Eastern North Carolina Wildlife and Habitat Risk Map for Land-Based Wind Energy
Released on March 7, 2013
As the Nation shifts to renewable energy production to decrease the need for carbon-based fuel, wind energy will be an important source of power. Today, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) released this map comparing levels of environmental risk associated with wind energy projects in North Carolina. The map focuses on the eastern part of the state because the highest interest in wind energy development is currently in this area.
The Service plans to provide a state-wide map in the near future. “With this map, we are making it easier for wind project developers to implement the voluntary Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines that were issued by the Department of the Interior on March, 23, 2012. Our aim is to give access to accurate, reliable and consistent information about wildlife, specifically species of concern and sensitive habitats. This map is a tool to enhance cooperation between the public and private sector through Geographic Information Systems (GIS),” said Pete Benjamin, Field Supervisor for the USFWS Raleigh Field Office in North Carolina. The map illustrates the Service’s estimation of the relative environmental risk to species of concern and sensitive habitats, and may inform a developer’s siting decision during early stages of planning.
The map provides information on areas where the Service has data related to species of concern and sensitive habitats, and allows the developer to predict a general level of effort for site assessment and characterization, before they submit documentation for the Service to review. Regardless of the level of environmental risk associated with a particular area, we always recommend baseline studies that ensure no known species of concern or sensitive habitats will be impacted by the project. If the initial evaluations reveal potential impacts to sensitive habitats or species of concern, further evaluations and studies would be recommended, explained Benjamin.
According to the Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines, environmental risks include direct impacts such as collisions with turbines and associated infrastructure, loss or degradation of habitat from turbines and infrastructure, fragmentation of habitat, displacement or behavioral changes, and indirect impacts like increased predator populations. The Service considers species of concern to be those that are rare, threatened or endangered, along with migratory birds, bats, and bald and golden eagles. Other areas identified in the map as high environmental risk include certain North Carolina Significant Natural Heritage Areas (SNHA), and areas documented as having high concentrations of migratory waterfowl. The North Carolina Raleigh Field Office intends to update the map on a regular basis, when new information becomes available. If you have any questions about the map, please contact Kathy Matthews or Doug Newcomb at 919-856-4520.