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Wind turbines affecting North Dakota bird populations

Even weeks later, Donald Trumps Bismarck speech still has people talking.

While he mostly spoke about oil, gas and coal, he did touch on another North Dakota industry.

Trump gave the biggest energy speech to date here in North Dakota.

“The dept. of Justice filed a lawsuit against 7 ND oil companies for the death of 28 birds,” says Trump

While he claims wind energy kills over 1 million birds a year…

“Far more than a million, believe me far more,”

I don’t see that happening as a direct result of wind energy,” says Chuck Loesch, Fish and Wildlife Service

Chuck Loesch studies the impact wind turbines have on waterfowl in the Dakota’s.

He says they don’t often kill birds, in fact some species tend to avoid those areas.

“We did see a difference on abundance, on average, about a 20 percent decline in the number of breeding pairs that occupy the wetlands in the wind sites vs. the non-wind sites,” says Loesch

He says about 80% stick around despite being near wind turbines.

This could impact an already endangered species that migrates through North Dakota in the fall and spring.

“We don’t know what the effects of wind turbines might be on whooping cranes…if they’re avoiding the towers, the turbines, that might keep them from using places as stopover sites that they might otherwise use,” says Neal Niemuth, Fish and Wildlife Service

Standup: The Missouri river area in Bismarck is the heart of the migration corridor for whooping cranes. Niemuth doesn’t know the effect wind energy has had on the species.

But something else has a much bigger effect on North Dakota birds.

“The loss of CRP over the last several years would be a large one…Commodity prices went up and people took advantage of that, I certainly understand that, but it’s had an effect…That had a far larger footprint in the state of North Dakota than wind farms presently do,” says Niemuth

Niemuth says oil and gas exploration has also taken away habitat where birds live – the best thing to do, is build new infrastructure away from their natural habitat.

Niemuth says the Fish and Wildlife service helps wind companies build where there would be the smallest impact on birds.