Saving the Condor was one of the great collaborative environmental efforts over the last 25 years. It gave hope to a generation that witnessed the world environment rapidly eroding before their eyes. Teams of wildlife biologists, resource groups and government agencies that once were united in saving the condor from extinction are now turning their backs as Corporate America marches into Condor habitat. In Southern California Condor habitat is being invaded by thousands of lethal prop wind turbines and everyone seems to be giving the wind industry a free pass.
The Condor will never fly free in Southern California because a gauntlet of prop wind turbine farms that is planned for the north and northwestern western slopes of the Antelope Valley. Prop Wind turbines are hell on birds of prey. Over the years tens of thousands of birds of prey have been killed at wind farms in California including several thousand Turkey Vultures. Several dozen captive bred Condors that were released to the Southern California region are missing and unaccounted for. The most likely reason for the missing condors is the Tehachapi pass Wind farm where 5000 prop wind turbines have been spinning in condor habitat.
What lies ahead for the Condor in Kern County is mainly bad news. A new Condor Killing wind farm is now being constructed just 1-1/2 miles from critical condor habitat. It is called the PDV Wind Project. A few miles away another new wind farm, the Alta Oak wind project is in front of the same planning department in Kern County that approved the PDV Wind farm. It too will kill free flying Condors. Several more undisclosed prop wind farms are also being planned for the southern slopes Tehachapi Mountains on land owned by Tejon Ranch Company. It couldn’t get any worse for the Condor because nothing is more detrimental to birds of prey than the 200 mph blades of a spinning prop turbine. The devastation caused by Prop wind turbines to birds of prey has been covered up for decades by the wind industry.
The latest invasion of Prop turbines have come from the southern slopes of the mountainous terrain surrounding Tejon Ranch. Tejon Ranch is sitting right in the middle of the California condor’s primary habitat. The winds and updrafts there also provide a flyway for condors that travel between the Coastal and Sierra Nevada Mountain ranges. Unfortunately for the Condor, Tejon Ranch is also sitting on one of the very best wind resource areas in California . The area has 2-3 times the wind speed and is more than 20 times the size of Altamont Pass. Wall Street is going to cash in and nothing will stop them. Not even the Condor.
The Tejon Ranch Company, on the New York Stock Exchange as “TRC” own 270,000 acres of prime condor habitat. Some of their major stockholders are heavily invested in wind energy and they have big plans. First they want to build a resort community called Tejon Mountain Village in the heart of Condor Critical Habitat. They also hope to secure a blanket “incidental take” permit from the USFWS. The Tejon Ranch Corporation (TRC) is requesting a permit for the “incidental take” (killing) of the California Condor on all the lands included within the boundaries of the Tejon Ranch owned by TRC. This would release the TRC from any liability for killing the California Condor. The incidental take permit is their ticket for the further development of Tejon Ranch. TRC is looking ahead so they can build new prop turbine wind farms on the slopes leading into the Antelope Valley . The have asked for the federal take permit because TRC is very aware that Condors will be killed on Tejon ranch and they will not be able to conceal it.
If an incidental take permit is given to Tejon Ranch it will represent a new era of corruption for America, an era where nothing detrimental to the environment will stand in the way of big business. It will also continue the mockery of our legal system where laws are continually changed for the benefit of the wealthy.
The first condors that will die on Tejon Ranch from prop turbines will probably be from the new PDV Wind Farm. Tejon Ranch owns some of the land in this project and Prop turbines will be soon spinning on the ranch. Tejon Ranch has entered into the Prop wind turbine wind business and few are aware of it.
The PDV wind farm was approved with a fraudulent Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and virtually no opposition from the resource groups and agencies entrusted to look out for the condor. In the Draft EIR I found the following statement ““the habitat assessment of the project site revealed a lack of suitable habitat for the California condor. Therefore the project would not lead to significant impacts on the California condor.” The PDV Wind project sits next to federally designated Condor Critical Habitat. There is a resident population of game animals living in the the upper elevations of the PDV wind project and is just a short glide down the slopes of the Tehachapi Mountains . The fact is mule deer live on this land and are a source of food for the Condor. Mule deer, which are a food source for condors were not even mentioned as living on the habitat. Tejon Ranch even owns some of the land in the approved PDV Wind Project and they sell big game trophy hunts (deer, elk, pigs and turkeys) every year to hunters looking for an easy kill. They also sell big game trophy hunts (deer, elk, pigs and turkeys) every year to hunters looking for an easy kill on Tejon Ranch.
In the Final PDV EIR I found this statement in reference to the Condor “no foraging habitat exists on the PdV project site”. A look at the Google image provided will show the same habitat type as in the federally designated Condor Critical Habitat which sits nearby on Tejon Ranch. It will also show the placement of wind turbines in Condor’s habitat and habitat very suitable for mule deer.
In the Final EIR for the PDV Wind Project I found these statements in reference to Turkey Vultures and condors in association with the dangers of prop turbines.
“Scientific literature also suggests that diurnal vultures, such as the California condor, are not at substantial risk for collisions with wind turbines.”
In addition, data on comparable species, such as turkey vultures, indicate that they skillfully avoid turbines. As turbines are in an area with high visibility, condors could be expected to be able to avoid collisions with wind turbines at the project site. These statements are not only false but are fraudulent as well. The scientific community is very aware that each year thousands of vultures of every type are slaughtered by prop wind turbines. The numbers of dead vultures worldwide indicates that these slow flying gliders are not at all able to “skillfully” avoid the 200 mph tip speed of the prop wind turbine. (See the image provided).
In the PDV Wind Project EIR there was no mention of the federally designated Condor Critical Habitat is located right next to the project. Instead it is stated that the “Closest occurrences (Condor) to the proposed project site are: 9.48 miles away at Tejon Ranch.” This is a very deceptive statement because the free flying Condors historically used the PDV Wind Project site to forage. Another deceptive from the PDV EIR stated “based upon the last 20 years of radio-telemetry observations of California Condors, movements into the Antelope Valley would be a rare event.”
The recent USFWS GPS tracking data illustrates the location of the condors in association with feeding stations or carcass dump sites. The data merely represents the concentration of captive bred condors staying near the feeding stations on Tejon ranch. This does not represent the range of free flying condors. It represents the movements of captive bred released individuals that have not learned to forage on their own. Without the feeding stations the Condor would be regularly soaring all over the Tehachapi Mountains and slopes of the Antelope Valley hunting for carcasses.
Now that Prop wind farms have invaded their habitat, any free flying Condor has a very good chance of dying at a wind farm in the Tehachapi Mountains. In Spain, the number one cause death for the Griffon Vulture is the prop wind turbine where 1000-2000 Griffon Vultures perish each year.
There has been a wind industry cover-up of bird mortality that has been going on for over 20 years. Some do not believe it. I do, and everyone else should also, especially when they become aware of the deception and false statements used in the permitting process. A corporation that would produce a fraudulent EIR to conceal the extreme danger to the California Condor from the construction of prop turbines in their habitat, would never be honest about the number of dead eagles, falcons, owls, vultures and condors.
Bob Stine, president and CEO of Tejon Ranch Company recently made the following statement “We have no intention of carving up the ranch and selling it in pieces.” Mr Stein is talking out of both sides of his mouth. Of course he would never want to sell off prime wind resource land that will potentially bring the TRC billions in future revenues. On the other hand building Tejon Mountain Village in federally designated Condor critical habitat and developing the 70,000 centennial project on TRC property will obviously carve up this huge block of land into pieces.
Kern County could easily secure the fate of the condor with a well informed look ahead at the impacts of wind development. Kern County should also demand a comparative study that looks into alternative wind turbine designs. More efficient wind turbine designs that do not kill birds and bats do exist. One of them is a vertical shaft turbine that is about to come on line in Sullivan County New York.
It is time to forget the sleazy good old boy network of Wall Street and do this for the California condor, the White tailed kite, the endangered Swainson’s Hawk, and all the other birds of prey that are destined to perish in your wind farms.
Thank you so much for signing Save Tejon Ranch’s sign-on letter to the Governor Schwarzenegger ! This coming Monday October 5, 2009, the Kern County Board of Supervisors will consider approving or denying the Tejon Mountain Village Project, in the heart of California condor habitat that is critical for the condor’s survival. Through the Center for Biological Diversity, we have pulled together an action alert that you and others can use to send email letters to the Kern County supervisors. You can also modify the letter to personalize it. Please feel free to share it far and wide.
If you have continued interest in Saving Tejon Ranch from urban sprawl development, please take a moment in support of conserving the wild heart of California – Tejon Ranch – and click on the following link:
Biologist/Public Lands Desert Director
Center for Biological Diversity
8033 Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles , CA 90046
“Our good fortune will only last as long as our natural resources” – Will Rogers