Newsroom Midwest Region

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 14, 2016

Contact: Georgia Parham 812-334-4261 x 1203, Georgia_Parham@fws.gov

Draft Habitat Conservation Plan for Midwest Wind Energy Promotes Coordinated Industry Engagement in Conservation of At-Risk Species

Indiana bat. Photo by Georgia Parham/USFWS.
Indiana bat. Photo by Georgia Parham/USFWS.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) today released a draft plan to help ensure wind development does not contribute to the decline of species that already are impacted by threats such as disease and loss of habitat. The Draft Midwest Wind Energy Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) outlines measures for participating Midwest wind energy companies to follow to help reduce the nation’s carbon emissions and further sustainable energy independence while ensuring those efforts contribute to conserving protected bat and bird species.

The plan enables the Service to monitor and reduce “incidental take” of protected species caused by wind energy development and operation within an eight-state plan area, which includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin. Species covered by the plan include the Indiana, northern long-eared and little brown bats, as well as Kirtland’s warbler, interior least tern, bald eagle, and the Great Lakes and Great Plains populations of the piping plover.

Under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), it is illegal to “take” federally endangered or threatened species – even unintentionally – without a permit. Take includes killing, harming or harassing a listed species. HCPs are agreements between the Service and a landowner, private company or non-federal agency required under the ESA allowing them to undertake otherwise lawful activities on their property that may result in the incidental take of a federally endangered or threatened species. Permit applicants must avoid, minimize and mitigate all incidental take caused by their actions; the habitat conservation plan specifies how these activities will be carried out.

Currently, wind energy developers in the Midwest are applying for incidental take permits for individual facilities. A regional HCP would provide a more organized and effective conservation program by coordinating conservation and monitoring across states and large portions of the ranges of the covered species.

“As wind energy becomes increasingly available across the country, we are working with our partners to make it more compatible with wildlife conservation,” said Tom Melius, the Service’s Midwest Regional Director.  “This HCP brings wind developers together with us as partners in bat and bird conservation. This generates positive results for wildlife while enabling wind developers to continue operations that have significant economic benefits.”

When finalized, the Multi-Species HCP will authorize incidental take that results from wind energy development activities within the covered lands throughout the 45-year term of the plan. Approximately 18,000 megawatts of existing wind facilities and 33,000 megawatts of new wind development are proposed to be covered under the plan.  Measures to avoid and minimize incidental take include siting facilities away from important or high-use wildlife areas and adjusting turbine operations, in addition to several other avoidance and minimization measures.

“We encourage the public to become involved in the development of this HCP by providing information through the public comment period,” Melius said. “This will help us ensure we base the final plan on the best available data.”

The draft habitat conservation plan and draft environmental impact statement are available for review at www.midwestwindenergyhcpeis.org. Public comments will be accepted through July 14, 2016. Comments may be submitted by one of the following methods:

  1. Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter Docket No. FWS-R3-ES-2015-0033. You may submit a comment by clicking on “Comment Now!'' Please ensure that you have found the correct rulemaking before submitting your comment.

  2. By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Regional Director, Attn: Rick Amidon, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ecological Services, 5600 American Blvd. West, Suite 990, Bloomington, MN 55437–1458.

In your comment, please specify whether your comment addresses the draft multi-species HCP, the draft EIS, or both.

If you submit a comment via http://www.regulations.gov, your entire comment—including any personal identifying information—will be posted on the website. If you submit a comment that includes personal identifying information, you may request at the top of your document that we withhold this information from public review. However, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.

For more information about endangered species in the Midwest, go to www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered