GREEN RIVER - The eighth season of raptor migration research at Commissary Ridge in Lincoln County begins Friday, officials with HawkWatch International said.
For the first time since the raptor counts began in 2002, HawkWatch officials will offer a "citizen's science" project this fall, which allows area residents to participate in the raptor count.
Birders, hikers, nature lovers and others are welcome to visit the group's observation station on Commissary Ridge -- located about 25 miles north of Kemmerer in southwest Wyoming -- where seasonal volunteers count birds during their annual southern migration.
HawkWatch membership and public relations coordinator Nikki Price said the organization will host groups of area residents during weekends and let them spend time assisting the survey crews and counts.
Established three decades ago, the Salt Lake City-based HawkWatch International is widely recognized as a pioneer and leader in raptor monitoring research in western North America.
The group coordinates one of the world's most extensive networks of long-term, standardized, full-season raptor counts each year. The nonprofit organization operates 13 raptor migration research sites in seven states in the western United States and in Veracruz, Mexico.
HawkWatch's mission is to help develop and maintain scientifically robust, long-term monitoring programs for North American raptors.
Raptors, HawkWatch officials contend, are an essential part of a healthy, functioning ecosystem and good indicators of an ecosystem's health.
Price said the valuable data HawkWatch collects each year can be used to help government entities and other agencies make decisions about wind power development and the siting of transmission lines, including the proposed Gateway West project that could cut across Commissary Ridge.
Price said this year's raptor surveys are particularly important in the wake of PacifiCorp's and Idaho Power's joint, $2 billion Gateway West transmission line project.
The companies are proposing to construct and operate 230- and 500-kilowatt transmission lines that would run approximately 1,150 miles from a substation near the Dave Johnston Power Plant at Glenrock to a substation near Melba, Idaho.
The Bureau of Land Management plans to release a draft environmental impact statement naming a preferred route for the project later this year.
Gov. Dave Freudenthal and state energy officials hope the preferred route will follow the existing transmission line corridor from the Jim Bridger Power Plant near Rock Springs
A proposed northern route that would cut across Commissary Ridge was met with fierce opposition from Kemmerer-area residents during a governor-hosted town meeting on June 17.
The Lincoln County observation station was built after exploratory surveys on Commissary Ridge in 2000 revealed concentrations of raptors HawkWatch scientists felt were worthy of additional attention.
In 2002, the group established its observation post along the primary migration route used by birds of prey within the Rocky Mountain Flyway.
HawkWatch scientists said with a steady wind, eagles, hawks and falcons migrating south tend to fly along Commissary Ridge within sight of the observation station.
Price said the Commissary Ridge count will run through Nov. 15. She said peak raptor migration occurs around the end of September or beginning of October.
Contact southwest Wyoming bureau reporter Jeff Gearino at (307) 875-5359 or email@example.com
On the Web
More information and driving directions to the survey site can be found on the HawkWatch website at www.hawkwatch.org.