Environmentalists Oppose Wyoming Wind Project

Published April 16, 2014

Two prominent environmental groups sent a letter to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management opposing approval of a giant wind-energy project on federal and private lands in Wyoming.

The Chokecherry/Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project is the largest ever proposed in the United States and would likely slaughter dozens of eagles each year, plus hundreds of additional birds and bats, according to the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance (BCA).

In a 15-page letter sent on February 3 to the Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the American Bird Conservancy and the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance said between 46 and 64 golden eagles would likely be killed every year by the rotating blades of the 1,000 wind turbines planned by the Power Company of Wyoming.

‘Wildlife Placed at Risk’
“Our wind report, backed by other similar reports, show[s] the Chokecherry/Sierra Madre Wind Farm to be located in one of the most important wildlife areas in the entire state. Raptors and eagles are cited as the most important segment of wildlife placed at risk by wind energy development in the project area,” the letter explains.

Eagle Recovery Threatened
“[I]t would be irresponsible of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to grant an eagle take permit to a facility that could become the nation’s largest of its kind,” the letter stated. “Common sense, business sense and scientific integrity all demand that the Service first establish a pilot eagle take permitting program, specific to wind energy generation facilities. Such a pilot program, involving only small wind energy generation facilities is needed to assess ‘on-the-ground’ (true, as opposed to theorized or speculated) effectiveness of eagle take permitting.”

“Bald eagles, in relative terms, have only recently been removed from the list of species protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). While technically no longer protected under the ESA the act of permitting the killing of a species that our nation has spent countless dollars and human resources to bring back from the brink of extinction is disconcerting to say the least. Delisted in 2007, it makes no sense to permit the killing of the species only seven years later, especially when the permit allows a rapidly growing wind energy industry to kill the birds. Once a precedent setting permit is issued, mounting pressure will inundate the Service to issue more permits resulting in more eagle ‘take.'”

Difficult to Reduce Eagle Kills
“Short of shutting down the project altogether, there is no practical way to guarantee that eagle deaths will be substantially reduced,”said  John Droz, a North Carolina-based wind-energy researcher. “Once the developer is given a permit to operate, the company effectively gets immunity for raptor kills.” 

“There are no proven net benefits to industrial wind power,” Droz added. “So why do we allow eagles and other birds as well as bats to be killed by these projects?”   

Bonner R. Cohen, Ph. D., ([email protected]) is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.