U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, AWEA, Wind Farm Developers Sign Agreement to Promote Endangered Species Conservation

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and wind energy industry companies, along with AWEA, have signed a memorandum of understanding pledging to work together to develop a wind energy habitat conservation plan for the Service’s Midwest Region. Such a plan would outline measures to conserve threatened and endangered species that may be affected by wind power facilities in eight Midwestern states.

A multi]species, regional HCP approved by the Service would include measures for long]term conservation of federally endangered Indiana bats and members of other protected species that may be incidentally harmed or killed by wind turbines or other activities associated with construction and operation of wind energy facilities. The plan would apply to the activities of cooperating companies in Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.

“I believe this positive step will help the Service proceed on a scientifically sound basis to pursue the conservation of endangered species and facilitate the development of a renewable energy source at the same time,” said Tom Melius, the Service’s Midwest Regional Director.

”It is the industry’s expectation that development of the regional HCP will streamline the permitting process, allowing effective conservation of wildlife and easing the Service’s administrative burden, while also allowing for more wind energy to be deployed nationally. This is a shining example of how industry, the Service, states and other stakeholders can work collaboratively to develop an overall conservation strategy that is in the best interest of the affected species,” said John Anderson, AWEA’s Director of Siting Policy.

Under the HCP, wind farm developers will acquire an Incidental Take Permit, which will exempt otherwise lawful activities (i.e., construction and operation of a wind energy facility) from the prohibition of take under the Endangered Species Act. Take, under the ESA, means harming, harassing, or killing endangered or threatened species.

“This is a good opportunity for Indiana and other states to be part of the solution when it comes to making wind energy development work effectively and efficiently for all involved – natural resources, the economy and energy users,” said Indiana Department of Natural Resources Director Robert E. Carter Jr.

The Service has awarded states in the Service’s Midwest Region an Endangered Species Act grant of $3,362,364 to develop a broadly constructed HCP designed to address the potential impacts of wind energy. The wind turbines industry’s commitment to provide the required 10 percent matching funding will help facilitate development of the plan.

The Conservation Fund, an environmental nonprofit, will lead the strategic conservation work accompanying the HCP. “America is poised to make wind a key part of our energy infrastructure, and we are excited to lead the way in partnership with the Service, Midwestern states and the forward]thinking companies of AWEA," said Larry Selzer, president and CEO of The Conservation Fund, a frequent mitigation partner. "Together, we can develop renewable solutions that keep our wildlife habitat healthy and our country moving forward."

In the coming months, the wind industry applicants will begin the selection process for the ESA technical contractor and work with the Service and states to develop the HCP.