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

The Role of Regional, State, and Local Agencies

Updated December 27th, 2022

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 are 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, as well as Natural Heritage Programs, 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 statutes and regulations to protect plant and wildlife species deemed threatened or endangered within the state. Each state also produces a State Wildlife Action Plans (SWAP) , which serves as a guide to state fish and wildlife agencies for conserving Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN). Though non-regulatory, these plans areas of high conservation value and conservation priorities for at-risk species within a state—this can help inform wind energy development siting or identify valuable compensatory mitigation projects.

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 REWI’s Wind Siting Resources page.