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Gauging wind power's impact; Group focuses on the wildlife

About 140 people got another look at the coming world of wind power Friday. Birds and bats were major topics, but the basic message was that there needs to be more study of the impact of wind farms and turbines. "We're kind of finding our way along with the industry," Kathy Boydston, a biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, told the gathering at the Ambassador Hotel in Amarillo. Experts are trying to find ways to deter birds and bats from hitting turbines, but the lack of information on how many fall victim and how it happens is lacking.

About 140 people got another look at the coming world of wind power Friday.
Birds and bats were major topics, but the basic message was that there needs to be more study of the impact of wind farms and turbines.

"We're kind of finding our way along with the industry," Kathy Boydston, a biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, told the gathering at the Ambassador Hotel in Amarillo.

Experts are trying to find ways to deter birds and bats from hitting turbines, but the lack of information on how many fall victim and how it happens is lacking. That's because the carcasses are hard to find in fields, predators remove them, there are gaps in time during research, and studies have had flaws.

"Estimates for birds and bats appear imprecise," said Ed Arnett, co-director of Bat Conservation International. "What we're hoping for is to increase predictability to enhance mitigation."

Bats collide with wind turbine blades more often than birds, and bat deaths could be substantial in the eastern Panhandle, Arnett said.

The decision of where to put turbines appears to be one of the most important factors people can control to lessen the impact on wildlife. The choices are strictly up to developers... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

About 140 people got another look at the coming world of wind power Friday.
Birds and bats were major topics, but the basic message was that there needs to be more study of the impact of wind farms and turbines.

"We're kind of finding our way along with the industry," Kathy Boydston, a biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, told the gathering at the Ambassador Hotel in Amarillo.

Experts are trying to find ways to deter birds and bats from hitting turbines, but the lack of information on how many fall victim and how it happens is lacking. That's because the carcasses are hard to find in fields, predators remove them, there are gaps in time during research, and studies have had flaws.

"Estimates for birds and bats appear imprecise," said Ed Arnett, co-director of Bat Conservation International. "What we're hoping for is to increase predictability to enhance mitigation."

Bats collide with wind turbine blades more often than birds, and bat deaths could be substantial in the eastern Panhandle, Arnett said.

The decision of where to put turbines appears to be one of the most important factors people can control to lessen the impact on wildlife. The choices are strictly up to developers because Texas and the federal government do not control which sites are chosen. Boydston is part of a national team trying to formulate suggestions, but there are state guidelines that are voluntary.

"They're being improved. They're starting to be used," said Andy Kasner, director of bird conservation at Audubon Texas.

Wind farms can also disturb and fragment habitats, causing harm to birds like the lesser prairie-chicken. The birds can gradually disappear when their habitat becomes filled with obstacles.

"It can cause islands, if you will, making the population vulnerable to catastrophes, inbreeding and social dysfunction," said John Hughes, a U.S. Fish & Wildlife biologist. "It doesn't happen overnight."

The goal is to avoid situations like at Altamont Pass in California where more than 1,000 raptors, like eagles and hawks, die in wind turbine accidents annually.

"The wind industry as a whole has been very proactive in contacting agencies," Hughes said.

Experts also are unsure what impact wind development will have on species just passing through.

Migratory birds use the area's plentiful playa lakes in the area as "stepping stones" on the Central Flyway, said Dave Haukos, a wildlife specialist with Fish & Wildlife. "So things we do here will have an affect on events all the way to Alaska."

The migratory route could be fine or could be disrupted. Playas in the area are about one mile apart. But European studies show migrating birds avoiding wind turbines by as much as 2.4 miles, which could make it hard to use the "stepping stones," Haukos said.

As scientists try to assess wind's affect on wildlife, some landowners are more than ready to get started.

"In Briscoe, we're kind of land rich and cash poor," said Mike Long, a Briscoe County landowner. "We need this. This will be our survival."


Source: http://www.amarillo.com/sto...

AUG 9 2008
http://www.windaction.org/posts/16410-gauging-wind-power-s-impact-group-focuses-on-the-wildlife
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