We just gotta’ kill eagles to save ’em

That’s the argument Mr. Robert Bryce hears presented to him to support the idea that it’s acceptable for wind farms to off eagles.  It seems the reduction of carbon dioxide from the slice-and-dice operation will benefit eagles and all wildlife so it is okay to set up wind farms.

He explains the fallacy of the argument in an article in the Wall Street Journal – Fighting Climate Change by Killing Eagles.

Mr. Bryce says the carbon reduction from wind farms…

is equivalent to a baby’s burp in a hurricane

The article cites stats that wind energy reduced CO2 emissions by 80M tons in 2012. Global emissions that year were 34,500M tons. That would be a whopping one-fifth of one percent (0.23% if you prefer precision).

Total global output from wind turbines are less than the annual increase in coal consumption for each of the last 10 years. Just to offset increased coal use would require additional turbine construction every year equal to the total number of turbines currently in place. Imagine how many raptors that would kill.

That baby’s burp illustration looks like a good comparison.

Official permission to kill eagles

He cites a Fish and Wildlife Service request for public comment on a proposal which would give official permission to the Shiloh IV Wind Project in California to kill up to five golden eagles a year for five years.

Mitigation? Not likely.

Oh, you’ve heard the argument that mitigation at slice-and-dice farms can reduce the casualty count from the turbines? Turns out that’s false.

Mr. Bryce reports a Fish and Wildlife Service report which said

..there are no conservation measures that have been scientifically shown to reduce eagle disturbance and blade-strike mortality at wind projects.

You can find one report making that comment here: http://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/PDFs/Eagle%20Conservation%20Plan%20Guidance-Module%201.pdf

That is the Eagle Conservation Plan Guidance, version 2. It says:

Because the best information currently available indicates there are no conservation measures that have been scientifically shown to reduce eagle disturbance and blade?strike mortality at wind projects, the Service has not currently approved any ACPs for wind energy projects.

ACP means Advanced Conservation Practice, which if implemented can be used to offset the expect fatalities caused by an activity.

That means there are no validated, acceptable means to reduce slice-and-dice takings (take is the technical word for many categories of harming animals which also includes killing them).

I barely have a beginner’s understand of these issues, but was able to put together a few details. On page iv, the FWS considers the upper limit of acceptable takings to be

…take rates of between 1 and 5 percent of the total estimated local?area eagle population as significant, with 5 percent being at the upper end of what might be appropriate under the BGEPA preservation standard, whether offset by compensatory mitigation or not.

Further expanding this acceptable take rate is Appendix F which says

…the Service identified annual take levels of 5% of annual production to be sustainable for a range of healthy raptor populations, and annual take levels of 1% of annual production as a relatively benign harvest rate over at least short intervals when population status was uncertain.

So, that means it is okay to take out up to 5% of each species of eagles around a wind farm for each year the turbines are in operation.

The wind farms can get credit for their other efforts to reduce raptor fatalities.

How? From page v:

Examples of compensatory mitigation activities might include retrofitting power lines to reduce eagle electrocutions, removing road?killed animals along roads where vehicles hit and kill scavenging eagles, or increasing prey availability.

I think that means if you pick up the road-kill that raptors would otherwise eat or increase the number of rodents in an area (usually know as pests by ranchers and farmers), you can offset that against the raptor death count from the turbine blades.

All in all, the ECPG provides 118 pages of detail on how to get permission to kill eagles. In-advance, multi-year, and official permission.

In order to save them.

Full disclosure:  In case you hadn’t noticed, I have some moderately strong opinions on this issue. Such opinions might, possibly, perhaps, have an impact on my comments.

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