NWF Supports New Federal Wind-Wildlife Guidelines

Essential Framework Sets the Stage for Responsible Wind Energy by Reducing Pressure on Wildlife and Habitat in Pursuit of New Energy Solutions

03-23-2012 // Justin Allegro
Wind Farm, Minnesota

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) released the final version of its Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines to assist federal agencies, wind energy developers, and the public in avoiding and minimizing impact on wildlife and habitat when locating, designing and operating wind energy projects. The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) applauds the Service, who developed the voluntary guidelines from the consensus recommendations of a Federal Advisory Committee composed of wildlife organizations, state and federal wildlife managers, wildlife scientists, and wind energy developers.

Climate change poses an enormous threat to both the human environment and the earth’s biologic diversity, and for that reason, National Wildlife Federation is pursuing a rapid and responsible transition to clean energy,” says Justin Allegro, manager of the Renewable Energy and Wildlife Program at NWF. “However, poorly planned and designed wind energy activities can have significant adverse impacts to wildlife and habitats. This crucial framework will help lead to wind energy projects that wildlife advocates can feel good about in the short term, and avoid the types of bad projects that impede the growth of needed new energy solutions in the long term.”

At every stage of development, the guidelines are designed to provide wind developers a set of science-based questions to study and answer in coordination with state and federal wildlife managers. Thus, the guidelines create the best road map for knowing the risk of conflict with wildlife and habitat when making decisions about location, design and operation of wind energy facility. By encouraging voluntary adherence to these guidelines, the Service has found broad agreement between wind developers and wildlife advocates to provide benefits to species and habitat of conservation concern not protected under law, such as many bat species, non-migratory birds such as prairie chicken and sage grouse, and species not listed as federally threatened or endangered that are nonetheless at risk of habitat fragmentation.

“Avoiding impacts and coordinating with agency officials up-front is the best route for developers, as it will save them time and money by avoiding the public opposition, delays, and lawsuits associated with causing harm to wildlife,” Allegro noted. “The guidelines act as assurance to the developers that they’re taking the proper steps to avoid conflict with wildlife.”

As the guidelines begin to be implemented, NWF is advocating some key criteria for success:

  • Adequate budgets for the Service to train staff and efficiently implement the guidelines
  • A transparent approach to documenting adherence to the guidelines
  • The continued development of additional priority wind and wildlife research and tools
  • Evaluate a third-party certification process to verify guideline adherence
  • States and localities adopting these guidelines where appropriate in reviewing wind energy permit applications
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