TULSA, Oklahoma – The federal government’s decision to allow companies to seek authorization to kill and harm golden and bald eagles without penalty has come under fire from the Osage Nation.
The wind energy industry requested the change, and President Barack Obama’s administration announced its decision last week.
The Oklahoma-based tribe favors protecting eagles because of the birds’ symbolic significance to Americans and religious and ceremonial significance to Native Americans, said Osage Principal Chief John D. Red Eagle and Assistant Principal Chief Scott N. Bighorse.
“President Obama knows how important eagle feathers are to us: He was adopted into the Crow Nation and was adorned with a full war bonnet containing eagle feathers from head to toe,” said Bighorse, who is concerned that future generations to obtain the eagle feathers.
Chris Tollefson, a spokesman with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, told The Journal Record (http://bit.ly/IPkNS8) that 15 companies have applied for the permits. The policy is not limited to renewable energy projects, and Tollefson said utilities, building companies and the military have expressed interest in applying for permits.
“The companies have applied for various lengths of permits,” Tollefson said. “Although some companies are close, we have yet to issue one.”
Osage Nation leaders also said they were opposed to wind farm development in Osage County because wind turbines are planned in areas where a significant number of eagle nests are located, Red Eagle said
The new rule will provide legal protection for the lifespan of wind farms and other projects if companies obtain permits and make efforts to avoid killing protected birds.
Companies would have to take additional measures if they killed or injured more eagles than they initially estimate, or if new information suggested that eagle populations were being affected. The permits would be reviewed every five years, and companies would have to submit reports of how many eagles they killed.
Such reporting is currently voluntary, and the Interior Department refuses to release the information.
Last month, Duke Energy Corp. pleaded guilty to killing eagles and other birds at two wind farms in Wyoming, the first time a wind energy company had been prosecuted under a law protecting migratory birds.
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