible to the deadly effects of wind turbines: the hoary bat, the silver-haired bat and the eastern red bat.
They are Wyoming's only tree-roosting bats, said Douglas Keinath, senior zoologist with the Wyoming Natural Diversity Database.
A lot of Westerners are watching whether the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is about to pursue Endangered Species Act protection for the greater sage grouse.
A finding is expected by week's end and the oil and gas, livestock and wind energy industries _ to name the bigger interests concerned _ all have an enormous stake in whatever the agency decides.
Brian Rutledge, executive director of Audubon Wyoming out of Laramie, said golden eagles, along with other raptors, are struggling in light of the energy development around the state. Power poles are being erected in areas of the sagebrush sea ...and now raptors can perch there and pick off sage grouse. ...He said a rise in wind energy also threatens the bird.
Wind energy development is "functionally precluded" in about 20 percent of Wyoming under new Bureau of Land Management guidelines laid out on Monday to protect a threatened bird, the governor's office said. ...the reality going forward will be that new developments will have to be relegated to the one oil pad per square mile."
The Interior Department said Friday that the greater sage grouse, a dweller of the high plains of the American West, was facing extinction but would not be designated an endangered species for now.
Yet the decision in essence reverses a 2004 determination by the Bush administration that the sage grouse did not need protection, a decision that a federal court later ruled was tainted by political tampering with the Interior Department's scientific conclusions.
A utility company on Friday agreed to a settlement of more than $10 million following the electrocution of dozens of eagles, hawks, owls and other birds in Wyoming.
PacifiCorp pleaded guilty to 34 violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Shickich in Casper ordered the utility to pay a $510,000 fine and $900,000 in restitution.
A planned wind project near Hanna in Carbon County has raised concerns from some about how it might affect natural and cultural resources in the area.
The Medicine Bow Conservation District and the Hanna Historical Society asked Horizon Wind Energy not to harm natural or cultural resources when building its 154-turbine wind project.