Knowledge of these key migration routes has obvious conservation implications in light of increased industrial wind development across western North America and the accompanying potential hazards for Golden Eagles. Some of the best predicted wind resources and commercial wind development in the United States lie at the ecotone of the Rocky Mountains and the Great Plains , and there are clear conflicts with wind production and Golden Eagle survival (e.g., [9, 11, 12]). Similarly, southern Wyoming hosts some of the best wind potential in the United States , as well as the highest development potential areas , which may intersect high-use Golden Eagle migration corridors.
There are potential benefits to both Golden Eagle populations and development companies if our dataset and similar migration corridor mapping results are used in initial site planning. Avoidance of areas with a high risk for eagle mortality during migration may strengthen eagle take permit applications, reduce compensatory mitigation needs, and reduce liability for companies while simultaneously protecting migratory eagles.
The importance of migratory pathways of Golden Eagles in conservation planning often has been overlooked because of the large sample sizes and spatial extent needed to make inferences . Our analysis is among the first attempts to objectively quantify the relative spatial importance of migration routes for adult Golden Eagles in western North America at both population and regional levels. Our focus on adult Golden Eagles also allows for the greatest conservation impact to migratory populations, as retaining and enhancing adult survival will have the largest impact on population levels . Targeted conservation actions and minimization of mortality risks within these migration corridors will certainly benefit Golden Eagles in the Western Hemisphere.