Native Americans decry eagle deaths tied to wind farms

Thu Jun 13, 2013 7:41pm EDT

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(Reuters) - A Native American tribe in Oklahoma on Thursday registered its opposition to a U.S. government plan that would allow a wind farm to kill as many as three bald eagles a year despite special federal protections afforded the birds.

The stand taken by the Osage Nation against a proposed wind energy project on Indian lands in northeastern Oklahoma is based on the tribe's cultural and religious traditions tied to America's national symbol, tribal leaders said.

They spoke during an Internet forum arranged by conservationists seeking to draw attention to deaths of protected bald and golden eagles caused when they collide with turbines and other structures at wind farms.

The project proposed by Wind Capital Group of St. Louis would erect 94 wind turbines on 8,400 acres that the Osage Nation says contains key eagle-nesting habitat and migratory routes.

The permit application acknowledges that up to three bald eagles a year could be killed by the development over the 40-year life of the project.

"I can't come up with the words in English or Osage to put a value on how important these (eagles) are to us and to our everyday survival," said Scott BigHorse, assistant chief for the Osage Nation.

Wind Capital did not respond to a request for comment.

The fight in Oklahoma points to the deepening divide between some conservationists and the Obama administration over its push to clear the way for renewable energy development despite hazards to eagles and other protected species.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Interior Department agency tasked with protecting eagles and other wildlife to ensure their survival, is not sure how many eagles have been killed each year by wind farms amid rapid expansion of the facilities under the Obama administration.

UNDERESTIMATED EAGLE DEATHS

Reporting is voluntary by wind companies whose facilities kill eagles, said Alicia King, spokeswoman for the agency's migratory bird program.

She estimated wind farms have caused 85 deaths of bald and golden eagles nationwide since 1997, with most occurring in the last three years as wind farms gained ground through federal and state grants and other government incentives.

Some eagle experts say federal officials are drastically underestimating wind farm-related eagle mortality. For example, a single wind turbine array in northern California, the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area, is known to kill from 50 to 70 golden eagles a year, according to Doug Bell, wildlife program manager with the East Bay Regional Park District.

Golden eagle numbers in the vicinity are plummeting, with a death rate so high that the local breeding population can no longer replace itself, Bell said.

The U.S. government has predicted that a 1,000-turbine project planned for south-central Wyoming could kill as many as 64 eagles a year.

It is illegal to kill bald and golden eagles, either deliberately or inadvertently, under protections afforded them by two federal laws, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

In the past, federal permits allowing a limited number of eagle deaths were restricted to narrow activities such as scientific research.

But the Obama administration in 2009 broadened such permitting authority to include otherwise lawful activities like wind power developments.

Now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking to lengthen the duration of those permits from five to 30 years to satisfy an emerging industry dependent on investors seeking stable returns.

Wind power representatives say concerns raised about eagle deaths are overblown. Fewer than 2 percent of all human-caused deaths of golden eagles occur at modern wind farms and only a few bald eagles deaths have been documented in the history of the industry - far less mortality than is attributed to such causes as poisoning or vehicle collisions, said the American Wind Energy Association spokesman Peter Kelley.

Conservationists say they support emissions-free energy but want the Obama administration to require rather than suggest that companies locate turbines away from eagle habitat.

(Editing by Steve Gorman and Sandra Maler)

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Comments (18)
jannie123 wrote:
Gee what’s wrong with this picture… the wind company says they don’t kill hardly any eagles. So… why are they pushing the government for a 30 year “kill” (take) permit of eagles rather than the shorter period of time? And, why would I believe what the wind company says — they have a vested interest. And, since the reporting is voluntary and most of the IWT (Industrial Wind Turbines)are on “leased private land” that scientist would not have access to how can anyone know. Call be a skeptic but it’s sort of like having the fox tell me he wouldn’t touch those chickens.:)

Jun 14, 2013 10:28am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Wiegand wrote:
Lets make this very clear, the wind industry is killing eagles, thousands of them. This is why every AMERICAN not just Native Americans should decry the hidden ongoing wind turbine slaughter. It is long overdue for some accountability. Accountability for any wind industry or FWS representative that attempts to defraud communities with bogus information. It happens with virtually every wind project.

Let’s look at how the FWS “incidental take permit” really works. If a “take permit” (poaching permit) is given for a wind project to kill one bald eagle then 50 could die because there is no wind industry oversight and they won’t hear about the other 49. Just like they haven’t told the world about all the eagles that have been slaughtered in Texas by turbines. But even if by some great stretch of one’s imagination these folks were to be honest, if one dead eagle is found then many others will have died because they never come close to finding them all. At Altamont mortality studies found 10.8 dead eagles a year but the death toll estimates were 75-116 eagles every year. So if any FWS or wind industry employees/reports do not disclose that many more eagles will die than what the permit is for, they should be cuffed because they will be lying to you and it is clearly attempted fraud.

If population estimates are given do not believe them because I have not seen an accurate one yet. If any industry or FWS representative claims these turbines “may kill” or “possibly could” slap the hand cuffs on these scumbags because once again they are engaging in total deception. They know these turbines kill every flying species that uses the same habitat. They know this from decades of picking up bodies under wind turbines.

Remember what I have said because the one condor kill permit the FWS is going to hand outin California will actually mean many more will be killed.

People need to stop paying so much attention to what is happening in other countries like Syria, Turkey, and Lybia and start paying attention to what is happening here at home. Pay attention to what your hundreds of billions in tax dollars have been supporting……. Rigged studies to hide a horrendous avian mortality problem, rigged studies to hide cumulative impact to species, rigged studies to hide declining property values, rigged studies to hide the infra-sound problems, embellished energy projections, influential people paid off, rigged renewable portfolio standards, laws changed to help perpetuate their fraud, and millions suckered in with false hope. All of this for what will always be just a small supplement to the grid.

Jun 14, 2013 12:04pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Wiegand wrote:
A story was released in May about 68 Siemens wind turbines located in Norway. At this wind farm workers have found 49 eagles killed by the turbines. Only a fraction of the actual number killed were found because after being hit by turbine blades, mortality wounded eagles can wander for days before dying, they fall into the water and others are eaten by scavengers.

Jun 14, 2013 12:16pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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