Library filed under Impact on Birds from Wyoming
Eagle deaths at a wind farm south of Glenrock are estimated to be low, just five golden eagles and one bald eagle over five years, according to a draft environmental assessment recently released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A persistent frustration from those who oppose wind in Wyoming
Director of Science Nature Conservancy in Wyoming, Holly Copeland remarked, “Over a half million birds and about a million bats, a study in 2013 by Smallwood, et al showed. And if you run those numbers out for Wyoming there are about 5000 grassland birds we would be losing every year…there was a paper that showed 20 eagles and in addition to that Duke Energy reported 52 eagles as well.”
Power Company of Wyoming could get two permits as soon as January if Fish and Wildlife gives final approval to the plan. One permit would allow removal of unoccupied eagle nests during construction of the first 500 of potentially up to 1,000 turbines. A five-year permit would allow up to 14 golden eagle deaths a year during operation.
Chokecherry and Sierra Madre, the largest onshore wind farm planned in the United States, would annually kill 10 to 14 golden eagles, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service projected in a draft environmental study released Wednesday. ...Federal officials attributed the decline to several factors. The permit application submitted by the project’s developer, Power Company of Wyoming, only considers the 500 turbines proposed in the project’s first phase. A second phase calls for an additional 500 turbines.
Under the settlement, PacifiCorp was required to pay $400,000 in fines, $200,000 in restitution to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and $1.9 million to the congressionally chartered National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to help protect golden eagles near the company’s wind facilities.
Wyoming’s sage grouse strategy may have satisfied federal regulators this week, but conservation groups say the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision doesn’t prove grouse are in recovery. ...“The sage grouse faces huge problems from industrial development and livestock grazing across the West,” Molvar said in a press release. “And now the interior department seems to be squandering a major opportunity to put science before politics and solve these problems.”
The US Fish and Wildlife Service is mulling whether to list the greater sage grouse as endangered this September. Impacts from wind energy development may play a role in that decision. ...Rutledge believes humanity needs to transition to clean power sources to combat climate change. But, he would vote for oil and gas development on sage grouse habitat over wind energy, if he had a choice.
“Golden eagles have attracted so much more attention because of wind turbine development across the West.” Largely because of this more recent threat, in 2013 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service created a western golden eagle conservation team to address concerns and find solutions to “move the conservation needle.”
PacifiCorp, the parent company of Rocky Mountain Power, has been responsible for 38 dead golden eagles and killing at least 336 other protected birds with its wind turbines north of Glenrock. ...The federal government has fined PacifiCorp $2.5 million for this act, but Wyoming wildlife advocates and ratepayers need to be assured that the fine’s impact on PacifiCorp’s balance sheet will be borne by the shareholders only.
PacifiCorp said it will pay $400,000 in fines, $200,000 in restitution to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and $1.9 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to help protect golden eagles near the facilities.
“PacifiCorp Energy built two of its Wyoming wind projects in a manner it knew would likely result in the deaths of eagles and other protected birds,” said Sam Hirsch, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. ...“Improperly sited and operated wind energy facilities can kill significant numbers of federally protected birds and other species,”
Efforts to conserve a struggling species of grouse that ranges across the Western U.S. are having far-reaching effects on the region’s energy industry as the Obama administration decides whether the bird needs more protections. ...The U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s delay on the parcels underscores just how much is at stake for an industry that finds its future inextricably intertwined with a bird once known primarily for its elaborate mating display.
Using documents, emails and interviews with former wildlife officials, the AP in articles published last year documented more than four dozen eagle deaths in Wyoming since 2009, and dozens more in California, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington and Nevada. Corporate surveys showed at least 20 eagles found dead in recent years on Pacificorp wind farms in Wyoming. Wind energy companies objected to the AP’s efforts to uncover more information about the numbers of bird deaths.
Hutchins believes seasonal shutdowns or retrofitting power lines and towers are useful tools for reducing bird deaths once wind farms are up and running. The best strategy, though, is siting the turbines properly in the first place. “Unfortunately, these things are going up anywhere, including in important bird areas, and we think that’s highly problematic,” Hutchins said.
The American Bird Conservancy, along with the Laramie, Wyo.-based Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, submitted a 15-page letter to the Fish and Wildlife Service expressing concerns about impacts to golden eagles if the massive Chokecherry and Sierra Madre wind project is built as proposed in southeast Wyoming. ...There’s simply too little information about eagle populations in the region to know what mitigation strategies would be most effective to protect eagles and to justify a possible eagle take permit,
The goal is to keep eagle deaths to a minimum and find ways to offset the eagles that will be killed. Company officials say the BLM estimate was drawn from eagle mortality rates at wind farms where measures to protect eagles weren't taken.
The federal agency has been working with the developer of the 1,000-turbine Chokecherry/Sierra Madre wind project for three years to make sure the turbines are placed away from areas frequented by eagles. They've been mapping nesting areas and flight corridors on the vast project area south of Rawlins in south-central Wyoming.
Chokecherry-Sierra Madre is especially concerning, he said, arguing that internal concerns from BLM and Fish and Wildlife staff about bird fatalities have been ignored for political reasons. The project is one of 33 renewable energy developments authorized on public land by the Obama administration, as part of its initiative to produce 10,000 megawatts of green electricity. The project received BLM authorization despite the finding it posed a threat to golden eagles, Schroeder said.
For the first time, the Obama administration is taking action against wind farms for killing eagles. In a settlement announced Friday, Nov. 22, Duke Energy will pay $1 million for killing 14 golden eagles over the past three years at two Wyoming wind farms. The company says it pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
The U.S. government for the first time has enforced environmental laws protecting birds against wind energy facilities, winning a $1 million settlement from a power company that pleaded guilty to killing 14 eagles and 149 other birds at two wind farms in the western state of Wyoming.