Conservation Groups, Thousands of Citizens Call on Feds to Protect Birds from Wind Turbines

Altamont Wind Farm by Mike Parr
Altamont Wind Farm by Mike Parr

(Washington, D.C., May 19, 2011) A three-month federal public comment period on wind turbine guidelines for wildlife impacts closes today. Fifty-six groups and more than 20,000 individuals have signed on to a campaign by the nation’s leading bird conservation organization, American Bird Conservancy (ABC), that calls for bird-smart principles in the siting and operation of wind farms.


“The campaign represents a broad cross-section of respected national and local groups, as well as scientists, bird lovers, conservationists, and other concerned citizens. We expect more organizations and individuals will join us as they hear about the bird-smart wind alternative, which can help the wind power industry become fully green” said Kelly Fuller, ABC’s Wind Campaign Coordinator.

 

FWS published proposed voluntary wind energy siting and operation guidelines in the Federal Register on March 2, and sought public comments on the proposal through today. ABC and the other groups and individuals have responded by calling for strong mandatory standards. Bird-smart wind standards should employ careful siting, operation and construction mitigation, bird monitoring, and compensation, to reduce and redress any unavoidable bird mortality and habitat loss. These are issues that the federal government should include in mandatory wind standards.

 

“Although wind power can be an important part of the solution to global climate change, wind farms can have significant impacts on birds—including eagles, songbirds, and endangered species—through collisions with turbines and associated power lines, and through loss of habitat. If bird-smart principles aren’t adopted, we could easily see well over a million birds killed by turbines each year once the wind industry completes its expected build-out by 2030,” said Mike Parr, Vice President of ABC.

 

"Wind power certainly offers hope for a less-polluted future, but we as birders know that location matters and that impacts on birds and other wildlife should be figured into the calculus of costs and benefits of any energy project," said Jeffrey Gordon, President of the American Birding Association.  “Wind power makes sense when it is bird-smart, and birds and wind power can co-exist if the wind industry is held to mandatory standards that protect birds. The Draft Wind Guidelines take good steps toward these measures, but don’t go far enough. The U.S. has had voluntary guidelines since 2003, and if a voluntary approach was going to be successful, it would already have happened. But it hasn’t, and it’s time now to acknowledge that,” added Parr. “Without mandatory standards, many wind developers won’t even be required to notify Fish and Wildlife Service experts about wind projects in advance. How can FWS help mitigate bird impacts for projects they don’t even know about?” he said.

 

“Mandatory standards will help wind developers by providing much greater certainty to them and their investors about what will be required of wind projects. Mandatory standards will also result in a level playing field so that conscientious developers and operators will not be at a competitive disadvantage compared to less responsible developers,” said Parr.

 

Today, ABC submitted an official comment letter signed on by a broad range of groups to FWS. The letter says that wind power will have to be developed thoughtfully to prevent violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA), and the Endangered Species Act.

In addition to recommending mandatory rather than voluntary standards, the comment letter suggests ways that the Guidelines should be strengthened. These include:

  • Increasing protection for sage-grouse and prairie-chickens through use of buffer zones.
  • Tying pre-construction studies at potential wind farm sites to the anticipated risk to birds, and conducting those studies when bird use of the site is expected to be at its peak.
  • Mandating written Avian and Bat Protection Plans at all wind facilities. These plans describe the steps that will be taken to avoid and minimize impacts to birds and bats.
  • Ensuring wind farm operators and companies that provide power lines to wind farms follow the Avian Power Line Interaction Committee (APLIC) guidelines. The APLIC guidelines describe how to avoid bird deaths caused by power lines. Some wind farms already follow them.

“There is no need for jobs or renewable home-grown energy to be at risk from bird-smart wind principles. If industry is required to protect birds, then ABC is convinced that technical innovation will be accelerated,” said Parr. “The U.S. should be the global leader in developing bird protection technology we can export.” For more information about the 56 groups that support bird-smart wind power, contact Kelly Fuller at kfuller@abcbirds.org or (202) 234-7181.

 

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American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit membership organization whose mission is to conserve native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. ABC acts by safeguarding the rarest species, conserving and restoring habitats, and reducing threats, while building capacity in the bird conservation movement.