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Desert residents fight to save bald eagles from industrial wind energy

The Homestead Valley Community Council is the latest organization in the desert to voice their opposition to recent U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service decisions allowing the “take” of eagles by industrial-scale wind energy projects.

Fish & Wildlife has been directed by the Department of the Interior to review its eagle “take” policy, and is considering extending golden and bald eagle take permits to a record period of 30 years. This policy change would allow large wind energy projects to kill, injure, and displace these formerly protected raptors.

“We’ve worked hard with our partners to protect eagle populations nationwide, and will make sure they continue to thrive. These proposed changes will help facilitate the responsible development of renewable energy and other projects, while conserving bald and golden eagles by requiring key conservation and monitoring measures to be implemented,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “We are committed to monitoring the impact of projects on eagle populations over the life of the permits to ensure these measures are effective.”

The proposed changes would amend regulations under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act specifically in response to industrial scale wind energy projects. Tens of thousands of acres of industrial wind energy development currently threaten Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, as well as Joshua Tree National Park, while industrial solar development is rapidly destroying desert tortoise, fox, and burrowing owl habitat, while damaging and destroying Native American cultural resources and sacred sites across the desert.

According to Fish & Wildlife, “The proposed changes, if approved, would amend permit regulations finalized on September 11, 2009 under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act for the take of eagles that may occur as the unintended result of various activities. The regulations provide for both standard permits and programmatic permits. Standard permits cover individual instances of take that cannot practicably be avoided, while programmatic permits are necessary to authorize projects where recurring, unavoidable take occurs over the long term, such as with wind energy projects, electric utilities, and timber operations. Most take authorized by these permits has been in the form of disturbance to eagles and their habitat; however, permits may authorize lethal take that is incidental to an otherwise lawful activity.”

For more information about the proposed rule changes that could lead to more “take” of bald and golden eagles by industrial scale wind energy projects, please visit http://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/.

Written comments and information concerning the proposed Regulations Governing Eagle Permitting must be submitted by midnight on July 12, 2012. Docket Number FWS-R9-MB- 2011-0054. Comments may be submitted through:

• Federal eRulemaking portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments found in Docket No. FWS–R9–MB–2011–0054.

• U.S. mail or hand delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attention: FWS–R9–MB– 2011–0054; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 North Fairfax Drive, MS 2042–PDM; Arlington, VA 22203–1610.

On April 13, 2012, the Service published an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) to solicit ideas, suggestions, and information that will help guide other potential improvements to the 2009 final Eagle Permitting regulations. Written comments and information concerning the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking must also be submitted by July 12, 2012. Comments must be submitted separately for the proposed permit regulation changes and for the ANPR and may be submitted by one of two methods:

Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments to Docket No. FWS-R9-MB-2011-0094;

U.S. mail or hand delivery: Division of Migratory Bird Management, Attn: “Docket Number FWS-R9-MB-2011-0094,”U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MBSP– 4107, Arlington, Virginia 22203

The Service will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means any personal information provided through the process will be posted.

You can visit the Homestead Valley Community Council’s website for more information on the weakening of protections for bald and golden eagles and learn how to support protection of these important raptors, at http://www.hvccsite.org/eagle.html.