As mentioned earlier in these pages, wind farms and eagles don’t always go well together—the birds, which often scan the ground for prey instead of looking straight ahead while they’re flying, thus don’t see wind turbines until it’s too late. (It’s not just eagles, either; other bird and bat species also fall victim to the turbines.) Nevertheless, killing an eagle is a federal crime in the United States, and recently a wind energy company linked to eagle deaths settled with the federal government. Conservationists and birders cheered this development, but a new rule has many of them concerned again.

Last week, the President Obama’ administration announced a rule change that will allow wind energy companies to apply for 30-year permits to “take” Bald Eagles (like the one above photographed by Nate Swick) and Golden Eagles. Previously, permits were issued for five-year terms, and up until now no wind energy firm had obtained one. Companies awarded the longer-term permits must also report any eagle deaths linked to their operations and take preventive measures if the deaths exceed estimates. The companies will be audited on these aspects every five years, and authorities may suspend or revoke permits.

Not surprisingly, the conservation community was quick to express consternation. The National Audubon Society and American Bird Conservancy both issued press releases blasting the administration for the rule change. Both organizations hinted that they may consider legal challenges in an effort to stop the rule from being implemented.

Written by Meredith Mann
The lowly Red-winged Blackbirds in suburban New York triggered Meredith Mann's interest in birds. Five years later, she's explored some of the the USA's coolest hotspots, from Plum Island in Massachusetts to the Magic Hedge in Chicago to the deserts of Fallon, Nevada. She recently migrated from the Windy City (where she proudly served as a Chicago Bird Collision Monitor, rescuing migrants from skyscrapers and sidewalks) to Philadelphia, where she plans to find new editing and writing gigs; keep up her cool-finds chronicle, Blog5B; and discover which cheesesteak really is the best. And she will accept any and all invitations to bird Cape May, NJ.