Ethanol production hurting some grassland bird populations, study finds

Government incentives for corn-based ethanol have prompted farmers to convert land for corn production, hurting some grassland bird populations in the prairie pothole region

01-13-2010 // Dennis Lien - St. Paul Pioneer Press

The study, conducted for the National Wildlife Federation by a team of graduate students, analyzes current and potential impacts of corn ethanol production on wildlife and habitat in Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

It shows grassland being turned into cropland at an alarming rate, according to Greg Fogel, the study's co-author.

"As a result, populations of sensitive wildlife species are declining significantly in areas with high increases in corn plantings," he said in a statement.

The report said the nation's ethanol production has tripled since the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which mandated a large increase in domestic ethanol production. In addition, it said federal legislation in 2007 requires corn ethanol production to increase from 10.6 billion gallons last year to 15 billion gallons in 2015. The report found 31 federal incentives and mandates to encourage ethanol production.

When researchers looked at the relationship between corn plantings and grassland bird populations, they found that counties with big increases in corn plantings showed marked declines in five particularly sensitive grassland bird species between 2005 and 2008. Read full article...