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Exposed: Mass Audubon’s financial interest in Cape Wind

Mass Audubon is a Minerals Management Service (MMS) identified “Key Partner” involved in the collection of avian data, analysis, and commenting upon the same in the Cape Wind project environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA analysis should remain objective. However, Mass Audubon offered their “support” for Cape Wind during this project’s NEPA review in their 2006 press release called “Challenge”.

The “Challenge” condition of Mass Audubon’s Cape Wind “support” is agency acceptance of Adaptive Management monitoring and mitigation (AM). Adaptive Management is an umbrella term for “monitoring” – counting bird carcass and carcass parts caused by Cape Wind – and “mitigation” – attempts to reduce harm to wildlife caused by this project. “Challenge” defines the AM service term, “beginning at the construction phase and continuing for at least three years post-construction”, and source of funding, “monitoring and mitigation should be funded by Cape Wind”.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), with purview over the endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) Section 7 review process, provided their comments on Cape Wind on April 21, 2008, to the MMS Cape Wind project manager on the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS): “The current framework that MMS is proposing would forgo refinement of pre-construction study protocols and set in motion an adaptive management process that would be doomed to failure because effective techniques to perform post-construction monitoring simply do not exist.”

Comparing similar AM contracts, and based on the duration of the term expressed in “Challenge”, the condition of Mass Audubon’s “support” for Cape Wind has a value of approximately $8 million dollars. Yet, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service comments to MMS challenge Mass Audubon’s “support” condition of Cape Wind is “doomed to failure”.

Confirming their financial interest in the outcome of the Cape Wind permitting process, Mass Audubon issued a June 25, 2010, press release stating that they will “continue to assess the Cape Wind project by analysis and review of the: … EMS adaptive management plan [and the] avian monitoring and mitigation plan implementation during the construction and three year post-construction phases of the project”.

Mass Audubon’s February 23, 2005, comments on the Cape Wind DEIS to then Cape Wind project manager state: “Based on available information included in the DEIS, our scientists calculated alternative estimates of collision mortality ranging conservatively from 2,300 to 6,600 bird mortalities per year.”

Mass Audubon supports Cape Wind despite their staff scientists’ estimation that the project will cause up to 6,600 avian mortalities per year. The FWS comments suggest that Cape Wind represents immitigable harm to endangered and migratory wildlife. Interior Secretary Salazar has vowed that Best Science will form the basis of decisions regarding federal actions. However, the Cape Wind Record of Decision incorporates Mass Audubon’s biased “support” for Cape Wind, in which Mass Audubon has expressed financial intent to implement the AM service, “funded by Cape Wind”.

Barbara Durkin
Northboro, MA