CLC Urges Greater Protections for Birds and Bats From Wind Turbines in the Midwest

Written by Peter Murrey

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The CLC is continuing its efforts to promote responsible wind energy development. Wind turbines can kill many birds and bats, including federally protected species, and can destroy important wildlife habitat. Properly locating and operating turbines can drastically reduce these deaths. CLC attorneys submitted comments on a proposed multi-state wind power plan urging increased protections for birds and bats impacted by the proposed action. We collaborated with American Bird Conservancy, the Black Swamp Bird Observatory, and Union Neighbors United.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed to authorize future and existing wind energy facilities across eight Midwestern states to kill seven protected species: the Indiana bat, northern long-eared bat, little brown bat*, Kirtland’s warbler, piping plover, least tern, and bald eagle. This plan, called the Midwest Wind Energy Multispecies Habitat Conservation Plan (MWE), will govern much of the wind energy development in the Midwest for the next 45 years. The MWE proposes to authorize take of birds and bats from wind development outside certain important bird and bat habitat on the condition that developers implement operational restrictions and compensate for take that occurs.

CLC pointed out many flaws with the proposed plan including:

1. Like in the Indiana bat litigation currently before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the FWS failed to assess whether alternatives with fewer impacts to endangered species were feasible. Instead, the MWE grants developers their say that more can’t be done to protect birds and bats.

2. FWS authorized hundreds of thousands more deaths of protected bats than the agency projected would occur with the MWE’s minimization measures, ignoring science FWS has used in the past.

3. The MWE authorizes take in habitats with high concentrations of migratory birds and bats that are often killed by wind turbines.

4. The MWE’s adaptive management provisions impermissibly allow industry to decide what steps it will take in response to excessive take and even allow for increases in take as a form of adaptive management.

5. The MWE only provides public input at this stage, ignoring the crucial role public comments plays when locating and permitting individual wind facilities.

6. The MWE should include protections for more species such as sprague's pipet and golden-winged warbler.

We plan to follow this proposal closely to ensure birds and bats in the Midwest are adequately protected.

The CLC strongly believes wind energy can coexist with birds and bats, but only with responsible oversight.

You can read the full comments here.

* Little brown bat is technically not federally protected.