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Study starts on S. Utah sage grouse, wind farms

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources are launching a study of the chicken-sized bird across more than 300 square miles in Iron and Beaver counties. The study area has a "high potential" for wind development but no projects have been launched yet, according to Christine Pontarolo, a biologist with the BLM's field office in Cedar City.

SALT LAKE CITY -- Before wind energy developers come calling on southern Utah, biologists there hope to learn about how it might affect the greater sage grouse.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources are launching a study of the chicken-sized bird across more than 300 square miles in Iron and Beaver counties.

The study area has a "high potential" for wind development but no projects have been launched yet, according to Christine Pontarolo, a biologist with the BLM's field office in Cedar City.

Researchers plan to use radio telemetry to track the movements of about 30 sage grouse every week over the next two years. The data will tell scientists where the grouse live, next and breed.

Those kinds of details could be important in determining whether a wind farm might hurt the birds, Pontarolo said.

Nighttime crews with flashlights and nets began capturing and collaring sage grouse last month. Eight have been collared so far, Pontarolo said.

The $140,000 study - happening just south of a 97-turbine wind project near Milford - is being paid for with federal stimulus funds.

The BLM launched a similar study last fall across about... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

SALT LAKE CITY -- Before wind energy developers come calling on southern Utah, biologists there hope to learn about how it might affect the greater sage grouse.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources are launching a study of the chicken-sized bird across more than 300 square miles in Iron and Beaver counties.

The study area has a "high potential" for wind development but no projects have been launched yet, according to Christine Pontarolo, a biologist with the BLM's field office in Cedar City.

Researchers plan to use radio telemetry to track the movements of about 30 sage grouse every week over the next two years. The data will tell scientists where the grouse live, next and breed.

Those kinds of details could be important in determining whether a wind farm might hurt the birds, Pontarolo said.

Nighttime crews with flashlights and nets began capturing and collaring sage grouse last month. Eight have been collared so far, Pontarolo said.

The $140,000 study - happening just south of a 97-turbine wind project near Milford - is being paid for with federal stimulus funds.

The BLM launched a similar study last fall across about 500 square miles in Oregon.

Researchers already know that sage grouse often steer clear of busy oil and gas developments in places like Wyoming, said Jim Sedinger, a University of Nevada wildlife ecology professor and member of the Sage Grouse Research Collaborative.

But not much is known about how sage grouse will react to wind turbines and related development, he said.

One of the concerns is that the birds don't tend to nest near tall structures or power lines for fear they could be perches for eagles or other predators.

As interest in wind energy intensifies, researchers are trying to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to the grouse. A few states have started developing recommendations about where wind turbines should be built in an effort to protect wildlife.

"This has all happened in the West pretty fast," Sedinger said.

Once fairly common in the West, sage grouse have experienced a 90 percent decline in their numbers and a 50 percent decline in their sagebrush habitat from a century ago, according to federal officials.

Today, they inhabit large portions of Wyoming, Nevada, Montana, Oregon and Idaho, and smaller areas of Colorado, Utah, California, Washington, South Dakota, North Dakota and western Canada.

The Interior Department announced last month that federal protections for the greater sage grouse are warranted but precluded because other species are considered in greater danger.


Source: http://www.thesunnews.com/2...

APR 19 2010
https://www.windaction.org/posts/25773-study-starts-on-s-utah-sage-grouse-wind-farms
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