Julia Ponder, executive director of the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota, told Midwest Energy News that she knows of five cases of bald eagles being killed by wind turbines since the industry began. Meanwhile, in 2011 alone, the center received 29 eagles that had died from lead poisoning after feeding on deer gut piles left behind by hunters.
But when is the last time you saw the Heritage Foundation editorialize mournfully about all the bald eagles that die in order to accommodate deer hunting?
Threats to bald eagles and other birds are many and varied in our modern world, but it’s wind power that finds itself under the microscope these days. And a proposed U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rule change, which would extend permits for the incidental take – that’s killing or injuring – of golden eagles and bald eagles from five years to 30 years [PDF], is the latest flash point in the debate over wind power’s impact on wildlife.
The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) recently extended the comment period on the rule from mid-May to July 12, but it has already drawn plenty of interest. There was that post by the Heritage Foundation gang, and it’s not difficult to find additional opposition to the proposed rule that seems to be motivated more by a disdain for the Obama administration and its embrace of clean energy than concern for the birds.
Nevertheless, real conservationists who to one degree or another support wind power are also coming out against the 30-year proposal.
In a statement, the American Bird Conservancy’s Kelly Fuller called the rule change irresponsible. “Just three years ago, the FWS concluded in a published rulemaking that they shouldn’t grant permits for longer than five years ‘because factors may change over a longer period of time such that a take authorized much earlier would later be incompatible with the preservation of the bald eagle or the golden eagle,’” Fuller said. “The underlying science has not changed, and there is no proven method for fixing a wind farm so that it no longer kills eagles, short of turning off the turbines.”