The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) issued the following statement reacting to the release of the final eagle permit rule from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS):
“Though we’re reserving judgment until we fully digest the rule, we strongly support its core purpose — eagle conservation,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). “We hope the final rule provides a workable permitting framework that gives the private sector necessary clarity, while further reducing the already minimal impact the wind industry has, and maintaining healthy eagle populations for generations to come.”
The eagle take permit program was originally proposed in 2007 under the administration of George W. Bush, and was not designed with the wind industry in mind, or any other industry. It was developed in anticipation of delisting of the bald eagle under the Endangered Species Act, given that resulted in take permits no longer being available under the ESA. The bald eagle was delisted in August 2007, the first eagle permit rule was finalized in 2009.
The eagle permitting program is intended to reduce harm to bald and golden eagles from any unintentional source by setting very conservative limits to impacts on eagles and requiring permit applicants to submit conservation plans that offset any such impacts. In the case of golden eagles, permittees must even go beyond offsetting any potential impacts and actually provide a net conservation benefit to the species. In short, through the issuance of permits, eagles realize a conservation benefit that helps to ensure the continued stability and growth of their populations.
The truth is thousands of eagles die every year for a variety of reasons — most from natural causes. The vast majority of human-caused eagle deaths result from intentional poisoning and shooting, as well as collisions with cars and buildings—many of which are unpermitted and, therefore, do not provide conservation benefits to eagles.
In fact, more than 90 percent of wind farms do not harm any eagles at all. And, of the limited number that do have any impacts, the majority of them only take a single eagle over the life of the project (30 or more years). An examination of publicly available data of all known eagle fatalities shows collisions with wind turbines at modern wind farms is responsible for less than three percent of all documented human-caused golden eagle deaths. Impacts on bald eagles are even rarer; indeed, there are only a handful of documented bald eagle fatalities in the entire history of the U.S. wind industry.
However, even though impacts to both eagle species are very limited, this is an issue the wind industry takes seriously and works hard to address. For instance, a couple of wind projects that were sited decades ago (mainly in California), using older generation turbine technology that has a greater impact on eagles, and the wind industry has been actively replacing these with modern technology in order to reduce impacts by as much as 80 percent.
Building on our legacy of care, the U.S. wind energy industry will continue to proactively work to avoid and minimize the limited impacts it may have on eagles, and will continue to do so.