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New Mexico Wind and Wildlife Collaborative unveils best practices

After two years of discussion, nine wind energy companies and seven conservation groups have announced best management practices to protect wildlife and habitat when building wind farms in New Mexico.

The industry and environmental groups, joined by state agencies and others, formed the New Mexico Wind and Wildlife Collaborative to draw up and disseminate best practices to preserve habitats and species, said Christopher Rustay of Playa Lakes Joint Venture in a news release.

“The best management practices were written using the best available science to guide conservation actions,” Rustay said. “Because of the collaborative and inclusive nature of the group, we are confident that the options provided will be useful for both conservation and wind energy development.”

The group developed guidelines for 12 wildlife species or habitats, including raptors, long-billed curlew, bats, lesser prairie chickens, reptiles and amphibians. The strategies are intended to guide the placement of wind facilities and transmission infrastructure so impact on wildlife can be avoided or minimized, said Audubon New Mexico Executive Director Karyn Stockdale.

“Audubon recognizes that wind power creates unique threats to birds,” Stockdale said. “That’s why it was critical that we partner with the wind industry to proactively address these issues so that wind energy can move forward, but in the least harmful way possible.”

New Mexico is the second state to develop best management practices, following Colorado. Both states used a similar collaborative process, and some of the same industry partners participated in both places, said Interwest Energy Alliance Executive Director Craig Cox.

“Wind energy can provide a tremendous economic boost for rural communities along New Mexico’s eastern plains while offering significant savings to urban consumers,” Cox said. “Now that we have Colorado and New Mexico using this collaborative model of developing best management practices, we will be able to expedite wind energy development while creating new jobs across both states.”

The collaborative created a website, hosted by Playa Lakes Joint Venture, where visitors can download guidelines. The New Mexico Renewable Energy Transmission Authority plans to link to the site.