Office of External Affairs
Mountain-Prairie Region

NEWS RELEASE

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Mountain-Prairie Region
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

November 16, 2010

Contact: Michael Bryant 605 487-7603

or e-mail: Michael_J_Bryant@fws.gov (subject: South Dakota Prairie Winds Project)

Service Releases Record of Decision on South Dakota Prairie Winds Project

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released its Record of Decision (ROD) on the South Dakota Prairie Winds Project.  The ROD is a public document prepared in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act.  It explains the Service’s decision to implement the Crow Lake Alternative (Preferred Alternative) as described in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). 

Under this alternative, the Service will release and relinquish certain easement rights for the construction, operation, and maintenance of the proposed wind energy generation facilities on lands in Aurora County and Brule Counties, South Dakota on which the Service holds a grassland easement for waterfowl habitat protection.  The easement is managed by the Service as part of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

The Service will implement the Crow Lake Alternative (Preferred Alternative) as described in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) issued in July 2010. The Service will release and relinquish certain easement rights on 25.65 acres of land protected by the grassland easement in exchange for easements of equal or greater habitat and monetary value on currently unprotected lands elsewhere.

The decision to select the Preferred Alternative is based on review and careful consideration of the analysis and impacts identified in the FEIS.

Under the Preferred Alternative, a portion of impacted Service lands will be exchanged in order to retain non-impacted land.

Other benefits of the Preferred Alternative include measures to minimize environmental harm including the protection of wetlands, as well as grassland-dependent wildlife, vegetation, cultural resources, and threatened and endangered species.

The Service also considered two other alternatives in the FEIS: the Winner Alternative which would involve the installation of wind turbines on 261 acres within an area of approximately 83,000 acres containing no Service easements; and the No Action Alternative where the Service would not partially release and relinquish its easement rights and wind turbines would be placed on lands not encumbered with Service easements, or the project would not be built.

Under the Winner Alternative, a partial term relinquishment from the Service would not be necessary because the project contains no Service easements. However, this alternative would result in greater overall habitat impacts, including impacts to the endangered American Burying Beetle, and therefore was not selected.

To review the Environmental Impact Statement, Record of Decision, and Federal Register Notice please visit the Service’s web site at:  http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/sdprairiewinds

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.

-FWS-