Eagle deaths at a wind farm south of Glenrock are estimated to be low, just five golden eagles and one bald eagle over five years, according to a draft environmental assessment recently released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
A persistent frustration from those who oppose wind in Wyoming — or at least have doubts about how wind is developed in the state — is its impact on birds, particularly eagles and other raptors.
One part of that picture are eagle-take permits offered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It’s illegal to kill a bald eagle, but wind developers can work with the service to obtain a permit that essentially allows companies to kill a certain number of eagles. The trade-off is that the company must also mitigate for that likelihood before, during and after construction.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s drafty study of the 46-turbine Pioneer Wind Park east of Casper anticipates eagle mortality to be much lower than some of the larger wind farms in the area. Once finalized, the environmental assessment would allow six eagle deaths over the next five years. The company’s mitigation includes retrofitting power poles to reduce eagle deaths.
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The Pioneer farm faced considerable pushback from a landowners group, the Northern Laramie Range Alliance. The group’s efforts helped reduce the number of turbines for Pioneer, which is part of why the anticipated “take” of raptors is so low.
Some turbines were initially planned near a ridge that was a popular area for raptors due to the strong updraft, said Brian Smith, migratory bird specialist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Locals have long awaited the eagle-take permit information — Pioneer applied two years ago — but note frustration that the draft environmental assessment does not include the number of collected carcasses of killed birds at the wind farm. That data would allow locals a better chance to respond to the environmental assessment, some argue.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will hold a public meeting on the draft EA for Pioneer at 5:30 p.m. on October 16 at Glenrock Public Library.
Follow energy reporter Heather Richards on Twitter @hroxaner