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Audubon: Windmills ‘giant Cuisinarts for birds’

PORTLAND – Bird groups are angry at the federal government for allowing wind farms to kill protected eagles.

Wind energy offers a clean, green alternative to fossil fuels. The problem is that the massive windmills used to generate that energy are also harming federally protected bald and golden eagles.

Bob Sallinger with the Audubon Society of Portland said wind farms across the country have killed more than 80 eagles over the last decade.

“If you have dozens and dozens of them on the landscape it is basically a giant Cuisinart for birds,” said Sallinger. “Bald eagles took decades to recover … we almost lost them because of DDT. Golden eagles are a species biologists are concerned about because they appear to be declining.”

For several years now, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has issued permits that allow wind farms to legally kill a certain number of eagles. But the agency recently extended those permits from five years to 30 years.

That’s a move Sallinger said could prove disastrous for the protected birds.

“The 30-year permit basically gives them a 30-year period where they’re allowed to operate and do what they’re doing without a whole lot of scrutiny,” Sallinger said.

David Cottingham, senior advisor to the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, explained the permits are necessary because in order to get one, wind companies have to mitigate environmental impacts and report all bird deaths.

“We like it when people come in and apply for permits so we can work with them so we can get them to reduce and minimize those impacts,” he said.

Cottingham added not all wind farms will get the 30-year-long permit. The length of the permit will depend on how much the company is willing to do to protect wildlife.

But some bird advocates say the wind farms need to be regulated and monitored much more than they are now.

“We want wind energy, we want it done responsibly, we want it done smart,” Sallinger said.