Under pressure from the wind-power industry, the Obama administration said Friday it will allow companies to kill or injure eagles without the fear of prosecution for up to three decades. (For your convenience, I’ve provided the complete FWS ruling as well as the official FWS Q&A at the end of this post.) (UPDATE FOLLOWS FWS EMBEDS)
It is tempting to ramble on about industrial wind’s failings, most of which have been discussed here in earlier posts, but I’d like to focus on the initial responses of leading environmental groups to the US Fish and Wildlife’s cowardly decision to squander any remaining credibility and allow marginally performing for-profit companies to slaughter Bald and Golden Eagles at their wind plants for a full 30 years.
Oh, by the way … I’ve chosen to rate the responses offered by these folks because, well … because I can.
1 – Kelly Fuller, who formerly headed up the wind campaign at the American Bird Conservancy: “The federal government didn’t study the impacts of this rule change even though the (law) requires it. “Instead, the feds have decided to break the law and use eagles as lab rats.”
Rating: Excellent! Clear, to the point, forceful! (That’s precisely why we like her!!!)
2 – Dr. George Fenwick, President of American Bird Conservancy: “Remarkably, this approach relies exclusively on the for-profit wind industry to self-report bird fatalities, even when such information may prove detrimental to the industry’s bottom line. While some companies may play by the rules, others may not, making this system highly vulnerable to deception. I don’t see how such a system will work to protect eagles.
Eagles are being asked to survive a brutal ‘one-two’ punch. On top of the impacts from the duration of take permits being extended six-fold, the birds will soon face an additional serious threat—a 12-fold increase in wind energy, if federal 2030 targets are achieved. So it is entirely conceivable, and probably even quite likely, that mortality impacts to eagles will get far worse.”
Rating: Very Good! Full press release worth a read for additional issues raised by public-interest law firm Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal and Dr. Michael Hutchins, National Coordinator for American Bird Conservancy’s Bird Smart Wind Energy Campaign.
3 – National Audubon Society President and CEO David Yarnold: “Instead of balancing the need for conservation and renewable energy, Interior wrote the wind industry a blank check. It’s outrageous that the government is sanctioning the killing of America’s symbol, the Bald Eagle. Audubon will continue to look for reasonable, thoughtful partners to wean America off fossil fuels because that should be everyone’s highest priority. We have no choice but to challenge this decision, and all options are on the table.”
Rating: Very Good! It would be helpful if the National Audubon could exercise a little control of its Massachusetts offspring which, as Eric Bibler noted, “UNLIKE A HOST OF OTHER ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS LED BY THE AMERICAN BIRD CONSERVANCY — DID NOT OPPOSE THIS LEGISLATION.”
4 – Sierra Club Senior Campaign Representative Sarah Friedman: “After preliminary review, this move from the Fish and Wildlife service looks like it could cause serious harm to eagle populations. Wind projects can and should be developed and operated with the lowest possible impacts to eagles. Clean energy projects should be sited and developed in a way that helps to protect healthy and sustainable plant and animal populations. We should be able to choose safe clean energy for our communities while still protecting the places and wildlife that we love.”
Rating: Weak! Giving new meaning to fog, this wimpy statement is way too full of woulds, shoulds and coulds for my taste. To me, the mush filled statement only confirms Jon Boone’s earlier suggestion that the Sierra Club’s “Support for Industrial Wind Technology Subverts Its History, Betrays Its Mission, and Erodes Commitment to the Scientific Method“
One thing that seems to be missing in this discussion is the fact that we have international treaties we are obligated to honor. I find this particularly interesting, since the USFWS has a full section of their web site dedicated to that fact – A Guide to the Laws and Treaties of the United States for Protecting Migratory Birds. Makes you wonder how we can expect other governments to take us seriously, doesn’t it?
In previous writings, I’ve stated that “I cannot abide the suggestion that we must sacrifice our environment in order to save it. This is an absurd argument enabling this energy imposter’s invasion of delicate habitat with little return. Sacrifice is, after all, a forfeiture of something highly valued for the sake of something one considered to have a greater value or claim. Environmentalists must consider the possibility that industrial wind, by its failure to perform to stated goals, does not then qualify for this sacred consideration.”
This FWS ruling is simply sour fruit from the tree some environmental organizations, along with wind profiteers, helped to plant.
US Fish and Wildlife Service documents:
Kelly Fuller provided the following:
Below are press statements from conservation groups in response to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s rule change allowing 30-year eagle take permits. Right now, the final rule is on the Public Inspection desk, available at https://s3.amazonaws.com/public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2013-29088.pdf. It will be published in the Federal Register on Monday.
American Bird Conservancy: http://www.abcbirds.org/newsandreports/releases/131206.html
Defenders of Wildlife: http://www.defenders.org/press-release/fish-and-wildlife-service-tests-new-program-eagles
National Audubon: http://www.audubon.org/newsroom/press-releases/2013/interior-dept-rule-greenlights-eagle-slaughter-wind-farms-says-audubon-
National Wildlife Federation: http://www.nwf.org/News-and-Magazines/Media-Center/News-by-Topic/Global-Warming/2013/12-06-2013-Interior-Dept-Wind-Permit-Rule-Insufficient-to-Protect-Eagles.aspx
The Protect Our Communities Foundation: http://protectourcommunities.org/2013/12/06/federal-rule-change-will-harm-eagles/
Sierra Club: http://content.sierraclub.org/press-releases/2013/12/us-fish-and-wildlife-service-rule-harms-eagles-and-sustainable-energy
If Center for Biological Diversity issued a press statement, it is not on their website.
Excellent, Mike. Thank you!
How many eagles has the wind industry slaughtered?
Start at Altamont where over 2000 have been killed by only 500 MW and then move on into all the wind projects across the US in eagle habitat. Wind projects that rig their mortality studies and do not have to report eagle deaths. Then add the thousands killed in Texas over the last 25 years. Keeping in mind this slimy industry in Texas has reported just one eagle fatality from thousands of MW’s located in eagle habitat.
The terrible history between golden eagles and wind turbines has been known for decades. In the 1990’s tracking studies proved that wind turbines were the number one killer of eagles in eagle habitat. Windows, buildings, cats and the “supposedly” unique location of Altamont Pass were not killing them. But It was simply a matter of deadly wind turbines having been placed in eagle habitat and then the industry lying about it to the public.
Since the 1990 studies the wind industry has never attempted to duplicate the Altamont eagle tracking studies around any other wind project locations. The reason is that the outcome would publicize the how lethal wind turbines are for eagles and hurt the expansion of new wind projects being proposed in eagle habitat.
This industry is killing millions of protected birds each year and producing fraudulent documentation to hide this fact. Eagles are just part of this genocide and this industry has been killing thousands of them.
The industry doesn’t like to talk about it but they believe that species extinction is a necessary trade off so their turbines can save us. Eagles are included. What a pile of manure. The trade off is really species extinction for their profits.
Since the wind industry do not report or hides most (over 90%) of their mortality from their modern turbines with rigged studies, they have clearly demonstrated they can never be trusted. So any take permits handed out to this industry for a limited number of eagles every could end up being several hundred and will certainly end up far exceeding the permit limits.
Today the wind industry with the help of rigged studies and crooked politicians is now moving into the wetland habitats of America with their turbines. When this happens thousands of bald eagles are destined to be killed and once again you will be lied to about it.
We all have to face the fact that the political game is rigged, as rigged as any wind industry mortality study. Therefore the obvious choice from this day forward is for the public to stop every wind project in eagle habitat. No wind farms, means no permits will need to be handed out and no eagles will have to be killed.
I’ve read where recently that Wind Farm Developers were being heavily fined for killing B/G Eagles.
Here in California they are killing condors. There is no limit to the greed.
If the California Congressional delegation had made strong objections to the bird kills this would never have happened.
Look what the people of Ocotillo, CA are going through with IWTs on government land on three sides of them.
Pre-construction wildlife studies by the US Wind Force reported the Pinnacle Wind (LLC) Mineral County, WV that nearly 200 Golden and Bald Eagles were migrating across this project site during fall and spring migration. Fifty (50%) of the observed eagles were at rotor height. CHOP< CHOP< CHOP.
The public deserves to reread the letters submitted to the Public Service Commission of WV. In a USFWS letter dated September 30, 2009 and a letter the WVDNR, dated October 26, 2009, place the following remarks. It is concerning that; the Department of Interior ignores their state and regional professional field staff recommendations. It is shameful.
Deborah Carter, USFWS Field Supervisor, writes, “ We also are concerned about the risk of collision mortality to golden and bald eagles using air space over the proposed Pinnacle wind power project.” “Considering that bald and golden eagle numbers are increasing, we believe the site poses a high risk of mortality to eagles over the anticipated long operational life of the project (20+ years).
Curtis I. Taylor, Wildlife Resources Section Chief of WVDNR says, “In addition to the general bird and bat issues associated with wind facilities in West Virginia, there are other species of concern at the pinnacle site. Species of concern to the WVDNR are the Allegheny wood rat, timber rattlesnake, bald eagle, golden eagle and spotted skunk. All these species are listed as Species of Greatest Conservation need in the Stat’s Wildlife Action Plan and all but the spotted skunk are Northeast Regional Species of Concern.”
Carter states, “For a number of reasons, we believe the risk to migratory birds (including raptors) is higher than indicated in the Pinnacle Risk Assessment.” “Furthermore, we are concerned about the cumulative impact of wind power projects in the Allegheny Front.” “We therefore believe the risk to migrating birds from the proposed Pinnacle project is higher than indicated in the Risk Assessment because: 1) the proposed project is located in a major migration pathway, 2) mortality rates at wind power sites tend to be higher long forested ridgelines, and 3) a number of projects are planned or operating in the Allegheny Front.”
“Among other things, the migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA, 16 U.S.C. 703-712) prohibits the taking, killing, injuring or capture of listed migratory birds. The unauthorized taking of even one bird is legally considered a “take” under the MBTA and is a violation of the law. Bald and golden eagles are afforded additional legal protection under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (Eagle Act, 16 U.S.C. 668). Neither the MBTA nor its implementing regulations found in 50 CFR Part 21 provide for the permitting of ‘incidental take” of migratory birds that may be killed or injured by the wind " says Carter.
The Sierra Club actually signed on to a letter that requested that the Take permits be extended to 30 years..
Shameful Sierra Club leadership.
One of the reasons the Bird Treaty that has stood for 95 years was gutted is so that renewable energy can be produced in Ontario and delivered to the U.S. The Treaty had to go.
The proposed HVDC 1,000 MW will run on the Lake Erie bottom from Nanticoke, Ont. to Erie, PA at the cost of $1 billion and carry excess wind energy.
Take a look at who the people are that got these changes made and how this was accomplished.
By the way, folllow the connections of the officers and board members of the bird & conservation organizations you have listed and you will find out why we are in the situation we are in today.
Ontarians have already looked into these matters.
Another thing — a fundamental thing — missing from the dialogue is an empirical assessment and accounting of wind power’s benefits. There is clearly a presumption that windmills are so necessary and useful, they are worthy of exceptions. Pity the poor unemployed guy hunting in the woods to put food on his family’s table… when he accidentally shoots an eagle…and gets five years in prison.