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.