As part of the American Wind Wildlife Institute’s (AWWI) Eagle Initiative, AWWI has published a modeling tool that advances the science needed to facilitate wind energy development while conserving eagles. The model can also support broader eagle conservation efforts beyond wind energy.
The new modeling tool has been published in the September issue of Ecological Applications, the peer-reviewed, scientific journal of the Ecological Society of America, and is now publicly available for companies, wildlife agencies, and scientific and conservation stakeholders to evaluate and implement in the field.
The new model helps solve a scientific and practical challenge raised by eagle conservation law: how to reliably quantify the number of eagles saved by a given technique. Quantification of conservation and compensatory mitigation techniques is essential, and required, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seeks to protect eagles under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and ensure “no net loss” of eagles as part of its permitting process for wind energy facilities and other operations that may pose a risk to eagles. Currently, power pole retrofitting to prevent eagle electrocution at power lines is the single technique to offset the harming or killing of an eagle.
AWWI industry and conservation partners recognized the challenge of expanding the number of such conservation and mitigation tools, and are addressing it as one of several priorities for AWWI’s Eagle Initiative to advance wind energy development while conserving eagles. Publication of the new model is an important step forward in developing reliably quantifiable options beyond power-pole retrofits.
A team of independent eagle experts worked with AWWI to identify new options based on known threats to eagles (such as poisoning, and loss of high quality habitat) and the effectiveness of the mitigation in increasing eagle populations. The next step was to design models that reliably and quantifiably verify the number of eagles saved by the proposed mitigation techniques. In this instance, the newly published model quantifies the results from voluntary abatement of lead poisoning in golden eagles in a given geographical area. Additional models under development for this new Eagle Conservation and Mitigation Toolbox will look at roadside “road kill” carcass removal to avoid eagle collisions with vehicles, and habitat improvement.
In addition to the Eagle Conservation and Mitigation Toolbox, AWWI’s Eagle Initiative works to improve the accuracy of predicting risk to eagles from the siting and operation of a proposed wind facility, and to advance measures that avoid and minimize harm to eagles.
Wind energy companies — and other entities or activities — that pose a risk to eagles as part of their normal operations are required under the law to first take all reasonable steps to avoid and minimize individual eagle fatalities. Federal law prohibits prohibit the taking (killing, wounding, or disturbing) of bald and golden eagles without a permit.
For a copy of the publication click here.