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United States

US agency considers extending bird permits

UNITED STATES: The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) plans to keep zero limit on golden eagle strike as report suggests population is declining. But 'incidental' permits may be extended to 30 years.

The Golden Eagle population in the US is falling
The Golden Eagle population in the US is falling

According to new US government research, the population of golden eagles may be declining. That is bad news for wind projects, more likely to be sited in areas such as grasslands, where golden eagles — rather than bald eagles — hunt. Eagles are protected.

The Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) has thus proposed keeping the golden eagle ‘take’ limit at zero, meaning that none can be killed, even with a permit, without compensatory conservation.

A wide range of industries engaging in otherwise legal activities, from oil and gas to transport facilities and seaports, typically apply to kill protected wildlife inadvertently. To qualify, they must engage in conservation.

FWS has also proposed issuing 30-year permits for incidental kills of eagles, up from the current five years. Wind developers are welcoming the proposal — which is subject to 60 days’ public comment — because they must plan long-term.

In California, Nevada and southern Oregon, FWS has six open criminal cases of illegal bird kills. In one, 67 golden eagles were allegedly killed at a project in the Altamont Pass owned and operated by AWI Inc, said FWS spokesman Scott Flaherty.

AWI — which has closed the site and is applying for permission to repower — declined to comment but has previously said the figure is too high. The company says that since 2007, it has spent over $16 million studying and mitigating avian losses.

In 2013, Duke Energy Renewables pled guilty to more than 150 illegal kills of protected birds, including golden eagles, at two wind projects in Wyoming between 2009 and 2013. The company agreed to pay $1 million in fines.

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