A sophisticated avian radar system was installed in March on The Overland Trail Cattle Company ranch, and the system’s primary purpose is to collect data and insight into habitat uses and migration patterns of golden eagles. It also will be used to monitor and learn about other large raptors like bald eagles and hawks, as well as other avian and bat species.
The information collected will be used to help create a science-based Eagle Conservation Plan, an Avian Protection Plan and a Bat Protection Plan for PCW’s proposed Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Power Project, being designed to generate approximately 2,500 megawatts of clean, renewable energy. The monitoring program also will identify any areas of high eagle usage, which may then be considered when siting turbines and designing the Eagle Conservation Plan.
“Previous radar studies have not been specifically designed to detect and understand eagle use patterns, so this is one of the first applications of the technology,” said Garry Miller, PCW’s director of land and environmental affairs. “The data will supplement the extensive raptor information we’ve been gathering over the past year using traditional avian point count surveys, and it will further PCW’s goal to avoid, minimize and mitigate potential impacts to wildlife based upon best available science.”
Featuring technology originally developed by Florida-based DeTect Inc. for military applications, the MERLIN™ Avian Radar System is planned to operate 24 hours a day over the next 12 to 18 months on the Overland Trail Ranch. It was installed in compliance with protocols of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management.
Radar cannot differentiate between species, so the expert wildlife biologists who work for PCW – SWCA Environmental Consultants – are helping to “train” the radar to recognize when, for example, a golden eagle is flying by instead of a pair of hawks or ducks. Statistical analysis and computer modeling will be used thereafter to identify species based on size, flight patterns, speed and other variables.
PCW’s eagle and avian monitoring program complements its greater sage-grouse monitoring program, launched in April 2010. Fifty female sage-grouse have been tagged with lightweight GPS devices to gather scientific data and insight into seasonal habitat uses by the species. PCW also is supporting a new study of male sage-grouse in the Overland Trail Ranch area, led by scientists from the University of Missouri and conducted in collaboration with scientists from U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, Wyoming Game and Fish, and other entities.
PCW’s proposed wind energy project spans a combination of private land and federal land managed by Bureau of Land Management, therefore BLM is preparing an Environmental Impact Statement for the project, pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act. PCW filed an application for rights-of-way with BLM in January 2008, and the Draft EIS is anticipated to be published in 2011.
Power Company of Wyoming LLC is a wholly owned affiliate of The Anschutz Corporation, a privately held company based in Denver.