Chapter 1: Regulatory Context, Study Methods, and Voluntary Development Guidelines

The Role of Regional, State, and Local Agencies

Updated September 01, 2021

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommends that, in addition to consulting the Service’s state-based Ecological Services field offices, wind developers contact state and local agencies, Tribes, and other local stakeholders as early as possible in the wind energy development process. Wildlife-related regulation and permitting for federally protected species is typically the purview of the Service, but some states use a hybrid approach, and additional wildlife and plant species may be protected under state or local laws.

Wildlife protection priorities, policies, and regulations that relate to the siting of wind energy facilities vary considerably from state to state. State fish and wildlife agencies have a range of authorities and mechanisms to require or encourage consultation on the impacts to fish and wildlife from wind projects, but many do not have direct project approval authority for wind energy projects; the primary authority for wind facility permitting often rests with other (sometimes several) state agencies or may fall to local governments for siting decisions.

Many states have regulations that protect either the lives or habitat of state-listed wildlife and plant species. State Wildlife Action Plans (SWAPs) identify Species of Greatest Conservation Need, and seek to address the full array of state-specific wildlife and wildlife-related issues. These plans include information on the distribution and abundance of species (including low and declining populations) indicative of the diversity and health of the state’s wildlife as well as descriptions of locations and the relative condition of key ecological communities essential to the conservation of species identified.

In addition to existing wildlife regulations, several states have or are developing statewide standards, guidelines, or recommendations to specifically address the integration of wind energy into the patchwork of local regulations and practices and provide guidance based on state conservation priorities. These may include identifying areas of high conservation value, unique or rare natural communities, major avian migratory routes, or critical habitat for endangered species that should be avoided, as well as recommendations for strategies to avoid and minimize adverse impacts to species of conservation interest in the state.

Regional organizations such as the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) maintain resources like the Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool (CHAT), a GIS (geographic information system) based decision support system that provides quick access to state fish and wildlife agency priorities related to crucial habitats and important migration areas. Links to a wide range of national, regional, and state-specific tools and resources – including other regional CHATs, wetlands inventories, interactive conservation maps, Tribal directories, and more can be found on AWWI’s Wind Siting Resources page.