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Wind farm bald eagles may be injured or killed without penalty

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Wind farm bald eagles may be injured or killed without penalty, according to a new decision announced by federal officials on Dec. 6, 2013. The LA Times reported, "…some wind power companies will be allowed to kill or injure bald and golden eagles for up to 30 years without penalty."

The decision by the Obama administration is not a free pass for wind farms to maim and kill bald eagles. On the contrary, wind farms "…have to document all of the different ways you'll preserve the eagles. You'll be checked on every five years. Even then, if more eagles are dying than you expected, you have to do more things or lose your permit," vice president of public affairs for the American Wind Energy Association Peter Kelley said.

Kelly claimed that the new regulations would actually "increase the protection of eagles and will help develop more wind farms, a leading solution to climate change, which is the No.1 threat to all eagles and all wildlife."

In addition, permits that allow wind farms to injure or kill bald eagles would last a maximum of 30 years. Only "applicants who commit to adaptive management measures to ensure the preservation of eagles" would be eligible for a permit the Interior Department said.

Permits that allow the "taking" of federally protected golden eagles and bald eagles were first issued by the federal Fish and Wildlife Service in 2009. However, the permits were only good for up to five years, unlike the new permits that may be good for three decades. In this case, "taking" is a euphemism for injuring and killing the birds.

The American Wind Energy Association blog outlined some key facts about the new eagle permit rule. John M. Anderson Director of Siting Policy for the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) explained:

It is important to understand that the eagle "take" permit is not new and was not developed for nor is it specific to the wind industry, but rather is available to all sources of human-caused eagle mortality including oil and gas exploration and production, mining, military bases, airports, cell towers, utility lines, etc.

Anderson further pointed out that the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act became law decades earlier. The act initially sanctioned the issuance of permits although the permit program was not formalized until the 2009 Eagle Permit Rule.

In the video at the left-hand side of the page, a majestic bald eagle flies high above the French Alps with a camera strapped to his back, giving the viewer a literal bird's eye view from the vantage point of one of these protected birds. The video also identifies interesting facts about the bald eagle:

  • An eagle's wing span ranges from 72 to 90 inches.
  • Eagles have excellent vision.
  • An eagle's beak, talons, and feathers are all made of keratin.
  • Eagles are strong swimmers.
  • Eagles mate for life.

Should a permit allow wind farms to injure and kill bald eagles? Apparently the the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service thinks so.

More reading: AWEA Statement on U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's Eagle Permit Tenure Rule AWEA reacts to USFWS eagle permit ruling

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