Articles filed under Impact on Wildlife from Wyoming
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it opposes construction of any wind farms in Wyoming's core sage grouse population areas, a position that wind developers say could have a chilling effect on their plans in the state. Brian Kelly, supervisor in the agency's Wyoming field office, made the comments in a letter Tuesday responding to an inquiry from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
The state's recent decision not to allow wind development in critical sage grouse habitat essentially takes 75 percent of Wyoming's best wind resources off the table, according to one independent wind energy company. In response, wind developers are teaming up with wildlife agencies across nine western states to launch a $10 million, five-year research effort.
State officials recently reached a decision not to allow wind development -- or even a pilot study -- in Wyoming's sage grouse core areas. It's a potentially huge blow to several wind development projects, including Horizon Wind Energy's Simpson Ridge project and Power Company of Wyoming's Sierra Madre and Chokecherry wind projects -- all in Carbon County. Gov. Dave Freudenthal issued the core areas sage grouse management plan by executive order in August 2008.
The federal government has charged PacifiCorp and Exxon Mobil Corp. in two unrelated cases with killing scores of migratory birds in Wyoming, according to court documents filed last week in U.S. District Court in Cheyenne. PacifiCorp, which does business in Wyoming as Rocky Mountain Power, is charged in a 34-count criminal information document with the deaths of 38 golden eagles at power poles in six counties from December 2007 to February 2009.
To reach the ultimate goal of wind producing 20 percent of the energy used in this country by 2030, tens of thousands of 200-foot-high turbines must be installed nationwide, with many of them slated for gusty public lands in Wyoming, Washington, Oregon and Idaho. That's sparked a fight that looks much like the one waged about natural gas in the past couple of decades. Only this time the battle lines are drawn in unexpected places.
Federal officials are again delaying whether to list sage grouse in 11 Western states as threatened or endangered -- leaving in limbo until at least 2010 a spate of industries that could face sweeping restrictions if the bird is protected. The chicken-sized grouse ranges from Montana to California alongside livestock grazing, oil and gas drilling and an increasing number of wind power turbines.
Development of wind energy and sage grouse protection are on a collision course in Wyoming, where state officials are worried that a future Endangered Species Act listing for the chicken-like bird could ruin the golden egg laid by the Obama administration's renewable energy mandates. ..."The bird does well in the existing conditions that are out here. It's the new threat from wind energy that has got us so worried," said Aaron Clark, special adviser on energy infrastructure to Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal (D). "I don't think you could justify a [federal endangered species] listing for that bird in Wyoming without the threat from wind development."
In the high-stakes game of preserving sage grouse, biologists say they're still figuring out how the birds will react to the influx of wind turbines rising up from the wide-open sagebrush plains where the birds evolved. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 15 months ago commenced a review of whether sage grouse should be protected under the Endangered Species Act.
The wind energy boom blowing through Sweetwater County will be a gale force soon and could threaten the region's quality of life, a host of speakers said this week. Officials urged residents to get involved early and often in the decision-making process. To be determined is where, how and how much energy development will occur in the county's mostly undeveloped wind power industry.
A planned wind project near Hanna in Carbon County has raised concerns from some about how it might affect natural and cultural resources in the area. The Medicine Bow Conservation District and the Hanna Historical Society asked Horizon Wind Energy not to harm natural or cultural resources when building its 154-turbine wind project.
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.
Pauley's preliminary survey of experts identified four primary 'drivers' that could affect future wildlife populations. They are: expanding rural subdivisions, energy development, invasive nonnative species and climate change. ...Much of the meeting, which wrapped up Friday, highlighted ongoing research efforts to understand the potential impacts of energy development -- from fossil fuels to wind farms -- on sage grouse, songbirds, elk, mule deer and other species across the state.
Freudenthal's executive order consists of 12 guidelines and a map of "core" areas where the stipulations could be implemented. "The executive order does not create any new authority and legally only applies to state agencies, but is a vehicle to at least align the existing authorities of state government to ensure that we move forward under a more unified framework," Freudenthal said in a prepared statement. New development will not be prohibited within the state-identified "core areas," but several stipulations may apply in order to demonstrate that activity will result in no loss of sage grouse or sage grouse habitat, according to the executive order. Reclamation efforts and fire suppression will be "enhanced" in the core areas.