COPENHAGEN – OwnEnergy Inc. is working on a habitat conservation plan with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for the Copenhagen Wind Farm to aid in the protection of the federally endangered Indiana bats and northern long-eared bats.
The Copenhagen Wind Farm project calls for 47 commercial wind turbines, meteorological towers, utility infrastructure and roadways in the town of Denmark.
A habitat conservation plan is needed for the project because the development and its operation could injure or kill bats protected by the Endangered Species Act, according to a news release from the wildlife service.
“We have elected to take the Fish & Wildlife Service’s recommendation to pursue a voluntary HCP and individual-take permits,” said P.J. Saliterman, development director with OwnEnergy. “I think they appreciate that and it has been a good working relationship.”
OwnEnergy and the Fish & Wildlife Service are working together to promote environmentally responsible energy and environmental protection for these rare bat species, while benefiting the other species of bats that are not endangered, said Meagan Racey, public affairs specialist with Fish & Wildlife’s Northeast Region.
The concern for the bats is not only for possible collisions with wind turbines, but also for the internal hemorrhaging from the drop in air pressure caused by the turbines, Ms. Racey said.
Bat mortality is often in the late summer or early fall when bats are traveling to ridge tops and high plateaus, where wind farms generally are located, during the dawn and dusk hours when bats are the most vulnerable, Ms. Racey said.
Robyn A. Niver, endangered species biologist with the Fish & Wildlife Service, said since 2007 the number of Indiana bats in the state has declined from about 52,000 to 15,000.
The decline is attributed to white nose syndrome, which is characterized as a ring of white fungus on the faces and wings of affected bats, Ms. Niver said. The disease has killed millions of bats since 2006, including northern long-eared bats.
The disease disrupts their hibernation and the bats wake up in the middle of winter when there is no food. The bats starve and freeze, Mr. Saliterman said.
“What’s needed is more research to address how to get rid of syndrome,” Mr. Saliterman said.”We are doing our part to be responsible to make sure that the bat populations are not unduly impacted while that research moves forward.”
Mr. Saliterman said OwnEnergy started to do field work on the bats in 2012.
The company did mist netting, which involves fine mesh nets that are strung up between trees where bats are likely to be found, he said.
OwnEnergy captured 41 bats. None was an Indiana bat, but one was a northern long-eared bat, Mr. Saliterman said. At the time, the wildlife service had not proposed any listing of northern long-eared bats on the endangered species list.
The project is not likely to be set back by completing this plan, Mr. Saliterman said.
The wildlife service is seeking public input until May 28 in regard to issues to consider while developing and evaluating the plan. To read the notice and to leave a comment, visit https://regulations.gov under docket number FWS-R5-ES-2014-0050.
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