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Anywhere the wind blows?

The Laramie-based Biodiversity Conservation Alliance released a 50-plus page study on Friday, offering recommendations for places in the state the group deems most suitable for wind power development. The report also outlines locations that should be avoided, and the places where the group says developers must tread carefully, for environmental reasons.

A Wyoming conservation group wants wind energy developers to protect wildlife and important "viewsheds" when siting future wind farms -- and it has released a detailed report it hopes will help guide decisions about where wind turbines will be placed.

The Laramie-based Biodiversity Conservation Alliance released a 50-plus page study on Friday, offering recommendations for places in the state the group deems most suitable for wind power development.

The report also outlines locations that should be avoided, and the places where the group says developers must tread carefully, for environmental reasons.

The study -- Wind Power in Wyoming: Doing it Smart from the Start -- details potential effects of wind farms on certain wildlife species, such as sage grouse and birds of prey, and also maps historical markers and locales.

While the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance believes the study can help decision makers in the planning and siting of wind farms, an advocate for private property rights said she has concerns about the group's intentions toward private landowners.

An electronic version of the report is available on the BCA Web site.

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A Wyoming conservation group wants wind energy developers to protect wildlife and important "viewsheds" when siting future wind farms -- and it has released a detailed report it hopes will help guide decisions about where wind turbines will be placed.

The Laramie-based Biodiversity Conservation Alliance released a 50-plus page study on Friday, offering recommendations for places in the state the group deems most suitable for wind power development.

The report also outlines locations that should be avoided, and the places where the group says developers must tread carefully, for environmental reasons.

The study -- Wind Power in Wyoming: Doing it Smart from the Start -- details potential effects of wind farms on certain wildlife species, such as sage grouse and birds of prey, and also maps historical markers and locales.

While the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance believes the study can help decision makers in the planning and siting of wind farms, an advocate for private property rights said she has concerns about the group's intentions toward private landowners.

An electronic version of the report is available on the BCA Web site.

Erik Molvar, a wildlife biologist who heads the BCA, said Friday that his organization supports the development of more wind farms in the Cowboy State.

'We would really like to see these wind resources developed in Wyoming to replace fossil fuels that are causing global warming,' Molvar said.

Toward that end, the study identifies about 5 million acres that Molvar's group sees as 'most favorable' for wind energy development, he said.

The good news, according to Molvar, is that most of the best 'commercial grade' wind is in southeast Wyoming, where, coincidentally, there are also few environmental concerns related to wind energy development.

'These are the places where wind power development should start, first, and these areas should be the top priorities for developing the infrastructure needed to support the wind industry,' Molvar said.

The report also outlines important habitats statewide for 'sensitive' wildlife species such as sage grouse, bats and birds of prey. It also describes 'Best Practices' that could be used to minimize the negative impacts of wind power development on wildlife, he said.

'We wouldn't want sage grouse conservation efforts to become a stumbling block for wind power development, and this report provides a valuable resource in identifying the key habitats that should be avoided to prevent conflicts and delays,' Molvar said in a prepared statement Friday. 'Having wind energy development that is sensitive to the needs of wildlife is in everyone's best interest.'

Molvar's group believes wind turbines should not be sited within 5 miles of known sage grouse mating grounds, called leks, and developers should avoid high concentrations of birds of prey, among other things.

In all, the report concludes that wind farm development would be appropriate or 'manageable' in about half of the state and not appropriate for the rest.

'Siting in terms of birds of prey is a relatively simple model,' Molvar said. 'Avoid areas where raptors concentrate and mortalities will be quite low and not a major concern. For example, the Foot Creek Rim facility near Arlington has very low raptor mortality.'

The Power Company of Wyoming, LLC, an affiliate of the Denver-based Anschutz Corp., has proposed to build two adjacent wind farms in Carbon County along a ridge 5 to 8 miles south of Rawlins -- with a total of 1,000 turbines.

The two farms would be built, in part, on private land owned by Anschutz that is currently used for grazing livestock, and part on public lands. The Anschutz land exists in what federal authorities call the 'checkerboard,' where private and public lands are interspersed similar to the way the dark and light squares of a checkerboard are.

When asked about the Anschutz proposal, Molvar gave it mixed reviews:

'Parts of that project are in areas of manageable and easily mitigated issues, and other parts are close to sage grouse leks,' he said. 'So that is a project, as it moves forward, that has potential to get tangled up as the imperative to conserve sage grouse becomes (more urgent).'

Many biologists believe sage grouse are on the verge of becoming an endangered species.

Representatives with the Anschutz Corp. were unavailable for comment Friday afternoon.

Laurie Goodman, president of the Landowners Association of Wyoming, said her organization has concerns about the BCA's report as it relates to private landowners.

'The Landowners Association of Wyoming has no response to the veracity of the data or content that is in the reports. What's disturbing to us is the reports don't even include a map showing land ownership,' Goodman said.

It is appropriate for the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance to provide recommendations for wind energy development on public lands, she said, but an attempt to take large swathes of the state off the table -- in areas that include private land -- is not appropriate without a discussion of what is being taken away from landowners.

'There should be an acknowledgment when we look at environmental issues of import that you say from the get-go who owns this stuff,' Goodman said.

If a group is going to advocate for locations where wind energy should and shouldn't be pursued, Goodman said, it should also identify which private landowners might be affected by 'the potential taking away of that development.'

It is becoming ever more difficult for ranchers and farmers to make a living solely on agriculture, Goodman said. So, if residents wish to maintain the open spaces the state's ranching tradition has thus far provided, landowners must be able to diversify and generate other sources of income on their land, including wind power development, she argued.

Molvar said the report was intended to help all decision makers, public and private.

'We are hopeful that all types of land owners, whether on federal lands, state lands or private lands, will look at the information in this report and be able to make better siting decisions about where development goes,' Molvar said. 'We support developing wind energy on private lands and indeed the vast majority of lands that we are recommending as being most favorable for wind energy development are on private lands.'

In the executive summary of the report, the BCA states that the rights of private landowners will have to be respected in decisions about wind energy or in the siting of projects.


Source: http://www.jacksonholestart...

NOV 22 2008
https://www.windaction.org/posts/18012-anywhere-the-wind-blows
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