11 Jan. 2012
To: the Director, US Fish & Wildlife Service.
Re: West Butte Wind Power LLC application for a take permit of golden eagles, in connection with the erection of 52 industrial wind turbines in Oregon’s Deschutes and Crook Counties.
Dear Sir or Madam,
Save the Eagles International (STEI) wish to express their most categorical opposition to the deliverance of “take permits” concerning golden eagles. Contrary to the conclusions of unreliable studies financed by the very people who benefit from windfarm development, the population of golden eagles (GE) in the Western United States is on the decline. Wind farms are the main cause. The issuing of take permits, i.e. licenses to kill, will accelerate the GE decline towards extinction. All the more because the number of eagles actually killed cannot be effectively monitored, when it is known that windfarm employees dispose illegally of eagle and other embarrassing carcasses.
At the large wind farm of Altamont Pass, California, 116 golden eagles have been reported to be killed by turbine blades yearly. This was established by a comprehensive study realized by Dr Smallwood in 2004 (1). Extrapolating to the 25 years of existence of the wind farm, this would represent a toll of about 2,900 golden eagles. Adding to this the mortality at other wind farms in the Western United States (2), it is clearly unsustainable. Indeed, recent studies have reported an apparent decline of the GE population at two different places in California (3), and the number of active nests in the vicinity of Altamont Pass has declined considerably (4).
The Altamont Pass wind farm should have been closed down and decommissioned a long time ago. But pork-barrel politics have kept it in operation, and now the authorities are minded to authorize its continuation for another 25 years through repowering. Old wind turbines are to be replaced by much bigger ones, which are reported to kill twice as many eagles per megawatt (5). There will be less of them, but the total area swept by their blades will be much larger. So the carnage of eagles is likely to increase, notwithstanding biased studies pretending fewer birds will die. All other things being equal, if as reported a) the new turbines kill twice as many eagles per MW, and b) the wind farm’s rated capacity is also to be doubled, “repowered” Altamont could be killing 4 times as many golden eagles as with the old turbines.
More wind farms are being built in GE habitat, to wit the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre wind project in Wyoming, which could kill as many as 700 raptors a year, including 200 golden eagles, according to HawkWatch International, a Salt Lake City-based nonprofit group dedicated to monitoring and protecting birds of prey.
In such a disastrous context for the species, it boggles the mind that the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) would issue golden eagle take permits to windfarm operators, including before the projects are built. We firmly condemn the perversion which has illegally but effectively transformed the mission of FWS from one of preserving biodiversity to that of catering to the interests of an industry, an ineffective and ruinous one to boot.
STEI solemnly warns the FWS that their biologically-blind policy will cause the extinction of the Golden Eagle, the California Condor, and other species of raptors in the Western States. But considering that in the Eastern and Central States your agency is not acting any better, it is biodiversity in the whole of the contiguous 48 States which is in peril, including other species such as the Whooping Crane. No amount of bad science financed by the wind industry and government agencies has been able to convince honest conservationists that wind farms don’t harm bird and bat populations. They do.
President, Save the Eagles International
(1) – Page 73, Table 3-11: Species/Taxonomic group: Golden eagle
Mortality per year:
– adjusted for search detection: 75.6
– adjusted for search detection and scavenging: 116.5
DEVELOPING METHODS TO REDUCE BIRD MORTALITY IN THE ALTAMONT
PASS WIND RESOURCE AREA – Shawn Smallwood & Carl Thelander (2004) – for the California Energy Commission.
(2) – Examples of golden eagles found dead at other Western US wind farms:
- “Federal authorities are investigating the deaths of at least six golden eagles at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s Pine Tree Wind Project in the Tehachapi Mountains, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Tuesday.”
- “So far this year, for Rocky Mountain Power’s 13 projects, there have been six eagle deaths, most of them golden eagles, Talmann said.”
This is only the tip of the iceberg, because much of the evidence is made to disappear.
And this is a prediction from Wyoming: “The group predicted more than 700 raptor deaths at the project per year, including more than 200 golden eagles.” See (7) below.
(3) – “The (Ocotillo) EIR (environmental impact report) states “The golden eagle population appears to be declining”. http://savetheeaglesinternational.org/?page_id=629
– “Differences in detections (at Altamont Pass) over the last decade included an apparent 56 percent decrease in golden eagles.” RANGE MANAGEMENT PRACTICES TO REDUCE WIND TURBINE IMPACTS ON BURROWING OWLS AND OTHER RAPTORS IN THE ALTAMONT PASS WIND RESOURCE AREA, CALIFORNIA – California Energy Commision, PIER Final Project Report – Dr Smallwood et al. (October 2009)
(4) – Personal comments of Jim Wiegand, California raptor specialist, VP USA STEI, and Brian Murphy*, Board member, Mount Diablo Audubon Society.
* tel: 1-925-937-8835
(5) – Wind turbines with a capacity of 1MW, wrote Dr Smallwood, kill more golden eagles per megawatt than most other wind turbine categories: 0.08 per MW /year as compared to about 0.04. Thus, all other things being equal, and considering that its rated capacity is also to be doubled, “repowered” Altamont could be killing 4 times as many golden eagles as with the old turbines.
page 41, table 5
(6) – Wyoming: “That means the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre wind project could kill 120 raptors a year, including 36 golden eagles. That’s a far lower number than an estimate produced by HawkWatch International, a Salt Lake City-based nonprofit group dedicated to monitoring and protecting birds of prey. The group predicted more than 700 raptor deaths at the project per year, including more than 200 golden eagles.”