The Canadian Peregrine Foundation

Wind Turbines - Wind Energy Regulations Needed to Protect Birds
June, 2007
Bird Conservation News Stories

Bird protection measures should become mandatory for wind energy projects because voluntary steps are being ignored by the wind energy industry. This was the message delivered by ABC's Dr. Michael Fry at a hearing before the House Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, and Oceans. Dr. Fry testified that, “Voluntary efforts to address the impacts of wind projects on birds and wildlife have been a failure. There has been much discussion and almost no real action on the part of the wind industry to resolve bird collision issues.”

According to the National Wind Coordinating Committee, wind energy projects are already killing between 30,000 and 60,000 birds per year, including Golden Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks, Burrowing Owls, Mourning Doves, and over 50 species of migratory songbirds. Given the projected growth rate of the wind industry, between 900,000 and 1.8 million birds could be killed each year by wind turbines by 2030 unless protective measures are implemented.

With proper siting, operation, and monitoring, wind energy can provide clean, renewable energy for America 's future with minimal impacts to birds and bats. ABC emphasizes that before approval is given for the construction of new wind energy projects, potential risks to birds and bats should be evaluated through site analyses, including assessments of bird and bat abundance, timing and magnitude of migration, and habitat use patterns.

Wind energy project location, design, operation, and lighting should be carefully evaluated to prevent, or at least minimize, bird and bat mortality and adverse impacts through habitat fragmentation, disturbance, and site avoidance. Sites requiring special scrutiny include areas that are frequented by federally-listed endangered species, known bird migration pathways, places where birds are highly concentrated, and locations that have landscape features known to attract large numbers of raptors. Once in operation, monitoring for migrating birds should be ongoing and facilities should be temporarily turned off to avoid major impacts.

Energy legislation sponsored by West Virginia Representative Nick Rahall, Chairman of the House Resources Committee, included language that would require the wind energy industry to avoid or minimize the impacts to birds in the siting, construction, and operation of wind energy facilities. American Bird Conservancy supports the intent of this language and appreciates Chairman Rahall's thoughtful leadership to address this growing problem.

An amendment effectively weakening Chairman Rahall's bill was offered by Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) and approved in committee. The amendment requires the creation of an advisory committee to examine the industry and its effects on wildlife and habitat. It also directs the Department of Interior to develop "guidance to avoid and minimize impacts to wildlife and their habitats related to land-based wind energy facilities." While Rep. Markey's language is a step in the right direction, it falls short of what is really needed.

Chairman Rahall had it right by offering balanced guidelines that protected wildlife while allowing the continued growth of wind energy. ABC continues to support this approach and will be encouraging the U.S. Senate to adopt these important reforms.

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