Federal Plan Could Determine Fate of Whooping Cranes in Wind Development Corridor: Local Residents Urged to Get Involved

MEDIA RELEASE

Contact: Robert Johns, 202-234-7181 ext.210,

 

Whooping Cranes by Laura Erickson
Whooping Cranes by Laura Erickson

(Washington, D.C., August 29, 2011) American Bird Conservancy (ABC), the nation’s leading bird conservation group, today urged residents in nine U.S. states to get involved in the public process surrounding a federal plan for a proposed 200-mile-wide wind energy development corridor. The corridor would run from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico through North and South Dakota, Montana, Colorado, New Mexico, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, and Kansas, encompassing much of the migratory flight path of the endangered Whooping Crane.

 

“Right now, while this massive plan is in its early stages, is the time when residents and concerned citizens can have the most impact, before things are written in stone. It will be much harder later to make changes. If local people and groups want to affect what happens, they’ll need to familiarize themselves with the planning process, attend meetings, and share their hands-on knowledge of their area and its wildlife,” said Kelly Fuller, Wind Campaign Coordinator for ABC.

 

Wind development can have significant impacts on some of America’s most iconic bird species, including Golden Eagles, sage-grouse, prairie-chickens, and Whooping Cranes, as well as hundreds of species of migratory songbirds, many of which are already in decline. Birds can strike the spinning turbine blades and also collide with the power lines that connect wind projects to the national grid. Power lines are already the leading killer of adult Whooping Cranes, and build-out of wind energy in the crane’s migratory pathway could significantly increase the number of deaths. The footprint of the new wind projects could also dramatically impact habitat for the Lesser Prairie-Chicken.

 

“ABC is hoping for a good outcome, but the devil is in the details. For the Whooping Crane in particular, this project could be disastrous or could possibly benefit the species,” Fuller said.

 

“To prevent serious impacts to birds, the wind industry needs to embrace simple bird-smart principles: site wind farms away from endangered birds and high concentrations of migrants, conduct proper monitoring before and after construction, and compensate and mitigate impacts,” said Fuller.

 

Fuller said that a key part of the plan concerns the request by wind developers for an Incidental Take Permit under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). A take permit may authorize the accidental killing or injuring of endangered species or the initiation of development on land important to the species.

 

The Service will hold public meetings in the following cities in August 2011 and September 2011:   Glendive, MT on August 25  Kearney, NE on August 30; Great Bend, KS on August 31; Woodward, OK on September 1; Austin, TX on September 7 and Corpus Christi, TX on September 8.  Meetings were held earlier in August in Pierre, SD, Bismarck, ND, Amarillo, TX, Clovis, NM, and Pueblo, CO. For details on the upcoming meetings, click here.

 

The purpose of the meetings is to (1) describe the proposed action; (2) advise other federal and state agencies, potentially affected tribal interests, and the public of the agency’s intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement; (3) announce the initiation of a 90-day public scoping period; and (4) obtain suggestions and information on the scope of issues and possible alternatives to be included. Comments on the proposal must be received on or before October 12, 2011. For information on how and where to submit comments, visit the FWS web site to download a copy of the notice.

 

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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.