U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
in the Midwest

The Midwest Region includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin. Find a location near you.

The Midwest Region includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin.
Find a location or office
near you »

Wildlife Concerns Associated with Wind Energy Development

Wind turbines on a wooded hilltop.

Photo Courtesy of the National Renewable Energy Lab

Wind energy is an important source of renewable energy that helps reduce carbon emissions. Unfortunately the turbines and development of infrastructure can harm wildlife and their habitat. But it's not a choice between wind energy and harm to wildlife as long as wildlife impacts are considered and addressed.

The Services' 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 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 do not have to choose between conserving vulnerable wildlife and developing wind energy. Instead, with smart planning and coordination we can do both.

 

Species of Concern

Migratory Birds

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.

How wind developers and operaters can comply with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

 

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. 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.

Indiana Bat Fatalities at Wind Energy Facilities

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. Compliance with the Endangered Species Act. 

 

Why Don't Bats Avoid Wind Turbines?

Below are links to articles summaring some of the findings from studies researching bat mortality caused by wind turbines.

Bats get confused by wind turbines pretending to be trees University of Washington - Conservation This Week

Behavior of bats at wind turbines from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States

 

Summary of Research Past and Future

Bat Fatalities at Wind Turbines: Investigating the Causes and Consequences USGS

 

Indiana Bat

Indiana Bat Fatalities at Wind Energy Facilities

 


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