The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking thoughts and ideas from the public as it considers ways to minimize and offset the number of eagles killed by what could become the largest wind farm in the United States.
Bald and golden eagles are abundant in and around the Sierra Madre Mountains and the 1,000-turbine Chokecherry/Sierra Madre wind farm in the mountains’ northern foothills could kill dozens of the birds every year.
Bald eagles can be spotted plucking trout from the North Platte River just east of the Sierra Madres. Golden eagles, which have wings spanning more than 6 feet and are North America’s largest bird of prey, can take down adult deer but typically prey on smaller land animals.
The Chokecherry/Sierra Madre wind farm could kill between 46 and 64 eagles every year, according to a U.S. Bureau of Land Management environmental impact statement released last year.
The Power Company of Wyoming LLC, a wholly owned affiliate of Denver billionaire Phil Anschutz’s The Anschutz Corp., plans to build the wind farm south of Rawlins over four to five years. Once built, the wind farm would generate enough electricity to power up to 1 million homes.
The Fish and Wildlife Service has opened a 60-day public scoping period for a proposed eagle take permit for the project’s first phase of 500 turbines.
The permit would seek to reduce and offset eagle deaths through various means. Fish and Wildlife officials say they wind farm developers have yet to apply for one of the never-before-issued eagle take permits, but they expect the company to submit an application soon.
They say they’re already working with the developers on keeping eagle deaths to a minimum.
The Fish and Wildlife Service and BLM held a public scoping meeting on the wind farm project in Rawlins on Monday and planned another meeting in Saratoga on Tuesday. Fish and Wildlife is asking the public if any topics besides those addressed by the BLM environmental statement should be addressed while Fish and Wildlife considers the eagle take permit.
Fish and Wildlife officials expect to make a final decision on an eagle take permit for the wind farm in February, 2015.
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