In a recent media release, the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) has stated they will pursue legal action against The Department of Interior over recent permits that protect wind farms from the unintentional killing of bald and golden eagles.
The ABC sent the Department of Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service a “Notice of Intent to Sue” that cited violations of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. In addition, the new permit was passed “in the absence of any NEPA document or any ESA consultation regarding impacts.” According to the attorneys who are representing the ABC in the matter.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began distributing permits of protection from federal prosecution last December. The permits are good for 30 years of operation. This sets a new precedence considering the last form of such a permit only lasted five years.
In the press release, Michael Hutchins, National Coordinator of ABC’s Bird Smart Wind Energy Campaign stated, “Bald Eagle populations may be technically recovered, but their popularity and symbolic importance to our nation suggests that the American people are not going to tolerate the deaths of many” and “Much more needs to be known about (golden eagles’) status before the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can safely decide how many wind energy companies can kill with no net loss to the population”
Although the ABC is targeting wind energy currently, more popular forms of energy production are also harmful to our feathered friends. One example of this is Tailings ponds which are large bodies of mining waste and water. These toxic ponds have been known to kill hundreds of birds each year. According to researchers published in The Wilson Journal of Ornithology from 2010, between 458 and 5,029 birds die each year at the Bitumen Tailings Pond in northeastern Alberta alone.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service claims 33,000 birds are killed annually from wind turbine rotors. This is far lower than the 97+ million from building window collisions or the potential 40 million from communication towers. However, it is still a big enough number to leave one perplexed on why such a permit would come to be without any extensive study.
The lawsuit is not the ABC choosing fossil fuels over cleaner methods of energy production. In their Notice of Intent to Sue, the ABC does emphasize their favoring of the renewable energy industry. The document states that the ABC, “strongly supports wind power and other renewable energy projects when those projects are located in an appropriate, wildlife-friendly manner and when the impacts on birds and other wildlife have been conscientiously considered and addressed before irreversible actions are undertaken.”
ABC is being represented by the Washington, D.C. public interest law firm of Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal in the lawsuit.