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Oklahoma official urges safety for prairie chickens

There is no debate about it. The lesser prairie chicken and wind power farms do not mix. "They're genetically predisposed to avoid any vertical structures," said Russ Horton, a research supervisor with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife. ...Officials still are concerned about the impact of wind farm development in Oklahoma's western counties.

There is no debate about it. The lesser prairie chicken and wind power farms do not mix.

"They're genetically predisposed to avoid any vertical structures," said Russ Horton, a research supervisor with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife.

Priarie chickens perceive any elevated structures as potential perches for hawks and other raptors that prey on them, so they don't go anywhere near them.

"Perception is reality," Horton said.

Prairie chickens live in short-grass prairie areas that have not been plowed for farming - the same areas that are amenable to wind farm development.

The birds are a candidate for listing on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's protected species list, as their numbers are down about 95 percent from historical figures for their five-state range.

Barbed wire fences claimed many of those birds, since they were erected at the height at which prairie chickens tend to fly.

Officials still are concerned about the impact of wind farm development in Oklahoma's western counties. Horton said it is important to maintain prairie chickens in their current habitats, which could be threatened by continued wind development. He said state officials have tried to... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

There is no debate about it. The lesser prairie chicken and wind power farms do not mix.

"They're genetically predisposed to avoid any vertical structures," said Russ Horton, a research supervisor with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife.

Priarie chickens perceive any elevated structures as potential perches for hawks and other raptors that prey on them, so they don't go anywhere near them.

"Perception is reality," Horton said.

Prairie chickens live in short-grass prairie areas that have not been plowed for farming - the same areas that are amenable to wind farm development.

The birds are a candidate for listing on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's protected species list, as their numbers are down about 95 percent from historical figures for their five-state range.

Barbed wire fences claimed many of those birds, since they were erected at the height at which prairie chickens tend to fly.

Officials still are concerned about the impact of wind farm development in Oklahoma's western counties. Horton said it is important to maintain prairie chickens in their current habitats, which could be threatened by continued wind development. He said state officials have tried to encourage developers to be mindful of the impact of wind farms on that habitat, while pursuing conservation efforts and property management there.

"Hopefully that will buy us some time," he said.

Horton said the prairie chicken is considered an indicator of the health of an ecosystem.

"What's good for the prairie chicken is good for other grassland species, flora and fauna," he said.

Wildlife officials said other birds and bats in the area also could be impacted by wind development.

Oklahoma Environment Secretary J.D. Strong said bird and bat collisions with wind turbines garner most of the attention in talks about the impact of wind farms, but efforts to avoid or minimize other disruptions should be part of the discussion as well.


Source: http://newsok.com/official-...

APR 16 2010
http://www.windaction.org/posts/25699-oklahoma-official-urges-safety-for-prairie-chickens
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