Articles filed under Impact on Wildlife from Pennsylvania
Game commission wants to make sure birds won’t be harmed by new energy-producing windmills on the Appalachian ridge. Looking through 10-power binoculars from the south lookout at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary years ago, I watched a golden eagle soaring past a red-tailed hawk and a red-shouldered hawk. “Wow,” I wrote in my journal, “golden eagles are BIG.” Since then I have harbored a long-distance, at least a quarter- mile to a half-mile away, love for golden eagles. Unrequited or not, golden eagles deserve our protection, if not our love. Eastern golden eagles are a distinct geographic and genetic population, allowing the Pennsylvania Game Commission to list them as “Pennsylvania vulnerable” for conservation purposes. Their population is remaining stable or rising slightly, with partial evidence being the fall 2006 migration numbers recorded at hawk-watch sites along Appalachian ridges, going from north to south: Bake Oven Knob, 130; Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, 170; Second Mountain, 127; Waggoner’s Gap, 275; Allegheny Front, 222. (For more on the counts, see www.hawkcount.org.)
I strongly agree with Laura Jackson’s recent letter pointing out that the ecological costs of industrial windfarms on Pennsylvania’s forested ridgetops far exceed their benefits. These costs include massive forest fragmentation to construct and maintain the 400-foot tall turbines, scalping of ridgetops to develop heavy-duty roads for maintenance, and further carving of the forest for the construction of substations and transmission lines. In addition to this large-scale forest destruction, there’s also the huge problem of bat deaths due to turbine blades, to the extent of 50-100 bats killed per turbine per year in forested ridgetop settings. Proponents of ridgetop windfarms attempt to justify forest fragmentation and direct mortality of bats and birds by claiming that there will be a significant reduction in greenhouse gases as a result of windfarm operation. The reality is that it would require 4,000 industrial-scale wind turbines covering 500 miles of the commonwealth’s ridgetops to meet just 10 percent of Pennsylvania’s energy needs. On the Keystone State’s forested ridgetops, the huge ecological costs of industrial windfarms far exceed their small environmental benefits.
Standing outside the home of Bill and Rosina Martz along the Susquehanna River, it's easy to see Mahantongo Mountain and even easier to imagine how the landscape would change once 33 or more wind turbines are built. Gamesa Energy of Spain plans to build a 50-megawatt wind farm along the summit of Mahantongo Mountain. Township officials and local residents say the company is looking at a six-mile section of the mountain, starting near Route 147 north of Millersburg and running east to Deibler's Gap in Mifflin Twp. That size wind farm would require about 33 turbines, each of which would stand 416 feet above the mountain ridge with a single propeller blade reaching nearly 300 feet from end to end. They would be spaced about 1,000 feet apart.
Johnstown veterinarian Tom Dick is a longtime bird-watcher and a battle-scarred veteran of local environmental struggles. So, it’s no surprise to find him at the forefront of concerns about the threat that wind turbines could present to migrating birds and bats. Dick is especially worried about the effect large-scale development of wind farms might have on the rugged and largely unspoiled Allegheny Front, the mountainous wall that stretches north and south along the Cambria-Somerset-Bedford county borders. And like many opponents to the rapid pace of wind-energy development, he is afraid the true cost of the industry will not be known until it is too late for some species.
Two golden eagles that soared along the Allegheny Front ridge in Central Pennsylvania late last year and are now gliding over the hills of West Virginia and Kentucky might one day help determine where new windmills will be built in Pennsylvania and elsewhere in the East. The wide-winged raptors are wearing tiny radio telemetry transmitters that allow National Aviary researchers to track their migration routes and eventually develop the first bird's-eye-view data showing where electric wind turbines should be built and not built to minimize the killing of eagles and other big birds. Most wind turbine development has occurred without any scientific research on the consequences to migrating birds, according to Todd Katzner, director of conservation and field research at the National Aviary on the North Side. That has increased the risk that the turbine blades, some more than 100 feet long, will become bird slicers and dicers.
Is the region’s explosion of windmills a threat to migrating birds, including golden eagles? A fledgling partnership between the National Aviary and the Johnstown-based Allegheny Plateau Chapter of the Audubon Society is working to answer that question. The groups are trapping golden eagles as they migrate past the Allegheny Front Hawkwatch near Central City. Global positioning transmitters are attached to the birds’ backs to track their movements. The study is designed to provide information that may help to save one of the most majestic birds of eastern North America from the perceived threat posed by the rapid development of wind farms along a critical migration route.
The western wind that whips across Pittsburgh into the mountain ridges of central Pennsylvania has the power to send thousands of migrating eagles soaring for miles and to keep 115-foot-long windmill blades spinning. But if birds and blades interact, the results could be fatal. The National Aviary on the North Side and Powdermill Avian Research Center in Westmoreland County are partners in a project to track the biannual migration of eastern golden eagles through the Appalachian Mountains. They plan to share what they learn with agencies that permit wind farms.
In an effort to limit bat and bird kills by windmills, the Pennsylvania Game Commission yesterday suggested a voluntary agreement with wind-farm developers. The proposal is an “intermediate step” in protecting birds and bats from the whirling blades, said William A. Capouillez, director of the Bureau of Wildlife Habitat Management. “It’s not quite where we want to be from a regulatory standpoint, but it’s better than what we have now,” he said. “No other state has anything similar.” The Game Commission is charged with protecting all the state’s wildlife.
How many birds and bats are killed by the rotating blades of wind turbines? How many such deaths are acceptable to increase our electricity supply? Those are two unresolved questions for Pennsylvania’s wind-power industry.
Some of Pennsylvania’s mountaintops may become a battleground between developers and environmentalists. Developers are eyeing the ridges of the Appalachian Mountains, which cross the middle of the state, to construct wind turbines to generate electricity. But migrating birds fly over those mountains every year and environmentalists worry the giant rotating blades of the turbines could kill many birds and alter their migrating patterns. About 150 people, residents and members of conservation groups, gathered Saturday at Kutztown University to discuss the growth of wind energy in Pennsylvania and nearby states.
As wind power gains steam as an alternate energy source in Pennsylvania, Donald Heintzelman wants to make sure the towering turbines are built far from the migratory routes of raptors and bats along the Appalachian Trail. ‘’I'm not opposed to wind facilities,'’ said Heintzelman, organizer of Saturday’s Wildlife and Wind Energy Conference at Kutztown University. ‘’I want them put in the correct place. Like it or not, these are coming.'’ But most of the speakers at the conference weren’t as ready to embrace the inevitability of the new technology, saying the blades of the giant windmills kill tens of thousands of birds and bats, reduce their ability to nest and breed and are an eyesore. They also said wind is a poor alternative to fossil fuels because it will only decrease electrical consumption by a small percentage.
Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Katie McGinty’s claim that the huge bat kill resulting from the Mountaineer industrial windfarm in West Virginia was an “aberration” is false. The kill rate for bats due to collision with the blades of industrial wind turbines on forested ridgetops east of the Mississippi River is 50-100 bats per turbine per year.
Kittatinny Ridge is at the forefront of a conservation effort aimed at preserving its character as a wilderness corridor; the effort will be adapted to other areas such as the Northcentral Highlands and Laurel Highlands where the Appalachian Mountains run their course. There are plenty such places in Pennsylvania with its alternating terrain of ridges and valleys.
Bird watchers might be the single group of people most worried about the environmental impact of wind farms. The Appalachian Mountain ridges in Bedford and Somerset counties, where developers hope to build many wind turbines, are prime migration routes for scores of raptor, songbird and insect species, said nature writer and birder Scott Weidensaul, who lives in western Schuylkill County. "They are one of the world's great migratory bird pathways," Weidensaul said. "It's not just hawks. Everything flies down those ridges -- butterflies, dragonflies, owls." Tens of millions of songbirds fly down the mountain ridges of Pennsylvania at night during migrations, he said. They are drawn to tall, lighted objects, whether communication towers or wind turbines. Some hit the towers; some hit the spinning blades.
Details and a registration form are available at the link below for the Wildlife and Wind Energy Conference to be held on Saturday, December 2, 2006 at Kutztown University in Kutztown, PA USA.
The winds that attract energy companies such as Gamesa to the Alleghenies also blow over pristine lands, causing a quiet controversy before local governments. Stan Kotala, a longtime member of the Juniata Valley Audubon Society, is raising concerns with local officials about possible construction of wind farms, with 400-foot- high structures, lights and constant noise, along the Blair County’s mountain ridges.
Rick Koval wants to speak for the plants and animals he believes will be harmed by the construction of roads and wind turbines around Crystal Lake.
Juniata Valley Audubon asks concerned residents to contact Gov. Ed Rendell, their senators and representatives and the Department of Environmental Protection to voice their displeasure over the gross waste of almost $400,000 to study a proposal that would cause so much harm to both outdoor recreation and wildlife, and provide only minuscule amounts of expensive, unreliable electricity.
BEAR CREEK TWP. – A zoning battle over the use of public land for a potential wind farm project broke down into arguments between those wanting to live without turbines and conserve land and those who want to turn a profit and conserve energy.
Ottaway News Service HARRISBURG -- The Kittatinny Ridge, a 185-mile forested highland linking the Delaware Water Gap, Susquehanna Water Gap and the Mason-Dixon line, is the focus of a new conservation effort. A campaign by Pennsylvania Audubon seeks to place Kittatinny Ridge, also known as Blue Mountain, in the public consciousness as the largest uninterrupted forest area in eastern and central Pennsylvania. Kittatinny Ridge faces multiple threats from ill-planned development as well as an overabundance of deer, insect pests and illegal dumping by humans, the environmental group says.