Wildlife groups, wind industry meet on eagle permit rule

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“The meeting was another opportunity for us to voice our continued concerns with the proposal,” said Courtney Sexton, a spokeswoman with Defenders of Wildlife, in an email to The Hill. 

In addition to Defenders of Wildlife, officials from the Natural Resources Defense Council, Audubon Society and National Wildlife Federation attended the Aug. 28 meeting. 

Every year, hundreds of thousands of birds are killed when they fly into wind turbines. It’s unclear how many of them are bald and golden eagles, which are protected by federal law, but the Fish and Wildlife Service gives permits to projects with conservation plans that are nonetheless expected to unintentionally kill a small number of the eagles.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has developed a regulation that would extend the length of those permits from five years to 30. That rule is now under review at the Office of Management and Budget and should be released shortly.

Conservationists are worried that the extension would give wind farms too much of a license to kill protected birds and that researchers need to be allowed to develop better preservation methods.

Wind energy advocates, on the other hand, have supported the new rule.

They say that the possibility of longer permits would allow them to better plan their projects. Plus, they add, it would make permits for bald and golden eagles more like similar allowances granted to projects that incidentally kill endangered species.

“AWEA and the wind industry look forward to continuing to work with our partners in the conservation community to ensure that under the eagle permit process, which is available for all sources of human-caused eagle loss and not just wind energy, the conservation needs of bald and golden eagles are being met,” said John Anderson, the trade group’s director of siting policy, in a statement to The Hill.

Environmentalists and green energy groups alike have met with administration officials multiple times in recent weeks to weigh in on the rule.