Date: 6/23/18 6:44 am From: Jeffrey Short <bashman...> Subject: FW: Greenwire: Die like an eagle? New data suggest more to the story
-----Original Message----- From: Bird conservation list for Department of Defense/Partners in Flight [mailto:<DODPIF-L...>] On Behalf Of Fischer, Richard A ERDC-RDE-EL-MS CIV Sent: Thursday, June 21, 2018 11:54 AM To: <DODPIF-L...> Subject: FW: Greenwire: Die like an eagle? New data suggest more to the story
Die like an eagle? New data suggest more to the story
Michael Doyle <Blockedhttps://www.eenews.net/staff/Michael_DoyleBlocked> , E&E News reporter
Published: Wednesday, June 20, 2018
The Fish and Wildlife Service said today it has better data to predict golden and bald eagle fatalities caused by wind turbines, potentially helping officials refine future permitting for wind facilities.
In a technical-sounding but consequential move <Blockedhttps://s3.amazonaws.com/public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2018- 13358.pdfBlocked> , the agency is asking for public suggestions on how the new information can best be used.
"The permitting system is all about how to reduce harm to eagles," spokesman Gavin Shire said in an interview, adding that "improved data will enable us to be more accurate" in permitting.
Current estimates <Blockedhttps://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/pdf/management/EagleRuleRevisions -StatusReport.pdfBlocked> peg the U.S. bald eagle population at about 143,000 and rising. The golden eagle population is estimated to be about 40,000.
Neither bird is listed under the Endangered Species Act, but they are covered under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and, to an extent, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The Trump administration's controversial interpretation of the latter excludes the "incidental take" such as might occur when a bird collides with a wind turbine (E&E News PM <Blockedhttps://www.eenews.net/eenewspm/stories/1060069811/Blocked> , Dec. 22, 2017).
Several hundred eagles die annually in wind turbine collisions, officials have estimated, though firm numbers are elusive.
"It is significant," Dan Ashe, a former director of FWS, said of the agency's new data and its potential permitting application. "It is the key modeling instrument that the FWS uses to predict the impact of a wind power project: How many eagles will potentially be killed?"
Ashe, now president and CEO of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, added, "It is also an update that we committed to do during the Obama administration."
Nationwide, there are more than 52,000 utility-scale wind turbines, according to the American Wind Energy Association.
The FWS uses a "collision risk model" to predict the number of golden and bald eagles that may be killed at new wind facilities. The model combines existing knowledge of eagle use areas around a proposed facility and the probability of an eagle colliding with an operating turbine.
The former is called exposure data, and the latter is called collision data.
When FWS last updated the risk model in 2016, officials lacked certain data specific to bald eagles, so they plugged in golden eagle data as a substitute.
Since then, the agency reviewed data sets for 419 wind energy facilities. Although not all of the information proved usable, officials said they could draw certain conclusions.
For both the golden and bald eagles, officials now believe the exposure to potential danger is lower than previously thought. The updated collision data are also "slightly lower" for golden eagles, FWS says.
For bald eagles, the updated collision data are a bit more complicated.
"Where bald eagles are abundant, they engage in social behaviors and intraspecific interactions that may make them more vulnerable than golden eagles to collisions," the FWS noted. "Thus, the implication that bald eagles are at high risk at a few wind facilities, while their risk is much lower at many others, is tenable."
At the same time, FWS acknowledged "that the bald eagle collision [information] is based on data from relatively few sites that do not span the range of bald eagle density conditions that exist across the country, and therefore may not be representative of all locations."
The agency is floating several options for incorporating the bald eagle information into the collision risk model. One would "adopt a risk-tolerant policy for bald eagles." Another "would use higher fatality estimates for bald eagles than for golden eagles," and a third would seek more information.
"It's too early to tell, but it's an important and welcome effort," said Lisa Hardaway, vice president for communications with the National Audubon Society. "We know that we can have both eagle conservation and wind energy and will keep working toward that goal."