The federal government is proposing to grant a permit to allow the developer of an Oregon wind-power project to legally kill golden eagles.
This first-of-its-kind move is being watched very closely by concerned conservationists in the state.
A draft environmental assessment by the Interior Department’s Fish and Wildlife Service would allow West Butte Wind Power to kill three protected golden eagles over five years if the company fulfills its conservation commitments, reports MSNBC.
Called an eagle ‘take permit’ (‘Take’ means to kill, harass or disturb the birds, their nests or their eggs.), its the first application to be received and acted on by U.S. Fish and Wildlife under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.
The 1940 legislation stops anyone from killing or disturbing bald or golden eagles without a permit from the Interior Department.
The permit, if ultimately issued, stipulates that there must be no net loss to breeding populations of golden eagles from the wind farm project. That means for every protected bird permitted killed, developers must contribute to conservation efforts for breeding them.
‘Our goal is to maintain stable or increasing populations of eagles protected under the Act,’ said Chris McKay, assistant regional director for Migratory Birds and State Programs in the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific Region.
‘Regulations under the Act allow us to issue permits for activities that are likely to take eagles provided the activity is otherwise lawful and the taking is not the purpose of that activity, the take is unavoidable even though advanced conservation practices are being implemented, and the take is compatible with eagle preservation,’ McKay said in a press release.
California-based West Butte Wind Power is proposing to build a 104MW wind energy plant in Oregon’s Deschutes and Crook counties, consisting of up to 52 wind turbines. Electricity generated by the project could power as many as 50,000 homes.
Conservation groups expressed cautious optimism at the government’s proposal to award the eagle take permit.
‘This is a type of project where it’s appropriate for them to issue this kind of permit,’ said Liz Nysson, energy policy coordinator with the Oregon Natural Desert Association.
She noted that only a small number of golden eagles are believed to be in and around the area where the wind turbines will be built.
‘I say ‘cautious optimism’ because we fear that the agency is going to go forward and start issuing these permits … for a multitude of golden eagles every year, and that would be a bad use of the policy,’ Nysson said.
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