Southeast Volusia Audubon Society, P.O. Box 46, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32170;   president@SEVolusiaAudubon.org


Wind Farms and Bird Kills




Recent mass bird kills by wind farms and the potential for more slaughter provided the impetus for the American Bird Conservancy recently to petition the Department of the Interior to create mandatory regulations to protect migratory birds at wind energy facilities. 


In response, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced plans to create a rule authorizing competitive leasing for wind and solar projects on the public land it administers on Dec. 29. The announcement states that before competitive leasing for wind projects could occur, the agency would designate wind energy development zones. According to the ABC, Wind energy development zones, if done right, could be helpful to both birds and wind energy development. Siting is the most important step in make wind energy bird-smart and American Bird Conservancy looks forward to participating in this rulemaking, to help ensure the BLM’s wind energy zones protect birds while encouraging well-sited wind energy development. BLM’s Federal Register Notice is available at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-12-29/html/2011-33429.htm and the agency is accepting public comments and suggestions about the proposed rulemaking until February 27, 2012.


In addition, in 2011, Audubon led an effort to foster better planning of electric power facilities by helping ensure that power producers, power grid planners, and state regulators would have the information they need in order to avoid environmentally sensitive lands. A year ago there were no concrete plans to develop the needed geospatial planning tools that could help this to happen. Today, that work is underway and on track for completion late in 2012, and Audubon is providing regular input as this work progresses.  Read more on Audubon’s efforts here.    To read more on Audubon’s wind policy and actions, read here. 


In November, Audubon investigated a recent bird kill of Blackpoll Warblers and other species at a windfacility in West Virginia operated by AES Wind Generation.  AES representatives told Audubon they have taken immediate corrective actions to curtail excessive night lighting, replace equipment with preferable downward-shielded lighting fixtures, and will modify other site specifications. They will increase monitoring and take additional steps to reduce or eliminate lighting the facility during migration seasons to avert future bird kills of this type.


Now, Audubon is in discussions with AES and others about sharing the lessons from this event with the broader wind industry and emphasizing the importance of the lighting practices in the forthcoming federal wind guidelines.


Meanwhile, plans to build a 32-turbine wind farm near the coast of Washington in a key breeding area for a     threatened seabird have been halted. The decision by Energy Northwest and three public utility districts was based on a softening of the wind power market and likely wind farm operating conditions that might have been suggested by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to ensure protection of the Marbled Murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus) – a bird whose population continues to decline despite being listed since 1992 as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. 

      

Marbled Murrelets live at sea but nest inland in mature forests where they lay a single egg and raise one chick per year. Each day, starting before dawn and continuing until after sunset, they make multiple trips between the ocean and the nest to feed the chick with freshly-caught small fish.  Loss of either parent typically means     the loss of both the parent bird and the chick, as well as the loss of a breeding season. Marbled Murrelet numbers along the west coast of the     lower 48 states have been declining at the rate of about four per cent per year for the last decade, about seven per cent per year in Washington where the project was proposed.  For more on this project, read here.


This is an important issue if we are to reduce our carbon footprint and have minimal impact on the environment.