USA. Bird deaths from Wind Farms to continue under new federal voluntary industry guidelines

Tuesday, 08 February 2011


Draft voluntary federal guidelines issued today by the Interior Department that focus on the wildlife impacts of wind energy will result in continued increases in bird deaths and habitat loss from wind farms across the country, says American Bird Conservancy (ABC), the nation’s leading bird conservation organization. Members of the public will have 90 days to provide comments on the proposed guidelines to the Secretary of the Interior prior to a final version being concluded.

“We had hoped that at the end of this multi-year, Interior Department process, we would see mandatory regulations that would provide a reasonable measure of restraint and control on a potentially very green energy source, but instead we get voluntary guidelines,” said ABC Vice-President Mike Parr.

“Bird deaths from wind power are the new inconvenient truth. The total number of birds killed and the amount of bird habitat lost will dramatically increase as wind power build-out continues across the country in a rush to meet federal renewable energy targets,” Parr said.

“We fast-tracked dams in the first half of the last century at the expense of America’s rivers. Now we’re having to tear many of them down. Let’s not fast track wind energy at the expense of America’s birds. Just a few small changes need to be made to make wind bird-smart, but without these, wind power simply can’t be considered a green technology” Parr said.

“This action did not have to result in voluntary guidelines. DOI has the authority under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to enact regulations protecting migratory birds. Further, it is troubling that this announcement was made without the final documents being available that would enable a review of exactly what is being proposed,” Parr said.

Some of the most iconic and vulnerable American birds are at risk from wind industry expansion unless this expansion is carefully planned and implemented. Onshore, these include Golden Eagles, Whooping Cranes, sage-grouse, prairie-chickens, and many migratory songbirds. Offshore, Brown Pelicans, Northern Gannets, sea ducks, loons, and terns are among the birds at risk.

“Federal government estimates indicate that 22,000 wind turbines in operation in 2009 were killing 440,000 birds per year. We are very concerned that with Federal plans to produce 20 percent of the nation’s electricity from wind by 2030, those numbers will mushroom. To meet the 2030 goal, the nation will need to produce about 12 times more wind energy than in 2009” he added.

“The guidelines ask the wind industry to do the right things, but there is no reason to believe that any will happen with any consistency. The poster child for the wind industry’s environmental track record is the Altamont Pass Wind Farm in California.  Despite years of concern voiced by many in the wildlife community about large numbers of eagles and other raptors being killed at Altamont, it took a lawsuit to get the industry to respond,” Parr said. “Birds continue to be killed at Altamont and other wind farms in violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act” he added.

American Bird Conservancy supports wind power when it is bird-smart, and believes that birds and wind power can co-exist if the industry is held to mandatory standards that protect birds. ABC has established a petition kfor concerned members of the public to lend their support to the campaign for bird-smart wind.

Onshore bird-smart wind power implements siting considerations, operational and construction mitigation, bird monitoring, and compensation, to redress unavoidable bird mortality and habitat loss. Although offshore wind power is not yet operational in the U.S., an analogous set of siting, operating, and compensatory measures needs to be developed to make it bird-smart.

All wind farms should have an Avian Protection Plan that includes ABC’s bird-smart principles and a means of implementing it and tracking and reporting on its implementation. Wind farms should also comply with relevant state and federal wildlife protection laws such as the Endangered Species Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and National Environmental Policy Act.

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 in the bird conservation movement. ABC is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit membership organization.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 08 February 2011 )