From: Laura Zuckerman, Reuters, SALMON, Idaho
Published July 15, 2011 07:45 AM

Proposed wind energy project could kill endangered birds

The Obama administration is evaluating a plan to allow a 200-mile corridor for wind energy development from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico that would allow for killing endangered whooping cranes.

The government's environmental review will consider a permit sought by 19 energy developers that would permit turbines and transmission lines on non-federal lands in nine states from Montana to the Texas coast, overlapping with the migratory route of the cranes.

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The permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would allow the projects to "take" an unspecified number of endangered species. Under the Endangered Species Act, "take" is defined as killing or injuring an endangered species

The government can issue permits to kill or injure listed species with no penalties or risks of lawsuits to developers who agree to craft conservation plans.

According to federal officials, the large scale of the review will help streamline the permitting process by lumping many projects into a single study.

The Obama Administration has been working to speed development of renewable energy projects by improving coordination among various state and federal agencies.

Environmentalists, however, say the "fast track" process results in inadequate environmental reviews.

The Administration's latest wind energy proposal raises concerns among wildlife advocates because the developments would overlap with habitat imperiled birds such as whooping cranes rely on, including the Central Flyway, a migratory path that cuts through North America's midsection between the Arctic and the Tropics.

The leading cause of death for the nation's last historic population of whooping cranes, which stand at 5 feet and have a wingspan of more than 7 feet, is overhead utility lines, the Fish and Wildlife Service said.

Whooping Crane photo credit, Indiana DNR: http://www.in.gov/dnr/5922.htm

Article continues: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/07/14/us-wind-energy-cranes-idUSTRE76D76I20110714

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