American Bird Conservancy to Launch Campaign
to Reduce Wind Turbine Risks to Birds – Supported by Three Quarters of a Million Dollar Grant From the Leon Levy Foundation

(Washington, D.C., May 10, 2010) The Leon Levy Foundation, a private, not-for-profit, philanthropic organization, has awarded $743,130 to the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) over the next three years, to encourage the use of techniques that will eliminate bird collisions with wind turbines and promote the safe siting of wind farms.

“ABC supports the development of wind power as a valuable, non-polluting, renewable power source that can reduce our consumption of fossil fuels and reduce our carbon footprint in the U.S. -- but it has to be done right, and it can be done right so large numbers of birds aren’t needlessly sacrificed in the process,” said George Fenwick, President of ABC.

Actions that ABC believes should be required of wind projects include temporary cessation of power generation during the few times each year when bird mortality risk can be anticipated to be greatest, such as during spring and fall migration and when specific weather conditions such as dense fog or low clouds cause birds to fly lower than usual and into the paths of turbines. Although these conditions are likely to occur for extremely limited periods of time, they generally account for the bulk of migratory bird mortality, ABC believes. Similar shutdowns to protect birds have already been adopted in other countries that generate power through wind, such as Spain and Mexico.

ABC also advocates for the creation of some no-development buffer zones around sensitive bird habitats, and for the adoption of compensatory mitigation practices for any unavoidable bird or habitat losses due to turbines, such as conservation easements in nearby areas or habitat mitigation banking.

“Sadly, the cost to bird life has largely been overlooked as our nation searches for answers to our energy challenges,” said Shelby White, Founding Trustee of the Leon Levy Foundation. “My interest in birds stretches back to my childhood days, and the Foundation is pleased to support the American Bird Conservancy’s efforts to reduce the risk to birds from wind turbines and inappropriate wind-farm siting decisions.”

Approximately 31,000 megawatts of wind power have already been installed in the U.S. New construction is expected to reach a rate of 16,000 megawatts per year by 2018, and continue at that rate or faster until 350,000 megawatts have been installed. The Department of Energy estimates that by 2030, approximately 19,000 square miles of land in the U.S. will be occupied by wind turbines. At that time, if collision mortality remains at the current pace, approximately one million birds per year will be killed by wind turbines. Some species, such as sage-grouse will suffer additional impacts from habitat fragmentation while other species, including birds of prey and Whooping Cranes, an endangered species, may well be killed outright.

“Guidelines or regulations regarding wind turbines should be mandatory and not optional. Other countries have adopted mandatory guidelines; we should as well. Voluntary guidelines will work about as well as voluntary taxes; which is to say, not well at all,” Fenwick said.

The ABC campaign will include a wide variety of advocacy and communications efforts. These will include development of a grass roots support network that will mirror collaborative approaches ABC has successfully undertaken on other campaigns. It will further include fostering development of new techniques for bird avoidance at wind farms and the advancement of critical research through collaboration with universities.

About American Bird Conservancy

American Bird Conservancy (www.abcbirds.org) conserves native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas by safeguarding the rarest species, conserving and restoring habitats, and reducing threats while building capacity of the bird conservation movement. ABC is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit membership organization that is consistently awarded a top, four-star rating by the independent group, Charity Navigator.


About the Leon Levy Foundation

The Leon Levy Foundation, founded in 2004, is a private, not-for-profit foundation created from the estate of Leon Levy, an investor with a longstanding commitment to philanthropy. The Foundation’s overarching goal is to support scholarship at the highest level, ultimately advancing knowledge and improving the lives of individuals and society at large.