Fish and Wildlife Service to Grant 30-year Permits to Kill Protected Eagles

Published June 27, 2016

Under a rule proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), renewable-energy companies will be able to obtain permits over the next 30 years authorizing protected eagles to be killed or captured.

The proposed rule is part of the Obama administration’s plan to expand wind and solar energy development.

The rule would provide to renewable-energy companies protection from criminal or civil prosecution or penalties for incidental deaths of protected bald and golden eagles that occur as a result of the normal operations of wind and solar farms. The proposed 30 years of protection from legal liability would greatly extend the five years of protection FWS currently grants to renewable-energy facilities.

“The proposed regulations address the duration of permits for incidental take of eagles, extending the maximum permit duration to 30 years, subject to a recurring five-year review process throughout the permit life,” an FWS press release stated.

The rule, if adopted, would also require companies to self-audit the capturing of eagles and report their findings to FWS every five years. 

Plan Denied in the Past

A similar rule proposed by FWS in 2013 was rejected by a federal judge in August 2015. The judge wrote while he recognized “promoting renewable energy projects may well by a ‘worthy’ goal,” FWS failed to meet its procedural obligations under the 1970 National Environmental Policy Act and the 1973 Endangered Species Act to conduct a full environmental review assessing the long-term possibility of the harmful impact of the proposal to federally protected eagles. 

Bird Advocates Not On Board

Michael Hutchins, the national coordinator of the Bird Smart Wind Energy Program, an advocacy program of the American Bird Conservancy, says industries and other stakeholders are not being treated equally in this situation.

“It’s a somewhat disturbing yet interesting situation,” Hutchins said. “Eagles are an iconic species and they are our national symbol.

“I don’t think all industries are being treated equally here,” said Hutchins. “If you are going to regulate, you need to regulate equally.”

In an article published in the Citizens Voice, titled “It’s Open Season on Bald Eagles,” Bob Quateroni says the “ugly” plan would allow wind farms to kill up to 4,200 bald eagles each year and that it should be avoided.

“[J]ust when you think the government can’t get any more ugly, they prove you wrong. Why are they doing this? To help the wind turbine industry. What a surprise,” wrote Quateroni. 

Michael McGrady ([email protected]writes from Colorado Springs, Colorado.