Library filed under Impact on Wildlife from Oklahoma
A plucky little bird in northwest Oklahoma - known for its comical mating dances in which it patters around like a jittery wind-up toy - has found itself pitted against an unlikely environmental foe.
Biologists say power-generating wind turbines proposed for northwestern Oklahoma could push the lesser prairie chicken onto the endangered species list or even into extinction. Huge wind turbines have been proposed across the lesser prairie chicken's habitat in Oklahoma, but it is not the turbine's blades that pose a threat to the birds. Information obtained from radio collar tracking indicate that lesser prairie chickens usually won't go near wind turbines
This statement appears on the Oklahoma Office of the Secretary of the Environment website.
Wind farms will not be allowed on the state's public wildlife management areas. The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission voted unanimously Monday to prohibit wind energy development on all of the state's public wildlife management areas. Earlier this year, OG&E wanted to build a wind farm on the Cooper Wildlife Management Area near Woodward, property owned by the state Wildlife Department and used primarily for hunting. After public opposition from sportsmen, OG&E withdrew its request to the state Wildlife Department.
Construction of the enormous infrastructure needed to transform wind energy into electricity and move the power to market can have profound negative impacts on native habitat and wildlife resources. Some direct mortality can occur when birds or bats collide with rotating turbine blades or lines and towers, but by far the greatest impact comes from the displacement of prairie species by the tall structures, roadways, power lines and other development features associated with wind power generation and transmission. Another threat is for species such as the lesser prairie-chicken, which has declined to teetering on the precipice of listing under the Endangered Species Act. ...By placing wind power related structures within already disturbed sites, much of the natural resource impact and cost can be avoided. Such enlightened action can entail some increased up-front economic expense. So, the question becomes one of foresight versus short-term, economic expediency and continued natural resource decline.
Opponents to expanding wind energy on public land are voicing their opinions, and sometimes in a loud manner. About 50 of those opponents met Wednesday with OG&E Electric Services and Department of Wildlife Conservation officials to discuss concerns about expanding Centennial Wind Farm north of Fort Supply onto Cooper Wildlife Management Area. It is a scenario OG&E says will not happen. In light of growing local and statewide opposition and concern by wildlife organizations about the impact to the region's natural habitat, OG&E has declined to pursue the development of any wind energy on public land, officials said.
Whooping cranes, one of the world's rarest birds, have waged a valiant battle against extinction. But federal officials warn of a new potential threat to the endangered whoopers: wind farms. Down to as few as 16 in 1941, the gargantuan birds that migrate 2,400 miles each fall from Canada to Texas, thanks to conservation efforts, now number about 266. But because wind energy, one of the fastest growing sources of renewable energy, has gained such traction, whooping cranes could again be at risk - from either crashing into the towering wind turbines and transmission lines or because of habitat lost to the wind farms. "Basically you can overlay the strongest, best areas for wind turbine development with the whooping crane migration corridor," said Tom Stehn, whooping crane coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
For two years, I leased private hunting land northeast of Woodward where wind turbines were built. It was a nightmare. The land the turbines were on wasn't even huntable. The turbines had to be serviced, sometimes 24 hours a day. It seems like they were broke down or repaired constantly. Work trucks were in and out of our lease 24/7. The dirt roads became over-used and were badly rutted out. They even had to hire security officers to protect the turbines, which caused even more traffic.
The Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. wants to lease or buy from the state Department of Wildlife Conservation a portion of the Cooper Wildlife Management Area in northwest Oklahoma for its power-generating wind turbines. It's curious that state wildlife commissioners would consider such a proposal when state wildlife officials have been clamoring that more public hunting land is needed in Oklahoma. ...At issue for state wildlife commissioners is to what extent would numerous wind turbines disturb wildlife on Cooper? And what kind of policy would they be creating if they choose to lease Cooper for a wind farm? No doubt, other WMAs in western Oklahoma such as Beaver, Sandy Sanders and Packsaddle will be targeted for wind energy as well. Sue Selman of Buffalo, president of Save The Prairie and an owner of the historic Selman Ranch north of Woodward, is against any wind turbines on Cooper. ..."Placing wind turbines on the Cooper Wildlife Management Area will fragment and destroy a large quantity of (wildlife) habitat," she said. "It's a gross injustice to our part of the state, to wildlife and to hunting."
There's an energy boom going on in the "oil patch" region of Oklahoma and Texas the likes of which has not been seen in decades. This time around, though, the prize isn't under our feet, it's in the swirling currents above our heads. A rapidly growing number of domestic and international energy companies have targeted western Oklahoma and the Texas panhandle with plans for massive wind farm projects. Nowhere is this more evident than on the sage-covered prairies of northwestern Oklahoma. Hundreds of wind turbines stretch like a giant picket fence across the landscape, towering above the game-rich high plains. At first glance it would seem to be a win-win for both the environment and society ...When it comes to energy production, however, you never get something for nothing. Case in point: as a result of this boom, one of the nation's top public land bobwhite quail hunting destinations may soon be covered with a network of roads, high-tension power lines, and wind turbines.
This letter was sent to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation in response to a wind energy development proposal slated for the Hal and Fern Cooper Wildlife Management Area (WMA).