Raptors, including Golden Eagles and Bald Eagles, are among the most vulnerable to wind turbine strikes and deserve special consideration. Although their eyesight is excellent, the birds often focus their attention on the ground, looking for prey, and can be injured or killed by the rapidly revolving blades. More than 2,000 Golden Eagles have been documented as killed at the infamous Altamont Wind Energy Project in California.
Eagle populations in the United States have recovered following a ban on the pesticide DDT, although not to the levels seen before DDT use was prevalent. However, both Bald and Golden Eagles are still protected by federal law under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA) and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). It is unlawful to kill, disturb, or otherwise harass eagles, yet many have been killed by wind energy projects.
In order to protect eagles, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) developed Eagle Conservation Plan Guidance for wind energy companies. This plan intends to protect eagles from wind energy development by limiting the number of eagles that can be legally killed by any given wind energy facility and by considering cumulative impact. Under this system, wind energy companies can obtain incidental take permits to kill a limited number of eagles, with the stated goal being no net loss to eagle populations.It is unlawful to kill, disturb, or otherwise harass eagles, yet many have been killed by wind energy projects. Click To Tweet
30-Year Eagle Take Rule
At the insistence of the wind energy industry, FWS decided to extend its incidental take permit from five to 30 years. In making this controversial decision, the FWS claimed a categorical exclusion from the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), stating that the change was merely administrative in nature.
ABC disagreed and filed suit in federal court in San Francisco in 2014, claiming that FWS violated both NEPA and BGEPA by failing to go through the NEPA process before finalizing this regulatory change. NEPA requires careful analysis and public comment before implementing new rules and regulations that have the potential to impact the environment, including federally-protected species.
FWS also failed to consult with Native American tribes before implementing this rule, which is also required by law. The confederated tribes of Arizona have filed an amicus brief supporting ABC’s lawsuit and describing their cultural interest in eagles and eagle conservation.
ABC recently won its court battle to reduce the take to five years!The American Bird Conservatory fought the Fish & Wildlife Service and won — protecting the eagle population. Click To Tweet
Bald Eagles in Alaska
Here is a beautiful video of the bald eagles of Sitka, Alaska, shot by nature cinematographer David Rice. It really showcases why it’s important to save these incredible birds.Here is a beautiful video of the bald eagles of Sitka, Alaska, shot by nature cinematographer David Rice. Click To Tweet
Broken Wing: Birds, Blades and Broken Promises, an incredible account of the broken promises of the wind industry, is available now as a Kindle ebook on Amazon. Fight big wind! Read this book now to find out what more you can do to fight big wind and save more birds.