Library filed under Impact on Wildlife from Wyoming
Gov. Mark Gordon released a draft executive order to bolster migration corridor protections. The draft, published on Dec. 23, attempted to thread the needle between the need to preserve precious wildlife and the need to support Wyoming’s lucrative energy sector. Of the eight ungulate species, or hoofed mammals, making up the one million or so migrating mammals across Wyoming, the executive order places special emphasis on two: mule deer and pronghorn. Since its release, the draft has been lauded by several groups as a winning example of science-based wildlife management policy. Still, others fear it could add one more set of hurdles for energy developers to leap through.
According to a letter submitted to the Sweetwater County Land Use Office regarding the solar project’s proposal April 27, 2018, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department was concerned with how the facility’s perimeter fence would cause antelope and big game to funnel onto Wyo. Highway 372. The WGFD feared this would cause increased collisions between vehicles and wildlife.
Debate over the fate of Wyoming’s bustling migration corridors dominated a packed natural resource committee meeting Wednesday in Casper. State lawmakers and key stakeholders wrestled over how to maintain both a robust energy industry and healthy environment for the state’s iconic migratory game. Ultimately, committee members voted to sponsor a new bill that could overhaul how the state regulates migration corridors and expand the corridor designation process beyond the purview of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
Copeland will examine the current and expected status of wind projects in the West, as well as the leading science on their impacts to wildlife species including eagles, bats and songbirds.
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.
Even energy billed as clean can have impacts on wildlife. The U.S. Department of Justice fined Duke Energy $1 million for killing 14 golden eagles and about 150 other protected species between 2009 and 2013. The deaths all occurred on Duke Energy’s Converse County wind farms, and was the first time the Obama administration legally addressed a wind company for bird fatalities. Read more about the wind farm and eagles here.
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.