Least Tern Project info
2013 Nesting Season
Snowy Plover Survey
Turbines, Green Energy or Avian Enemy?
& Sage Audubon Conservation Co-Chair
with permission of the author
Mortality Sea and Sage Audubon, similar to
other environmental organizations, is supportive of alternative
energy solutions such as wind turbines. Wind turbines
are classified as "Green Energy" and therefore receive tax
and financial advantages. However, the high mortality
rate of birds, particularly raptors at some wind turbine facilities
(wind farms) is simply not acceptable.
|Wind farms, such as the one
at the Altamont Pass, near Livermore CA, kill thousands of
raptors each year. In direct violation of such laws as the
Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), the Federal Bald Eagle Act
(FBEA) of 1940, which was amended to include Golden Eagles,
and California Department of Fish and Game Codes.
|Year after year several hundred
Red-tailed Hawks, roughly as many Burrowing Owls, 75 to 100
Golden Eagles and hundreds more raptors are slaughtered by
wind turbines, poorly located in the Altamont Pass.
Although design features are important to reducing raptor
and other bird mortalities, location is most important factor.
Location Not only was
the Altamont Pass wind farm placed in a pinch point along
a major migration route, it is surrounded by the highest density
of breeding Golden Eagles in the world.
|Help from activists and County
Supervisors The Center for Biological Diversity, with
help from groups like California Audubon; have been fighting
for changes at the Altamont Pass wind farm for some years.
Recently, in response to a lawsuit filed by the Center, and
pressure from State Attorney General Bill Lockyer, the Alameda
County Board of Supervisors has demanded important changes
at the facility. The Board is requiring that the Altamont
wind farm be turned off in winter months. This, along
with some other required operational changes, is designed
to reduce raptor kills during peak migration periods.
|Along with the seasonal idling
of all the turbines, changes to individual turbines are planned.
Research has shown that taller turbines kill fewer birds,
particularly larger raptors. They also generate more electricity,
allowing for fewer turbines for the same generating capacity.
In addition placement of new turbines that results in a configuration
without a geometrically sharp end unit can reduce deaths.
The retirement of some old turbines, replaced with new designs,
has potential to lower the carnage. And, the rethinking
of previously ill-conceived rodent and cattle management programs
on and around the facility may prove beneficial. The
Alameda County Board of Supervisors is to be commended for
the efforts being made. Time will tell if it is enough.
Springs The location problem, however, will
never be completely resolved at Altamont Pass. Ultimately
all the design and operational changes may not be enough.
One would think that the lesson here is to carefully pick
the location, before launching plans for a wind farm. Apparently,
the lesson has not been well learned. Plans for a wind
farm in Butterbredt Springs which will impact migratory songbirds
are being processed in Kern County near Lake Isabella.
Despite warnings from the Wind Turbine Industry and groups
like Audubon, Kern County officials are resting their hopes
for a new wind farm on an obviously poor assessment, of the
|I hope all of us can become
well educated about this important issue. Our input
to public officials is vital at this time. The mistake
of placing a wind farm in a migratory bird route should be
as obviously wrong as placing a dam on a scenic, salmon run.
|For more information on Altamont
Pass and the Center for Biological Diversity please go to
For more information on Butterbredt Springs and what LA Audubon
is doing to fight the poor location choice, please read the
following article written by Garry George.
on the Wind Turbine Situation
& Butterbredt Springs
Audubon Conservation Chair
with permission of the author
|The DWP Board of Commissioners,
appointed by Mayor Hahn, voted on April 19, 2005 to approve
the Environmental Impact Report on the Pine Tree Wind Farm
Development project just south of Butterbredt Springs in the
Mojave. Los Angeles Audubon Society objected to the EIR's
conclusion that the project will have no impact on avian populations
on the grounds that the potential risk to migratory songbirds
was not studied properly. The Biological Assessment for avian
populations focused on raptors, and the biologist only visited
the site once during the period from April 15 through May
30, and then for only one hour. Birders from LAAS and other
organizations have visited Butterbredt Springs during that
same "peak migration" period and found up to 6,000 birds in
one day. Board members Pat Heirs and Dexter Kelly traveled
downtown to attend the important meeting along with Santa
Monica Bay Audubon's Mary Prismon and Chuck Bragg. Our pleas
to DWP Commissioners to follow protocol recommended by the
wind industry and conduct proper migratory songbird studies
"before construction" fell on deaf ears as Commissioners,
supported by DWP staff and environmental organizations, including
Coalition for Clean Air (www.coalitionforcleanair.org),
and Physicians for Social Responsibility- Los Angeles (www.psrla.org),
Global Green (www.globalgreen.org),
and the Natural Resource Defense Council (www.nrdc.org),
voted to approve the EIR and start the permitting process
that will allow construction of roads and wind farms in the
next few months. Los Angeles Audubon is not opposed to wind
energy, as long as the projects are done right and the proper
studies are completed and included in the EIR for public review
prior to construction. This site is of particular concern
to our chapter due to our long history of over twenty years
birding the area. Board member Pat Heirs sums up the sentiments
of the Board when she states "We won't stop until we know
for sure that these turbines aren't murdering millions of
migratory songbirds, and it's the DWP's obligation to prove
that to the public before they build them." LA Audubon's next
option is to file a CEQA (California Environmental Quality
Act) lawsuit against DWP objecting to the EIR. Stay tuned
for developments in this important issue, the first case in
California involving the potential harm of wind farms to migratory