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Charities fear ‘slaughter’ of island’s iconic eagles

Bird charity RSPB Scotland fears that an expansion of a large windfarm will lead to more eagles being killed by spinning rotors.

The RSPB has already expressed deep concerns at the predicted impact that two, already approved developments – Muaitheabhal and Muaitheabhal East on Eisgein Estate on Lewis – could have on golden eagles and white-tailed eagles.

GDF Suez Energy International, the developers behind the approved proposal, have permission to build 39 turbines but now estate owner Nick Oppenheim wants to erect 12 more – greatly increasing the potential for a higher eagle death toll.

Robin Reid, RSPB Scotland’s conservation officer for the Western Isles said: “This proposal shows a complete and utter disregard for the environment.”

Land protection charity the John Muir Trust has joined the RSPB in objecting to the expansion on the grounds that it will blight scenic wild landscape and “slaughter” eagles.

Eisgein is home to one of the highest densities of breeding golden eagles in Europe, boasting an impressive 12-13 pairs.

The RSPB believes that current research suggests that the consented 39 turbine application has the potential to kill eight golden eagles and three white-tailed eagles, as well as cause the likely displacement or loss of two golden eagle territories. Alarmingly, the newly proposed 12 turbine extension is predicted to kill a further 12 eagles.

In addition to rotor collisions, research suggests that nest sites could be abandoned as the majority of proposed turbine placements are in close proximity to golden eagle eyries.

The RSPB wants the expansion put on hold until the main windfarm is up and running and the impact on eagles can be assessed.

Mr Reid added: “Building wind turbines so close to breeding golden eagles could cause significant long-term damage to the local and national populations of this iconic species.

“We hope the Scottish Government will continue to give Scotland’s eagles a home by rejecting this unacceptable application. There are more appropriate places for such developments in the Western Isles where the environmental impact would be much lower.

“We strongly believe that until the consented developments have been constructed and the effects monitored and analysed, no further development should be consented.”

Mick Blunt, John Muir Trust Western Isles area manager, said: “This proposal represents a full frontal assault on the new wild land map published by Scottish Natural Heritage and on the Scottish Government’s own planning proposals that are now out to consultation.”

Mr Oppenheim could not be contacted for comment.