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Tennessee wildlife officials oppose wind farm

An editorial by Tennessee Wildlife Federation executive Mike Butler strongly opposes a proposed wind farm atop the Cumberland Plateau.

The editorial, posted on the TWF website, claims the wind farm would be devastating to the environment and to wildlife.

The 23 giant turbines, each towering 600 feet high and with huge blades hundreds of feet long, would be visible for miles. The wind farm would impact not only the 1,800 acres of land on which it is built, but visually for miles around the Crab Orchard community.

Butler joins U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander and Congressman Diane Black in opposing the wind farm.

They point out the cost of wind farms to taxpayers in the form of government subsidies, while returning little in the form of “clean energy.”

Butler calls wind farms “grossly inefficient” in terms of cost benefit.

Proponents of wind farms claim such concerns are exaggerated. They say the environmental impact is not as great as many reports indicate.

However, Butler, whose wildlife organization has no political alliance, presents compelling evidence about how destructive wind farms can be. He documents the environmental devastation wind farms have caused in areas where they operate:

He cites a report in which a wind farm in West Virginia kills an estimated 1.4 million birds and bats annually.

Another report claims an Oregon wind farm has killed at least 38 golden eagles, along with 336 other protected birds that flew into the giant spinning blades.

One survey found that wind farms kill approximately 600,000 birds annually.

Some claim that the bird-kill statistics are exaggerated. But they can’t deny the adverse environmental impact on the landscape. That’s eyewitness indisputable.

The area around a wind farm has to be clear-cut to accommodate the construction of the giant turbines, and must remain clear-cut to maintain them. In other words, the scarring is permanent.

“They are not positive for the environment and wildlife,” Butler writes.

A photo posted on the Tennessee Wildlife Federation website, of a wind farm atop Laurel Mountain in West Virginia, illustrates the ravaging of a once-pristine mountaintop.

Butler says similar devastation would result from a wind farm in Crab Orchard – and perhaps open the door for additional wind farms in other natural areas of the state.

Reaction by Cumberland County residents to the proposed wind farm is mixed. Some of the area’s residents are adamantly opposed to the project, while others support it.

Even if it should be approved by the county, the wind farm will face strong opposition from various environmental and conservation groups, backed by such influential leaders as Alexander and Black.

There apparently is no timeline regarding the project, although the executives pushing it are eager to get started after acquiring an option to the land.

Opponents, however, are determined to block it. They say if the natural landscape is scarred it will remain scarred forever – and open a Pandora’s box for more wind farms in other pristine areas across the state.