Environmentalists Say Wyoming Wind Farm Will Devastate Eagle Populations

Published September 5, 2012

A new wind farm proposed for federal land in Wyoming will inflict a devastating toll on threatened bird species, including sage grouse and eagles, environmentalists report. Opponents are hoping to persuade the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to reconsider its preliminary support for the project, planned as the largest in the world.

Salazar Pushes Wind Power

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar reports federal officials have completed their environmental review of the proposed wind farm and will soon present the project for public comments and final review.  

“When it comes to wind energy, we’re making significant progress both onshore and offshore to diversify our nation’s domestic energy portfolio and stand up [for] a clean energy economy,” Salazar said in a press statement expressing support for the industrial wind farm. “Today, as we take the next steps toward realizing what could be the largest wind energy project in the world and holding a competitive offshore wind lease sale, we are really at the forefront of a renewable energy revolution.”

Another ‘Bird Blender’

Erik Molvar, a wildlife biologist for the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance in Laramie, Wyoming, says the wind farm will cause more environmental damage than benefits. Molvar says the wind farm is sited in a location that will severely harm a wide variety of bird species. 

“This project could be the worst wind farm from an environmental perspective since the Altamont Pass project in California that became famous as the ‘bird blender,'” said Molvar. 

According to the environmental impact statement prepared for the proposed wind farm, the project will annually kill 150 to 210 birds of prey, including 46 to 64 golden eagles each year. The turbines will also kill much larger numbers of non-predator bird species and bats.  

Eagle Exporter to Eagle ‘Sink’

Molvar points out Wyoming is prime eagle habitat. Eagles thrive so much in Wyoming that eagles born in the state populate other states in the region and build up healthy populations there. Molvar worries the largest industrial wind farm in the world will harm Wyoming’s eagle population so much the state will lose its important role as an eagle exporter.  

“This project raises the concern that Wyoming may become a population ‘sink,’ which means that the population would decline here and be unable to replenish themselves,” said Molvar. 

BLM Doctored Standards

He expressed additional concerns about the impact on sage grouse in Wyoming and the placing of turbines in areas with scenic lands and historical features. To avoid violating regulations designed to protect scenic areas, the BLM downgraded established standards and reclassified much of the land where the project would be sited. 

“In the original plan, only about 5 percent of the land along the Atlantic Rim was rated Class IV, the industrial sacrifice zone where no efforts are made to protect scenic areas,” said Molvar. The BLM changes increase the Class IV designation to more than half of the 220,000 acres encompassing the project.

BLM is expected to issue a final decision on the industrial wind farm this fall.

Brian Fojtik ([email protected]) is president of Brownstone Communications.