Library filed under Impact on Birds from Wyoming
Duke Energy Renewables Inc., a subsidiary of Duke Energy Corp., based in Charlotte, N.C., pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Wyoming today to violating the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) in connection with the deaths of protected birds, including golden eagles, at two of the company’s wind projects in Wyoming. This case represents the first ever criminal enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act for unpermitted avian takings at wind projects.
“Seventy-three percent of those places with good potential for wind energy development have high overlap with important migration areas,” Pocewicz says. Wind energy’s impact on bird populations, particularly migratory birds, has been a controversial subject as wind power has grown nationwide. There’s no recent data on how many birds are killed in Wyoming every year by turbines, but nationally, estimates are in the hundreds of thousands.
The available data, science and policy haven't caught up with the pace of wind energy development. Still, wind energy development is apparently killing golden eagles, which seem especially susceptible to collisions with the turbines.
The matter of protecting eagles reflects a continuing effort on the part of the BLM, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Teton Wind Power to mitigate impacts on the birds. She said U.S. Fish and Wildlife discovered three eagle nests in the project area and is the lead agency working to craft a protection plan.
Sophie Osborn, a wildlife biologist with the Wyoming Outdoor Council, said the council supports the development of renewable energy sources such as wind, but industrial-scale development has environmental costs such as bird and bat mortality and habitat fragmentation. The placement of wind farms is a critical element in protecting wildlife, she said.
In the latest in an ongoing series about roadblocks to clean energy in the region, Molly Messick of Wyoming Public Radio and KUNC in Colorado, explores how the Sage Grouse is hampering wind development in Wyoming.
The developer of a proposed southern Wyoming wind farm is seeking federal approval of a conservation deal that could help the project move forward in an area that's also home to sage grouse. The Power Company of Wyoming wants to build a 1,000-turbine wind farm on part of a 486-square-mile cattle ranch near Rawlins. Denver-based Anschutz Corp. owns the Power Company and the ranch, which is a mixture of private and federal lands.
The Power Company of Wyoming, an affiliate of Denver-based Anschutz (AN'-shoots) Corp., wants to build a 1,000-turbine wind farm on a ranch near Rawlins. But the company faces the challenge of building the project in an area that overlaps with sage grouse habitat.
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.
The iconic sage grouse that once roamed the western U.S. plains in great numbers ...will not be listed under the Endangered Species Act, but the department will put special emphasis on preserving the chicken-sized bird on lands where oil companies want to drill and wind companies want to erect their massive turbines.
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 finding shows the government is willing to protect sage grouse but not willing to do what's necessary, said Jon Marvel, executive director of the Hailey, Idaho-based Western Watersheds Project. "None of the actions proposed to date are mandatory, and that undermines the commitment for improving conditions for sage grouse," Marvel said.
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.
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.
Efforts to protect an iconic bird could disrupt oil, natural gas and wind energy development in the U.S. West and add to the Democratic Party's green woes ahead of the 2010 congressional elections. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has until Feb. 26 to decide whether or not to list the greater sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act. This may prove politically charged as it comes in the face of opposition from energy interests and state governments who fear it will hurt economic development.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is directing its Wyoming offices to consider certain restrictions for oil and gas drilling, new wind turbines and other types of development in sage grouse habitat. In many cases, the BLM could limit drilling to one well pad per square mile. Also, the BLM will prohibit many activities during sage grouse breeding season each spring.
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 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
Not much is certain about the future of sage grouse in Wyoming - including the birds' undecided status as a potentially endangered species and their possible role in curbing oil, gas and even wind energy development. But based on a number of sage grouse habitat improvement projects in development across the Bighorn Basin, one thing is certain: Boosting the bird's prospects is a slow and painstaking process.
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.