AP: Wind Turbines Being Installed in Sensitive Bird Habitat on Massive Scale
New research supported by American Bird Conservancy (ABC) shows that more than 30,000 wind turbines have been installed in areas critical to the survival of federally-protected birds in the United States and that more than 50,000 additional turbines are planned for construction in similar areas. More than 27,000 of these turbines exist in or are planned for federally identified or designated areas, including 24,000 turbines in the migration corridor of the Whooping Crane, one of the nation’s rarest and most spectacular birds, and, almost 3,000 turbines in breeding strongholds for Greater Sage-Grouse, a rapidly declining species recently considered for Endangered Species Act protection.
“Attempts to manage the wind industry with voluntary as opposed to mandatory permitting guidelines are clearly not working,” said Dr. Michael Hutchins, Director of ABC’s Bird Smart Wind Energy Campaign. “Wind developers are siting turbines in areas of vital importance to birds and other wildlife, and this new data shows that the current voluntary system needs to be replaced with a mandatory permitting system.”
The Associated Press (AP) independently calculated data on which the ABC based its report and reached a similar conclusion that large numbers of turbines are being built in important bird habitats. The AP report is available at http://www.bostonherald.com/business/business_markets/2015/05/advocacy_group_wind_turbine_rules_needed_to_protect_birds.
The analysis was based on an interactive Wind Development Bird Risk Map produced by ABC that identifies specific areas across the United States where birds are likely to be particularly vulnerable to impacts from wind energy development. These include major migratory routes, breeding areas, and other sensitive bird habitats. Key areas on the map are colored red or orange to indicate the level of potential risk to birds, with red areas regarded to be of “Critical Importance”—the highest level of risk. According to ABC, these red areas have high potential for negative impacts on federally protected birds, but comprise less than nine percent of the total U.S. land area.
Locations of wind turbines analyzed in the study were derived from data supplied publicly by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for proposed turbines, and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) for existing turbines. These data sets provide specific locations for individual wind turbines in GIS format.
In February 2015, ABC updated and re-filed an earlier petition with the federal government requesting that it regulate the wind industry with regard to bird impacts. It now appears that they are beginning to see the shortcomings in the current federal guidelines for the wind industry. In December 2014, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) solicited comments on the government’s efforts to manage the wind industry and stated: “We are currently in the process of evaluating the efficacy and use of the Guidelines, and the Service is considering regulatory options.” Additionally, FWS commented that the current guidelines, in some cases, have not been “…successful in preventing wind energy facilities from being constructed in areas of high risk to wildlife.”
Because of the threat of rising bird mortality and the explosive growth of the wind industry, ABC and a coalition of more than 70 conservation organizations earlier requested that the U.S. Department of the Interior develop a National Programmatic Wind Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to identify appropriate areas for wind energy development, as well as areas where development should be avoided completely to conserve federally protected birds and especially sensitive habitats. However, in a letter dated July 31, 2014, Interior responded that they “currently do not have the resources to undertake the nationwide process.” Such resources, however, could be made available under a paid permitting system already proposed by ABC.
By 2030, it is estimated that more than 1.4 million birds could be killed annually by wind turbines, not including losses at associated transmission lines and towers. There is currently a once-only opportunity to minimize this mortality through mandatory permitting, leading to proper siting and mitigation for bird fatalities before tens of thousands more turbines are built. Read more about the study at http://www.abcbirds.org/abcprograms/policy/collisions/wind_siting.html.
ABC’s efforts to establish Bird Smart wind energy in the U.S. are made possible in part by the generous support of the Leon Levy Foundation. GIS analysis for the study mentioned in this release was conducted on behalf of ABC by Eric Wengert, a graduate student in the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture at Mississippi State University.
Action Alert: Proposed Legislation Could Prevent Millions of Bird Deaths
U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (IL-05) and Rep. Morgan Griffith (VA-09) have introduced the Federal Bird-Safe Buildings Act (HR 2280). The bill is designed to prevent the deaths of millions of birds by calling for each public building constructed, acquired, or significantly altered by the General Services Administration (GSA) to incorporate, to the maximum extent possible, bird-safe building materials and design features. Many buildings constructed by GSA are already, in fact, bird-friendly. The legislation would require GSA to take similar actions on existing buildings, where practicable.
“Migratory bird season in Chicago reminds us that birds are not only beautiful animals telling us that warmer weather is on its way; but they help generate billions of dollars annually to the U.S. economy through wildlife watching activities,” said Rep. Quigley. “However, collisions with glass buildings claim hundreds of millions of bird lives each year in the U.S. The Federal Bird-Safe Buildings Act, a cost neutral bill, would help prevent these deaths by including bird-safe building materials and design features across federal buildings.”
Please urge your U.S. Representative to support the 2015 Federal Bird-Safe Buildings Act, which would help prevent the deaths of millions of birds by including bird-safe building materials and design features across federal buildings.
PBS Nature Featuring Greater Sage-Grouse: The Sagebrush Sea Airs May 20
Check out Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s stunning new documentary on Nature about the imperiled Greater Sage-Grouse to be aired May 20th. Learn about this spectacularly unique species and its sagebrush habitat —one of the largest yet most vulnerable landscapes in North America. Capturing both the breathtaking sweep of the land and the intimate struggles of its most delicate inhabitants, this is framed by the spectacular rituals of a bird you truly have to see to believe: the Greater Sage-Grouse. Watch the trailer.
Action Alert: Legislation Threatens to Prevent Sage Grouse Conservation
The White House is threatening to veto the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act, in part due to unrelated legislation affecting that would prevent grouse protection for a decade. Another bill, S. 1036, has been introduced by Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) that prevents ESA protection for Greater and Gunnison Sage Grouse, and overturns new grouse conservation plans being developed by the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service.
Help stop these legislative attacks on Sage Grouse, and send letters to your elected officials today. Please go to http://support.abcbirds.org/dontdelaysavegrouse
New Study of Oregon Vesper Sparrow Confirms Small Population
Concerns about the long term fate of the Oregon Vesper Sparrow have escalated following a recently completed range-wide inventory for the bird led by American Bird Conservancy (ABC).
“The results confirm our initial concerns of a small and severely declining population based on Breeding Bird Survey data, and suggests a population certainly not larger and likely smaller than our earlier estimate of approximately 2,100 birds,” said Bob Altman, who led the study and is ABC’s Northern Pacific Conservation Officer.
The Oregon Vesper Sparrow, which is a larger sparrow with gray and brown feathering, is a subspecies of the more common Vesper Sparrow. It was once a common bird that inhabited grassland and savannah areas west of the Cascade Mountains in southwestern British Columbia, western Washington and Oregon, and a small portion of northwestern California.
“The next step for ABC will be to complete a conservation status assessment to recommend conservation actions. It may even be necessary to petition that this bird receive federal protection under the Endangered Species Act,” said Altman. The conservation assessment will be completed within the next year. http://www.abcbirds.org/newsandreports/releases/150515.html