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Impact of turbines must be investigated

The ink is barely dry on the denial of a special exemption for industrial wind turbines in the Bethlehem Watershed, and already Carbon County is targeted for another industrial wind park, on scenic Broad Mountain in Packer Township. Broad Mountain is a popular recreation area and an ecological gem with diverse habitats for rare species of plants and animals native to the Poconos.

A concern in this area is the impact the project could have on endangered bats. Preliminary project maps show turbines located roughly 5 miles northwest of Lehigh Gorge and State Game Land 141. These are important bat habitats in Carbon County, where bats are known to roost in rock crevices along the cliffs above the Lehigh River.

Radio tracking studies show that bats travel distances up to 6 miles or more from the roost to feed, depending on the season and the availability or scarcity of food. This could place the turbines within the foraging range of bats roosting at these sites. Researchers estimate that hundreds of thousands of bats are killed by wind turbines every year in North America. There is evidence that bats are attracted to wind turbines because of large concentrations of insects around the turbines.

Federal and state wildlife officials recently confirmed the importance of protecting bats in Pennsylvania and restoring populations decimated by disease and habitat loss. These concerns, and the impact of the turbines on local communities, must be thoroughly investigated before any permits are considered for this project.

Juliet Perrin