Library filed under Impact on Wildlife from Oklahoma
In response to concerns about dangers the turbines represent to birds and other flying creatures, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to propose changes to Golden and Bald Eagle Management Regulations. Several tribes and Native American organizations have joined with the Osages in planning opposition to any changes that would call for the removal or relocating of eagle nests.“Moving the nests could be detrimental, and cannot be tolerated”
Mike Fuhr, state director of The Nature Conservancy, met with Osage Nation leaders Tuesday during the National Congress of American Indians at the Cox Business Center in downtown Tulsa to sign a memorandum of understanding that they would work in tandem to protect prairie lands in Oklahoma.
"No one should view this project as a done-deal," explained BigHorse. "There are still multiple federal approvals the developer, whomever it may ultimately be, must obtain. These federal reviews and approvals are meant to protect the eagles that fly over our lands and our cultural heritage. The Osage Nation will do whatever it takes to ensure our resources are protected."
The Osage Nation is pushing for full archaeological research in the wind farm's acreage, saying the area is some of the densest in all of Oklahoma for culturally significant tribal sites such as camp sites and burials. "We're sitting and waiting on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to make a decision on whether they are going to enforce federal law ... and order an archaeology study, which they did but never brought the tribe in for consultation."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has not issued a federal bald eagle "take" permit yet to Wind Capital Group, a St. Louis-based energy organization that is opening the 94-turbine Osage Wind farm in Osage County. The Osage Nation, which has oil and other mineral interests in the area, has battled the planned wind farm for years and objects to the possibility of eagle killing for cultural purposes involving the eagle.
The permit application acknowledges that up three bald eagles a year could be killed by the development over the 40-year life of the project. "I can't come up with the words in English or Osage to put a value on how important these (eagles) are to us and to our everyday survival," said Scott BigHorse, assistant chief for the Osage Nation.
"The eagle is a sacred and symbolic figure to the Osage people, and the area targeted for this project contains a high bald eagle population. We oppose the specific area for this project. It all comes down to siting projects in appropriate places, and this is not an appropriate place for a massive wind energy project."
Opponents of the permit, including conservationists and tribes in the area, say they aren't against "green" energy investments. However, they are firmly against the placement of the planned 94-turbine wind farm, which is surrounded within five miles by several active bald eagle nests. ..."If you look at one site, it's not that big of a deal, but you look at all the sites ... collectively, you're looking at a huge impact,"
"We are supportive of green energy, but this is what you could call dirty-green energy," Hamilton said. "Wind farms are an industrial project and we are saying, 'Please don't put your industrial operations in one of the last tallgrass prairies. If you do this, you could create a dead zone for prairie chickens.' "
Wildlife advocates argue they're not on some quixotic quest - not tilting at windmills. The extinction of dozens, if not hundreds, of animal species by man's encroachment over the years is powerful evidence that we must zealously protect endangered species. We cannot allow Darwin to just sort it out.
Osage County commissioners tabled a vote Monday on a proposed wind energy ordinance that has been criticized by tribal leaders and conservationists who say it needs "more teeth" to protect one of the last stretches of tallgrass prairie in the United States.
"This is work that should have been done 10 years ago when the first wind turbines were going up," Adams said. Horton said lesser prairie chickens may be seen on wind farms, but studies have shown that they avoid vertical structures. "If you're not producing little prairie chickens pretty soon you don't have big prairie chickens," he said.
That's because general plans for the 345-kilovolt route, known as the V-Plan and including a connecting line into Oklahoma, appear to take the line through prime nesting and breeding habitat for the Lesser Prairie-Chicken in both states. With an estimated two-thirds of the unique bird's original habitat already eliminated by development, officials warn that further encroachment could place the bird on the nation's endangered species list.
Don't get me wrong. The donations are commendable. OG&E doesn't have to give away any money in compensation for pushing prairie chickens off their homes. No other energy company has stepped up to the plate with a similar gesture. But will it really save the birds?
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.
As the U.S. wind industry develops alternative sources of power generation, a federal advisory committee has spent two years looking at ways to minimize the impact on wildlife and its habitat.
The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission recently voted to secure millions of dollars for conservation projects with OG&E and Tulsa-based NatureWorks as well as set important hunting regulations and dates for new seasons on black bear, antelope, elk and others. At its April meeting, the Commission approved a memorandum of agreement with OG&E. Through the agreement, OG&E will invest $3.75 million to help offset the impact of the "OU Spirit" wind farm on lesser prairie chickens and other wildlife in northwest Oklahoma.
The only people who don't like wind farms are the people who don't have one - that was the punch line of a humorous story T. Boone Pickens told the crowd at Revolution: Oklahoma Wind Conference on Tuesday. But on Wednesday, conference attendees heard from a few people who are concerned that the wind industry is growing too fast to fully account for its effect on the environment, the economy and a multitude of secondary issues.
Wind power is one of the solutions to our energy needs both here in Oklahoma and beyond, as well as providing a new industry and the jobs that support it. ...Also noteworthy is the potential for wind energy to be not so green after all. Wind farms, like any type of development, built on the wrong site can have a negative impact on the environment. Strides toward solving one conservation problem should not inadvertently cause another.
A plucky little bird in northwest Oklahoma - known for its comical mating dances in which it patters around like a jittery wind-up toy - has found itself pitted against an unlikely environmental foe.