Wildlife Concerns Associated with Wind Energy Development
Wind energy developments can harm wildlife and their habitat as a result of:
The Services' concerns may seem irrelevant in light of global climate change and the need for renewable energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, our concerns are two-fold. First, there are laws that protect wildlife. Wind developers and operators that harm or kill federally-protected willdife could be prosecuted under those laws. We want to work with developers to ensure that wildlife are protected and that developers and operators do not violate federal law.
Secondly, wildlife species that we are most concerned about are species that are declining and under threat from other sources. The magnitude and growth of the wind energy industry is great enough that the resulting mortality and habitat lost could have population-level effects on vulnerable wildlife. We believe that it is not necessary to choose between conserving vulnerable wildlife and developing wind energy. Instead, with smart planning and coordination we can do both.
Why Don't Bats Avoid Wind Turbines?
Listen to a Podcast
Wind Energy: A Scare for Birds and Bats USGS Podcast.
Several USGS scientists are investigating the problem of fatal bat and bird collisions with wind turbines. USGS scientist and bat specialist Dr. Paul Cryan at the Fort Collins Science Center chats with Juliette Wilson about whether we can have our wind turbines and healthy populations of bats and birds too.
Summary of Research Past and Future
Species of Concern
The Service estimates that wind turbines may kill a half a million birds a year. Most migratory birds are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act which prohibits the taking, killing, possessing, transporting, and importing of migratory birds, their eggs, parts, and nests, except as authorized under by permit.
Bald and Golden Eagles
Not all bird species are equally vulnerable to wind turbines. Eagles appear to be particularly susceptible. Large numbers of golden eagles have been killed by wind turbines in the western states. However, bald eagles have also been killed, although not in the numbers seen in the West. The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (Eagle Act) prohibits the take, possession, sale, offer to sell, purchase or barter, transport, export or import, of any bald or golden eagle, alive or dead, including any part, nest or egg, unless allowed by permit.
Wind facility operators can obtain a permit from the Service for the “take” of eagles that may occur while operating their facility. Go here to find out more about compliance with the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.
Threatened and Endangered Species
Federally threatened and endangered species are protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The ESA prohibits take of listed animals with the definition of “take” including harm, harassment, or killing. Currently, the primary federally-listed species affected by operation of wind energy facilities in the Midwest Region is the endangered Indiana bat. Other listed plants and animals, in addition to the Indiana bat may be harmed by the construction of the facilities and infrastructure.
The Service is available to assist wind energy project developers identify potential impacts to federally-listed species and means to avoid or minimize harm, therefore we should be contacted as early as possible in the company's planning process. The list of Service Ecological Service’s Field Offices in the Midwest is available at www.fws.gov/midwest/wind/contactus.html.
In addition, we recommend that project proponents use the Voluntary Land Based Wind Energy Guidelines to ensure early and efficient communication with all appropriate natural resource agencies. Go here for more information about compliance with the Endangered Species Act.