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Energy | Environment

Wind Farm Applies for First Golden Eagle ‘Take Permit’

A golden eagle in flight.

A golden eagle in flight.

Flickr/Paul Wordingham

RICHLAND, Wash. – Central Oregon’s first proposed wind farm has applied for a permit to legally kill or disturb golden eagles (video).

Every year each wind turbine kills around two birds. That’s according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The proposed West Butte Wind Project (PDF) in Central Oregon will have 52 wind turbines. That’s about 104 birds killed yearly.

A new “take permit” would allow wind companies to kill, harass or disturb a limited number of golden eagles each year. These raptors are protected by the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. West Butte Wind Project is the first wind farm in the nation to apply for a golden eagle take permit.

If approved, the permit could allow the project to legally “take” three eagles over a five-year period. As a part of its Draft Environmental Assessment (PDF), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service predicted that over 20- to 30-years, the project may “take” anywhere from zero to 17 golden eagles.

golden eagle in flight
Golden Eagle in flight |

Michael Green is with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Division of Migratory Birds. He says the permit is a way to work with companies. They must follow through with conservation promises to maintain the permits.

“For golden eagles, it gives us some assurance – at least in theory – that there will be active management to maintain breeding eagle populations,” Green says.

For every bird that permitted companies kill, they must contribute to conservation efforts for breeding golden eagles.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has the goal of only allowing the mortality of golden eagles if the company comes up with compensatory mitigation to reassure us that they’ve avoided and minimized [harm to eagles] to the extent that they could,” Green says.

The permits are voluntary for wind farms. Those already constructed may retroactively apply for permits. Green says the permits will allow companies to produce wind energy without violating wildlife laws.

He says the permit also gives the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service a “foot in the door” to helping site wind farms.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is accepting public comments until Feb. 2 on the proposed golden eagle take permit.

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