This is Condor Country. If you live here, it is likely you’ve had the breathtaking privilege of seeing the largest soaring bird in North America riding high thermals across our mountains on its 9-foot wingspan. Bird lovers from around the world come here for that experience, because the California Condor is a symbol of resilience unlike any other in the history of global conservation efforts to protect endangered species. That effort was born right here, in the heartland of California Condor habitat.
It has taken an heroic effort to bring these inquisitive, social creatures back from the brink of extinction—from only 22 birds left on the planet in 1982 to about 235 living freely in the wild today (about 165 more are still in captive breeding programs in zoos). In 26 years the condor has reclaimed a fighting chance for survival. But May 2013 has not been a good month for the future of the California Condor.
On Friday, May 24 it was reported by the American Birds Conservancy and The New York Times that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) provided a positive Record of Decision for the 2,600 acre Alta East wind turbine farm near the town of Mojave, to be built by Terra-Gen Power.
Environmental reporter Chris Clarke said the BLM “has given the thumbs-up to a Kern County wind project that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) says is likely to kill at least one California Condor.”
Just 14 days earlier, on Friday, May 10, the CEO of Tejon Ranch Company embraced Dan Ashe, the director of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, at a ceremony announcing that the federal agency had granted a 50-year ‘incidental take’ permit to shield the company from liability if it accidentally kills condors during development of its commercial and residential projects, including Tejon Mountain Village. That 5,553 acre project plans million dollar estates, golf courses and commercial retail stores in the center of critical California Condor habitat.
The Terra-Gen facility is in the Tehachapi Mountains, neighboring Tejon Ranch. The wind farm agreed to monitor for condors, placing a biologist in a watch tower to spot for the bird during the day. If a fatality occurs, Terra-Gen agrees to cease daytime operations (condors fly) and enter into consultation with the BLM and the FWS.
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