News Analysis

Mixed News for Birds, Wind Farms, and Buildings

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) estimates that 440,000 birds are killed in collisions with wind turbines each year; without stronger regulation, says the American Bird Conservancy (ABC), the annual toll will exceed one million by 2030. To address this issue, the U.S. Department of the Interior has released voluntary guidelines to help developers minimize the impact of wind energy projects on bird habitat and migration. Developed over five years with an advisory committee that included government agencies, the wind energy industry, and some conservation organizations, the guidelines are intended to ensure compliance with federal laws such as the Endangered Species Act—although the rules allowing them to do so are controversial.

Currently, if a project impacts an endangered species the developer may apply for a five-year Incidental Take Permit, which allows some harm to listed species if the applicant has developed a Habitat Conservation Plan. FWS has proposed extending the permit period to 30 years, which ABC points out is a significant departure from previous FWS conclusions that too many factors can change over such a long period of time. The National Audubon Society, represented on the committee, is among conservation organizations supporting the new guidelines; Audubon CEO David Yarnold argues, “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.” Others say a voluntary system is not enough; ABC’s petition for a stricter, mandatory permitting system was recently rejected by FWS.

Published April 30, 2012

Weaver, E. (2012, April 30). Mixed News for Birds, Wind Farms, and Buildings. Retrieved from