Power Companies Launch Bird-Protection Program

Published September 1, 2003

A coalition of power companies is putting in place new voluntary guidelines for protecting migratory birds from electrocution and collisions with power lines. The guidelines, expected to save thousands of birds’ lives every year, are being developed in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).

Electrocutions and line strikes are a particular threat to birds with large wingspans, such as eagles, hawks, and owls–all species protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Avian interactions with power lines also cause power outages, which represent added cost and inconvenience for electric utilities and their customers.

The new guidelines are being developed by the Avian Power Line Interaction Committee (APLIC), a national coalition of more than 20 regional power companies. The guidelines will give electric utilities a framework to use in developing voluntary Avian Protection Plans (APP) tailored to their specific operations.

The APP guidance document, which will be published on the APLIC and FWS Web sites, will reference the latest industry standards for preventing avian power line interactions, including recommendations from the most current edition of APLIC’s “Suggested Practices for Raptor Protection on Power Lines.”

“This cooperative effort will enhance existing voluntary conservation efforts by the electric utility industry,” said FWS Director Steve Williams. “We value our partnership with APLIC and the industry, and encourage electric power companies to take advantage of the new guidelines.”

“A voluntary approach protects birds through industry cooperation, rather than through mandatory ‘one-size-fits-all’ agreements,” said Jim Burruss, APLIC chair and a representative of PacifiCorp. “Customers expect utilities to provide a reliable source of energy, and the public expects the Service to protect the nation’s wildlife resources. Our collaborative work on voluntary guidelines for Avian Protection Plans should help safeguard birds, enhance energy delivery, and cut costs for electric utilities.”

The new guidelines, like those already published by the FWS for the communication tower industry, outline practical tested ways to reduce threats to birds. Similar recommendations have recently been released by the FWS for the wind turbine industry.

“We will continue working with individual electric power companies to develop company-specific approaches for protecting birds,” Williams said. “Voluntary industry cooperation has long been essential to our conservation efforts. The new guidelines build on that tradition.”

The FWS and APLIC have a long history of working together on avian power line issues. Created in 1989 to evaluate whooping crane collisions with power lines in the Rocky Mountains, APLIC was originally a partnership involving the FWS, National Audubon Society, and 10 electric utilities.

APLIC members include representatives from the Edison Electric Institute, 18 investor-owned utilities, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (which represents nearly 1,000 consumer-owned electric utilities), the Electric Power Research Institute, two federal utility agencies, and the FWS. APLIC sponsors short courses, funds research, and updates guidance materials designed to protect birds and enhance energy delivery.

James M. Taylor is managing editor of Environment & Climate News. His email address is [email protected].

For more information …

visit the Avian Power Line Interaction Committee Web site at http://www.aplic.org/.