Library filed under Impact on Wildlife from Wyoming
A long-term study that began this spring will examine the effect of wind energy development on pronghorn.
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 Chokecherry/Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project is the largest ever proposed in the United States and would likely slaughter dozens of eagles each year, plus hundreds of additional birds and bats, according to the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance (BCA).
Of Wyoming's 15 resident bat species, three of them are most susceptible to the deadly effects of wind turbines: the hoary bat, the silver-haired bat and the eastern red bat. They are Wyoming's only tree-roosting bats, said Douglas Keinath, senior zoologist with the Wyoming Natural Diversity Database.
Miles away, wind turbines sat motionless in the windless night. Their spinning blades can be deadly to bats, bursting capillaries in their lungs before the blades hit their tiny bodies. Three Wyoming bats are particularly susceptible when they migrate from summer to winter ranges. Keinath and Abernethy were looking for bats to tell them which, if any, species called the area home.
Hard winters usually limit animals to certain areas where wind blows snow away and food is available. If those are the same places where turbines exist, and elk or antelope avoid turbines, it could hurt the winter survival rate of the herds, Beck said. "It is an area of research that we don't have a lot of information on.
After reviewing population trends, hunter-harvest reports and licenses sales from the two states over the last 30 years, wildlife biologists concluded that oil and gas drilling, wind farms, agricultural practices and other human encroachments are slicing and dicing critical habitat the animals have historically relied upon to survive.
In this surreal debate, perhaps it's worth remembering that though it has been four centuries since Cervantes' character Sancho pointed out to Don Quixote, "Look, your worship ... what we see there are not giants but windmills, and what seem to be their arms are the vanes that turned by the wind make the millstone go," we still must look at things honestly for what they are, not just for what our fantasies want them to be.
Wyoming will monitor the wind energy industry's effects on wildlife through guidelines unanimously approved by the Game and Fish Commission on Friday. The commission resisted calls from some landowners and some industry representatives who wanted to delay approval of the 65-page document because of technical issues and concerns about private property rights.
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.
State lawmakers have determined that major industrial developments, including wind farms, warrant government scrutiny because of potential impacts beyond the land where they're located, be it private, state or federal. That's a sound policy. And because Wyoming's abundant wildlife is treasured by the state's people, it's appropriate that our wildlife management agency have a say in projects that could harm that valuable resource.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department wants to discourage the construction of wind turbines close to water, forests and other wildlife habitat, but the agency's latest draft recommendations offer developers a bit more flexibility depending on the specifics of a site. The department recently released a new draft of wildlife protection recommendations for wind developers.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.