The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering lengthening federal permits for the unintentional killing of eagles from 5 years to 30 years. The proposed action is in response to opening public land for wind farms and other types of renewable energy development.
Rotating wind turbine blades inevitably kill birds, including eagles. Some bats also meet their demise as air pressure changes caused by spinning turbines result in lung hemorrhage. Some scientists and conservationists speculate that wind farms are established without regard to bird and bat migration avenues.
Scientists and wildlife officials say they are just beginning to understand how wind farms and other renewable energy systems impact bird and bat populations.
Some agencies, such as the American Bird Conservancy, say that permits issued for as long as 30 years pose difficulties if conservationists respond should eagle populations decline unexpectedly. Spokespeople at the conservancy noted that too many uncertainties lie ahead in that length of time.
Current regulations allow the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to issue eagle take permits under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. With these permits, businesses may kill a limited number of eagles through its normal operations. As a result, those businesses must commit to measures that offset the damage.
The wind energy industry supports longer permits and, once issued, wants them to be passed along from one party to the next without expiration. With this provision, one wind company could buy another and automatically receive the purchased company’s permits through the sale.
The West Butte Wind Project in central Oregon applied for an eagle permit late last year, the first wind turbine plant to do so. The Ozarks has few wind farms and none are known to have made a permit request. However, eagle populations rise throughout Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma during the winter months as bald eagles and other species migrate here from northern locations.
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