Federal wildlife officials announced they will allow wind producers in California’s Tehachapi Mountains to kill endangered California condors without fear of prosecution. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the free pass will apply only when wind power companies inadvertently kill or harass the large and highly endangered birds, but such harassment and deaths are a foreseeable and unavoidable consequence of “green” wind power.
Recovering Condors at Risk
The California condor nearly went extinct in the 1970s and 1980s, with the number of wild birds bottoming out at 25 in 1975. Wild condor populations have rebounded to 150 today, but the species is still highly endangered.
Environmental Groups Outraged
Conservation and wildlife groups worry an expansion of wind power production in California condor habitat will reverse recent condor population gains and kill them as regularly as turbines kill protected golden eagles in California golden eagle habitat.
Environmental groups including the American Bird Conservancy, Center for Biological Diversity, and the Audubon Society immediately criticized Fish and Wildlife’s decision to give wind power companies a free pass to kill endangered condors.
“Allowing the legal killing of one of the imperiled birds in the United States threatens endangered species conservation efforts across the country,” Kelly Fuller, a coordinator with the American Bird Conservancy, said in a press statement.
“I can’t believe the federal government is putting so much money into a historic and costly effort to establish a stable population of condors, and at the same time is issuing permits to kill them. Ludicrous,” Kerncrest Audubon treasurer Daniel Burnett told the Los Angeles Times.
Documented Environmental Destruction
California wind farms already present a killing field for endangered and protected birds. According to Save the Eagles International, more than 1,000 birds of prey die each year at California’s Altamont Pass wind farm. Wind turbines are already the leading cause of death for golden eagles in the Golden State, and conservationists point out condors are larger and less agile than golden eagles, putting them in even greater danger from fast-spinning turbine blades.
Environmentalists have documented environmental damage already being caused by wind turbines in the Tehachapi Mountain area.
“All of this industrialization has taken its toll on the ecosystem. The nearby Pine Tree Wind project has one of the highest rates of golden eagle mortality per turbine in the country, and Next Era’s North Sky River Wind project killed its first golden eagle in January—within weeks of beginning operations,” reported the Mojave Desert Blog.
“The Alta East Wind project is expected to add to eagle mortality, although the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) admits that too little is known about the golden eagle population in the Mojave Desert to know if the deaths will result in the protected species’ decline,” the Mojave Desert Blog added.
“The state of California allowing wind farms leeway in killing of condors and golden eagles flies in the face of reason,” said H. Sterling Burnett, senior fellow for the National Center for Policy Analysis.
Burnett pointed out the hypocrisy of giving California wind turbines a free pass to kill birds by the thousands while the California legislature imposes onerous restrictions on other activities with much more speculative and indirect impact on birds in the state.
The California Senate just passed a bill to make the ban on lead ammunition a statewide law, to protect the very same animals turbines endanger,” Burnett explained.
“In the eyes of California legislators and the Obama administration, oil refineries can be—and are—fined billions of dollars for offenses against protected wildlife, but it is OK to kill protected animals for the ’cause’ of green energy,” Burnett noted. “This is indicative of the administration’s near-religious fervor for renewable energy despite the fact that the government has wasted billions of dollars on failed green energy companies.”
Karen Dove ([email protected]) is a freelance writer in Bradenton, Florida.