Several AWWI Partners posted comments or issued statements on the Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, including:
Statements by David Yarnold, President & CEO and Mike Daulton, VP of Government Relations
Washington D.C. - “These first-ever federal guidelines are a game-changer and big win for both wildlife and clean energy,” said David Yarnold, President & CEO of Audubon. “By collaborating with conservationists instead of slugging it out, the wind power industry gains vital support to expand and create jobs, and wildlife gets the protection crucial for survival.”
“I’m proud of the pivotal role Audubon played in developing this strong, consensus-based approach. These guidelines are based on the best available science and provide a roadmap to better bird protections across each of America’s four great flyways.”
“These guidelines set a new industry standard for bird protection,” said Mike Daulton, Audubon’s VP of Government Relations who served on the advisory committee devising the new guidelines. “The guidelines steer wind turbines away from vital habitat, including Audubon’s Important Bird Areas, and toward land already marked by development. They give the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service a place at the table for siting decisions; they help protect sites with high potential risk for birds; and they minimize habitat fragmentation. It’s a real-world, collaborative approach, with real-world benefits for birds and their habitats across the country.”
“We worked collaboratively for three years to hammer out science-based, practical guidelines. Now it is time to implement these guidelines in the same collaborative spirit, and with the same nose for practical, science-based solutions to wildlife conflicts. We are very optimistic that this is a path toward better protection for birds and their habitats.”
Background: The guidelines were developed with the assistance of a 22-member Wind Turbine Guidelines Advisory Committee which included experts from The National Audubon Society, The Nature Conservancy, Defenders of Wildlife, Massachusetts Audubon and Bat Conservation International. The committee, created under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) in 2009, worked with the US Fish and Wildlife Service to recommend guidelines to avoid or minimize impacts to birds and their habitats by land-based wind energy facilities.
Audubon was instrumental in making sure the guidelines address habitat fragmentation, one of the biggest potential impacts of wind development on birds. As a result, wind developers who cooperate with the guidelines will be expected to avoid approaches that cut up and divide important habitats like forests and grasslands and make them less suitable for wildlife.
“The country needs more wind energy for its American manufacturing and construction jobs, environmental benefits, and national energy security. These guidelines set the highest standard, either voluntary or mandatory, of wildlife protection for any industry,” said Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association. “It is our hope that in conjunction with rapid training and sensible implementation, the guidelines will promote improved siting practices and increased wildlife protection that in turn will foster the continued rapid growth of wind energy across the nation.”
Blog post with quote from Jamie Rappaport Clark, President and CEO
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) released today voluntary guidelines for wildlife and wind energy development.
The guidelines could improve on how wind energy development is done today — encouraging the use of the best available scientific information and early public engagement in a project’s planning phase, as well as post-construction wildlife monitoring and a comprehensive strategy for mitigating unavoidable impacts.
“Wind energy is an important part of our clean energy future, but to fully realize the benefits of wind power, projects have to be built in the right ways and right places to avoid and minimize their impacts on wildlife,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, Defenders’ president and CEO. “If implemented correctly, these guidelines will become part of a larger approach that encourages renewable energy companies to be ‘smart from the start’.”
The guidelines apply to private and public lands, imperiled wildlife (like many bat species) not already protected by the Endangered Species or Migratory Bird Treaty acts, and habitats not under FWS’ jurisdiction – lessening the likelihood that wind energy projects will further threaten species in decline.
“Responsible wind energy development means requiring strong standards for protecting wildlife and their habitats. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s wind energy guidelines are a good first step,” she said.
Defenders of Wildlife sat on the federal advisory committee – comprised of scientists, industry representatives, state and federal agencies, tribes, conservation organizations and others – whose recommendations formed the foundation for the new guidelines.
“These guidelines were developed after lengthy discussions with scientists, conservation organizations, wind industry representatives, tribes, state wildlife agencies and the Fish and Wildlife Service. Wind-energy developers who choose to follow the voluntary guidelines will have more certainty that their projects can move forward,” Clark said.
News release with quote from Justin Allegro, Manager: Renewable Energy and Wildlife Program
The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) applauds the Service, who developed the voluntary guidelines from the consensus recommendations of a Federal Advisory Committee composed of wildlife organizations, state and federal wildlife managers, wildlife scientists, and wind energy developers.
“Climate change poses an enormous threat to both the human environment and the earth’s biologic diversity, and for that reason, National Wildlife Federation is pursuing a rapid and responsible transition to clean energy,” says Justin Allegro, manager of the Renewable Energy and Wildlife Program at NWF. “However, poorly planned and designed wind energy activities can have significant adverse impacts to wildlife and habitats. This crucial framework will help lead to wind energy projects that wildlife advocates can feel good about in the short term, and avoid the types of bad projects that impede the growth of needed new energy solutions in the long term.”
At every stage of development, the guidelines are designed to provide wind developers a set of science-based questions to study and answer in coordination with state and federal wildlife managers. Thus, the guidelines create the best road map for knowing the risk of conflict with wildlife and habitat when making decisions about location, design and operation of wind energy facility. By encouraging voluntary adherence to these guidelines, the Service has found broad agreement between wind developers and wildlife advocates to provide benefits to species and habitat of conservation concern not protected under law, such as many bat species, non-migratory birds such as prairie chicken and sage grouse, and species not listed as federally threatened or endangered that are nonetheless at risk of habitat fragmentation.
“Avoiding impacts and coordinating with agency officials up-front is the best route for developers, as it will save them time and money by avoiding the public opposition, delays, and lawsuits associated with causing harm to wildlife,” Allegro noted. “The guidelines act as assurance to the developers that they’re taking the proper steps to avoid conflict with wildlife.”
As the guidelines begin to be implemented, NWF is advocating some key criteria for success:
- Adequate budgets for the Service to train staff and efficiently implement the guidelines
- A transparent approach to documenting adherence to the guidelines
- The continued development of additional priority wind and wildlife research and tools
- Evaluate a third-party certification process to verify guideline adherence
- States and localities adopting these guidelines where appropriate in reviewing wind energy permit applications
NRG Systems: Where Should Wind Energy Go? Interior Department Releases “Game-Changing” Guidelines
Blog by Ann Jones-Weinstock, Director of Community Initiatives, including quote by Jan Blittersdorf, President/CEO.
"At NRG Systems, we care passionately about two things: getting more wind turbines on the ground to generate clean, renewable energy, and putting them in environmentally responsible places. As a founder and close partner of the American Wind Wildlife Institute and through conversations with our customers, we know that reconciling these two goals can sometimes be complex. Fighting climate change by replacing fossil fuel consumption with renewable energy is critically important, and new guidance will now make it more attainable.
On March 23, the U.S. Department of the Interior released new voluntary guidelines for wind turbine siting. The long-awaited guidelines were worked out through a broad collaborative process, with assistance from a 22-member Wind Turbine Guidelines Advisory Committee.
For several years, wind-wildlife scientists and experts from federal, state, and tribal agencies, the wind energy industry, and conservation nonprofits – including The National Audubon Society, The Nature Conservancy, Defenders of Wildlife, Massachusetts Audubon, and Bat Conservation International – sat down together to reach consensus and hammer out recommendations. The Fish and Wildlife Service then worked through two draft versions of the guidelines, incorporating extensive public testimony and input, before releasing the final set last month.
What Will the New Guidelines Do?
Overlapping jurisdictions, patchwork regulations, and failure to agree on “best practices” have all been obstacles to siting wind farms. Even when all sides agree on the need for environmental responsibility and are ready to put the right steps in place, it is rarely clear what those right steps are. For the first time, the new guidelines set out a consistent federal framework of recommended studies, monitoring, and operational procedures for placing and running wind farms to minimize impacts on wildlife and habitat.
The guidelines offer a tiered-structure approach to identify species of concern and their critical habitat, including breeding grounds and migratory paths. By working with environmental and conservation organizations early in the planning process to spot potential problems, wind developers can confidently make decisions to avoid areas at greater risk for wildlife or habitat impact or design remedies or mitigations for them.
By releasing voluntary guidelines rather than mandatory procedures, the Fish and Wildlife Service was able to move beyond restricted regulatory boundaries to build a much broader framework for action, based on up-to-date scientific findings. The guidelines go beyond protections offered by the Endangered Species Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and other wildlife law, adding protection for species and habitat of conservation concern. These include bat species and non-migratory birds such as prairie chicken and sage grouse, and other species not listed as federally threatened or endangered that could be at risk of habitat fragmentation through wind energy development.
“A Game Changer”
David Yarnold, president and CEO of The National Audubon Society, says “These first-ever federal guidelines are a game-changer and big win for both wildlife and clean energy. By collaborating with conservationists instead of slugging it out, the wind power industry gains vital support to expand and create jobs, and wildlife gets the protection crucial for survival.”
Industry leaders like NRG Systems CEO Jan Blittersdorf have lent their support to the ongoing conversation in several forums. Jan is the board chair of the American Wind Wildlife Institute, a national nonprofit convened by conservation and wind industry leaders. AWWI provided technical assistance during the guidelines development and will support their implementation, identifying further wind-wildlife research priorities, designing landscape assessment resources, and providing increased access to scientific data collected at wind energy sites.
“AWWI is committed to building workable solutions to wind-wildlife challenges that are grounded in science,” Jan said. “The new wind turbine guidelines represent a coming together of environment, government, tribal, and industry stakeholders to design a roadmap for responsible wind energy development. NRG Systems is a proud partner in this vital environmental work.”