Pacific Southwest Region
California, Nevada and Klamath Basin

Service Seek Information on Eagle Deaths at Tehachapi Range Wind Farms

Mar 11, 2013

March 11, 2013 

Contacts: Scott Flaherty, 916-978-6156
scott_flaherty@fws.gov
Special Agent in Charge Jill Birchell 916-414-6660
jill_birchell@fws.gov 

 

 Service Seeks Information on Eagle Deaths at Tehachapi Range Wind Farms

SACRAMENTO - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is asking for the public’s assistance as it investigates the recent death of a golden eagle at the North Sky River wind farm in Kern County, California.  The golden eagle was discovered January 29 near a wind turbine belonging to the wind farm, located approximately 12 miles northeast of the City of Tehachapi, California.

“We are asking individuals as well as wind energy companies with information or knowledge about the death of eagles that may have been killed due to contact with wind turbines, to contact us,” said Jill Birchell, special agent in charge of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement for California and Nevada.  

The Fish and Wildlife Service is the federal agency responsible for enforcing the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA), the federal law that prohibits the take (killing or disturbing) of eagles without a permit. Violations of the law, which includes possession, sale, purchase or transport of eagles, eagle parts, eggs or nests, carry a maximum $100,000 criminal fine and one year imprisonment for individuals and $200,000 for organizations.  BGEPA also provides for up to a $2,500 reward for persons providing information which leads to a conviction.

The law authorizes the Service to issue permits to take bald eagles and golden eagles or their nests, only when the take is incidental to a lawful activity and cannot practicably be avoided. For renewable energy projects, permits may be issued for recurring take over a specified period of time up to five years. In April 2012, the Service proposed a rule allowing permits to be issued up to 30 years; however, that rule has not yet been finalized. Programmatic take permits may be issued to entities, such as wind energy companies, only after the entity demonstrates that it is employing the best, scientifically supportable techniques to reduce eagle disturbance and mortalities to a level where remaining take is unavoidable.  Permits are issued only when the unavoidable take of eagles is compatible with the Service’s eagle conservation goals.

In March 2012, the Department of the Interior issued onshore wind energy guidelines it had developed with significant input with the wind energy industry. The guidelines are designed to help wind energy project developers assess site-specific risks to federally-protected birds and bats.  In California, the Service is currently working with four wind energy companies and one federally recognized Tribe to develop eagle conservation plans that will serve as the basis for an application to take eagles.  (TerraGen, EDF Renewable Energy, Alta Gas Renewable Energy Pacific, Inc., Renewable Energy Systems Americas, Inc. and the Campo Band of Mission Indians.)  No permits have been issued to a wind energy company operating in the core Tehachapi range wind area.

“Un-permitted take of eagles is the illegal take of eagles,” Birchell said. “We want power companies or any company involved in planning to build wind generation facilities in the Tehachapi range, where a significant golden eagle population exists, to contact the Service well in advance of construction and work with our biologists to develop conservation plans that will avoid take of eagles to the extent practical and serve as the basis for an application to lawfully take eagles for companies who proceed with wind development in this area.”

Anyone with information regarding eagle deaths can contact the Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement in Sacramento at 916-569-8444 or lawenforcement@fws.gov.

More information about the Fish and Wildlife Service’s role in renewable energy development in California and Nevada is available at: www.fws.gov/cno/energy.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov/cno . Connect with us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/usfwspacificsouthwest,on Twitter at www.twitter.com/USFWSPacSWest, on YouTube at www.youtube.com/usfws  and download photos from collections on Flickr at www.flickr.com/photos/usfws_pacificsw

-FWS-