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Montana wind farms face blowback over raptor habitat

With its strong westerly winds, Kevin Rim, a prominent series of sandstone cliffs 20 miles northwest of Shelby, is ideal habitat for wind farms, and NaturEner USA is planning to erect 126 turbines on private lands there by the end of the year.

The rim also is ideal habitat for raptors, earning a designation as an Important Bird Area. Up to 10 species, including federally protected golden eagles and the highest density of Ferruginous hawks in Montana, nest in the rocky outcroppings.

Janet Ellis, program director with Montana Audubon, worries the close proximity of the turbines and nesting areas will lead to collisions or the raptors leaving the area or both. Many prairie birds are on the decline because of habitat loss, she said.

“They don’t tolerate disruptions at all, so they have to be in really isolated places,” she said. “That’s why, in particular, we’re concerned about putting a wind farm on top of this cliff face.”

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