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New DOI voluntary guidelines for onshore wind energy developments

Fern Davies

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23 March 2012


Interior Announces Onshore Wind Energy Guidelines


Voluntary measures will help wind energy developers minimize impacts on



WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Department of the Interior today released

guidelines designed to help wind energy project developers avoid and

minimize impacts of land-based wind projects on wildlife and their

habitats. The voluntary guidelines will help shape the smart siting,

design and operation of the nation’s growing wind energy economy.


“Wind energy is a key part of the Obama Administration’s sustained,

all-of-the-above approach to American energy. We’re committed to working

with developers to ensure that wind energy projects are built in the right

places and operated in the right way,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken

Salazar. “These voluntary guidelines have been developed through an

intensive public process with significant help from the wind energy

industry, state agencies, and wildlife conservation groups and are

designed to achieve the best outcome for wildlife and wind energy



Using a tiered approach, the guidelines provide a structured, scientific

process for developers, federal and state agencies, and tribes to identify

sites with low risk to wildlife, and to help them assess, mitigate, and

monitor any adverse effects of wind energy projects on wildlife and their

habitats. The voluntary guidelines, which take effect today, are designed

to be used for all utility-scale, community-scale, and distributed

land-based wind energy projects on both private and public lands. A fact

sheet on the guidelines is available at




“The guidelines outline a consistent and predictable approach to wind

energy development while also providing flexibility to developers in

recognition of the unique circumstances of each project. These guidelines

reflect an enormous amount of work and care by the Fish and Wildlife

Service and dozens of experts from all sides of the wind energy issue,”

said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “We’ve spent years

getting them right, and I believe they will help guide the responsible

development of wind energy in America for decades to come.”


The voluntary guidelines released today replace voluntary interim

guidelines issued by the Fish and Wildlife Service in 2003. They are the

result of a five-year process that included multiple opportunities for

public review and comment.


The guidelines were also informed by the Wind Turbine Guidelines Advisory

Committee, established in 2007 and comprised of a diversity of

stakeholders, including federal and state agencies, tribes, the wind

energy industry and conservation organizations. After two years of

deliberations, the committee submitted their final recommendations to the

Secretary in March 2010. The Fish and Wildlife Service used the

recommendations as a basis to develop their draft Land-Based Wind Energy

Guidelines, announced in February 2011. After receiving more than 30,000

comments on the draft guidelines, the Fish and Wildlife Service decided to

reconvene the advisory committee for additional public meetings in order

to develop the most effective final guidelines.


“We know America needs more renewable energy and wind power is a key

player in that mix. But conservationists can’t have it both ways: we can’t

say we need renewable energy and then say there’s nowhere safe to put the

wind farms,” said David Yarnold, President & CEO of Audubon. “By

collaborating with conservationists instead of slugging it out, the wind

power industry gains vital support to expand and create jobs, and wildlife

gets the protection crucial for survival. These federal guidelines are a

game-changer and big win for both wildlife and clean energy.”


“The country needs more wind energy for its American manufacturing and

construction jobs, environmental benefits, and national energy security.

These guidelines set the highest standard, either voluntary or mandatory,

of wildlife protection for any industry,” said Denise Bode, CEO of the

American Wind Energy Association. “It is our hope that in conjunction with

rapid training and sensible implementation, the guidelines will promote

improved siting practices and increased wildlife protection that in turn

will foster the continued rapid growth of wind energy across the nation.”


The voluntary guidelines will also help developers identify additional

steps, review processes and permits that may be needed to ensure

compliance with federal laws such as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the

Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act. If

the project may affect one or more species protected by the ESA or their

habitat, for example, developers may need to develop a Habitat

Conservation Plan and apply for an Incidental Take Permit.


To download a copy of the final guidelines and for other background

information on the Fish and Wildlife Service’s role in wind energy

development, please visit http://www.fws.gov/windenergy/.


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National Audubon gives new wind guidelines a thumbs up; American Bird Conservancy votes no:



New Voluntary Wind Guidelines Will Fail to Protect Birds

DOI Rejection of ABC's Petition Calling for Mandatory Standards Shortsighted





Contact: Robert Johns, 202-234-7181 ext.210, Email click here


(Washington, D.C., March 23, 2012) American Bird Conservancy (ABC) has called the final, voluntary wind guidelines released today by the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) unenforceable, and charged that they will do little to protect millions of birds from the negative impacts of wind energy.


“ABC supports wind power when it is ‘bird-smart.’ Unfortunately, voluntary guidelines will result in more lawsuits, more bird deaths, and more government subsidies for bad projects, instead of what America needs: true green and bird-safe wind energy,” said Kelly Fuller, Wind Campaign Coordinator for ABC.


“The United States has had voluntary guidelines since 2003, and yet preventable bird deaths at wind farms keep occurring. This includes thousands of Golden Eagles thought to have died at Altamont Pass in California, and just recently, more than 500 songbirds reportedly killed on two nights last fall in West Virginia,” said Fuller.


“Years ago, we thought hydro power was the ’green’ energy of the future, so we rushed ahead and built scores of dams. Over 1,000 of those dams have now been torn down because of their serious impacts to the environment. That same blind, shortsighted rush is happening with wind power. We aren’t learning from our past mistakes. History is simply repeating itself,” said Fuller.


In December, with the help of Meyer Glitzenstein and Crystal (MGC), a Washington, D.C.-based public interest law firm, ABC formally petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to establish a mandatory project permitting system (a process that would ensure that wind farms were well sited, operated, and mitigated). If adopted, this system would prevent the most egregious developments while allowing relatively benign developments to proceed in conjunction with certain mitigations.


However, DOI today also rejected this petition. Had it been adopted, the proposal would have protected birds and provided legal certainty that wind developers in compliance with a permit would not have been subjected to criminal or civil penalties for violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). The petition is available here.


“For four years, FWS has been attempting to fix the voluntary guidelines problem with band aids. This is in spite of the fact that more than 150 organizations and 20,000 concerned citizens have shown their support for mandatory standards or are on record asking the Department of Interior for mandatory standards, not voluntary guidelines. Included in this group are the Sierra Club, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, American Birding Association, and many state Audubon societies,” Fuller said.


“The federal government is seeking to promote an energy sector in a manner that is in violation of its own laws. The rejection of the effective alternative proposed in our petition in favor of non-binding guidelines is disappointing -- for many years now, voluntary guidelines have proven to be completely ineffective. All the government has done today, despite the groundswell of support for mandatory standards, is come up with yet another version of a failed strategy,” said Shruti Suresh, an attorney at MGC.


“Switching to the project permit system proposed in our petition would have fulfilled the agency’s mandate to protect migratory birds and keep them from becoming endangered while still enabling wind power development to continue,” Fuller said.


In 2009, FWS estimated that 440,000 birds were being killed each year by collisions with wind turbines, and recently included this figure in the agency’s 2013 budget request to Congress. In the absence of clear, legally enforceable regulations, the massive expansion of wind power in the United States will likely result in the deaths of more than one million birds each year by 2030. Further, wind energy projects are also expected to adversely impact almost 20,000 square miles of terrestrial habitat, and another 4,000 square miles of marine habitat.



American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is a 501©(3) not-for-profit membership organization whose mission is to conserve native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. ABC acts by safeguarding the rarest species, conserving and restoring habitats, and reducing threats, while building capacity in the bird conservation movement.


Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal represents clients in federal and state court litigation on a wide range of public interest issues, including Wildlife and Animal Protection; Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation; and Open Government Laws.







Federal Guidelines a Step Forward for Bird-Friendly Wind Development


This morning, the Department of the Interior took an important step toward bird-friendly wind development by releasing new federal guidelines for minimizing bird and wildlife impacts from land-based wind development in the United States.


The guidelines were developed with the assistance of a 22-member Wind Turbine Guidelines Advisory Committee, which included experts from National Audubon Society, The Nature Conservancy, Defenders of Wildlife, Massachusetts Audubon and Bat Conservation International as well as representatives from the wind industry and state fish and wildlife agencies.


The committee, created under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) in 2009, worked with the US Fish and Wildlife Service to develop workable, science-based guidelines to avoid, minimize and mitigate impacts to birds and their habitats from wind energy facilities.


Audubon was instrumental in including in the guidelines measures to address habitat fragmentation, one of the most significant potential impacts of wind development on birds. As a result, wind developers who cooperate with the guidelines will be expected to thoroughly analyze the impacts of their projects on habitat values and avoid and minimize approaches that cut up and divide important habitats like forests and grasslands making them less suitable for wildlife.


The guidelines also give the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service a place at the table for siting decisions and a sound basis for recommending measures needed to avoid, minimize and mitigate impacts of wind projects. Importantly, wind developers that fail to incorporate Fish and Wildlife Service recommendations risk prosecution under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and other applicable wildlife law.


Action Alert: Support Bird-Friendly Implementation of Federal Guidelines


Audubon worked collaboratively for three years to develop science-based, practical guidelines. Now, we are calling for the Department of the Interior to implement these guidelines in the same collaborative spirit, and with the same respect for practical, science-based solutions to wildlife conflicts.


We invite everyone who cares about birds to join us in urging the Interior Department to ensure the federal guidelines, when implemented, provide the strongest possible protections for birds and habitat on the ground. The letter Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar is attached.


Contact Sean Saville, National Field Director for National Audubon Society, at ssaville@audubon.org to add your organization to this call for strong protections for birds, wildlife, and their habitats.


The final Guidelines and all associated materials are available at www.fws.gov/windenergy



Mike Daulton

Vice President, Government Relations

National Audubon Society

1150 Connecticut Ave NW, Suite 600

Washington, DC 20036


202-861-4290 fax

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