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OAK HARBOR, Ohio – Birders said Tuesday they are seeking people from all walks of life who share their concerns about the proper siting of wind turbines in the ecologically fragile western Lake Erie region.
At a brainstorming session in the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge’s visitor center, Kenn and Kim Kaufman of the Black Swamp Bird Observatory said the group will be stepping up its campaign for a three-mile buffer zone along the shoreline in Lucas, Ottawa, Sandusky, and Erie counties because of its critical significance as a stopover point for some 3 million migratory birds that land and take off in this area each year.
That includes the nation’s densest concentration of bald eagles south of Alaska and one of the largest concentrations of American black ducks, member Mark Shieldcastle said. Many visitors are rare songbirds making their way between Canada and central or South America.
Other avian creatures, from monarch butterflies to tall shorebirds and bats, rely on the western end of the lake, which is coveted by turbine developers because of its shallowness, its access to the regional power grid, and its strong wind resource.
Mr. Kaufman is an internationally renowned birder, naturalist, and author from Oak Harbor who serves as the Black Swamp Bird Observatory’s education chairman. His wife is its executive director.
Their group is working with the Ohio Ornithological Society and the Greater Mohican Audubon Society on gathering signatures for an online petition calling for a three-year moratorium on wind-development along the shoreline.
The petition can be accessed from the group’s Web site at bsbo.org or directly at thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/924/482/794/.
Mr. Kaufman said it is unclear what state or federal agency would be able to enforce such a moratorium, though.
Birders at the refuge center Tuesday also agreed they should campaign for more radar studies and other types of research, as well as address needs such as funding and outreach for their campaign, anticipating a battle with developers and public officials that could last years.
“It’s a complex issue,” Ms. Kaufman said of the potential development. “You can’t simplify it.”
Kelly Fuller, wind campaign coordinator of the Washington-based American Bird Conservancy, said the controversy brewing in the western Lake Erie region is not all that unique to this area.
“Where we’re seeing these [turbines] proposed is where the birds are, because that’s where the wind is,” Ms. Fuller said.
About 200 of the tallest land-based turbines are being considered for installation in Lenawee County, Michigan’s Riga, Ogden, Palmyra, and Fairfield townships, each less than an hour’s drive west of Toledo. They stand 493 feet, 80 feet higher than the tallest building in downtown Toledo.
As many as 535 turbines of varying sizes are being considered for Paulding, Van Wert, and Hardin counties in western Ohio, some just as large as those being considered for Lenawee County.
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