Eagles have been revered throughout American history and culture, but when it comes to protecting them against wind turbines, there is minimal protection for these esteemed avians. Wind turbines have been responsible for the deaths of 85 eagles since 1997, according to a new study investigating wind farms in 10 states. One of the eagles was electrocuted by the wind turbine in the study, as Fox News reports. These are concerning findings to say the least, but what about the thousands of other birds who are killed by wind turbines? They deserve to be recognized as well.
The statistics of birds killed and injured by wind turbines are astounding. Shawn Smallwood, author of the study that was published in the Wildlife Society Bulletin, comments, "I estimated 888,000 bat and 573,000 bird fatalities/year (including 83,000 raptor fatalities) at 51,630 megawatt (MW) of installed wind-energy capacity in the United States in 2012," as Daily Caller reports.
In the U.S., birds are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and eagles actually have their own law — the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, "which Congress passed in 1940 to protect bald eagles and expanded in 1962 to cover goldens." The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) have not yet given consideration to the harmful impact wind turbines are having on eagles. However, they are open to experimental procedures to improve fatality monitoring methods.
Although these birds are protected under federal law, Obama administration has refused to prosecute the wind turbine companies responsible for killing the birds. However, the Obama administration has fined companies like ExxonMobil and Oregon-based PacifiCorp for killing eagles and other bird species. This boils down to a question of priority. What's more important, renewable energy or wildlife conservation? Wind turbine companies evidently choose renewable energy.
"The wind energy industry has pushed for, and the White House is currently evaluating, giving companies permission to kill a set number of eagles for 30 years," Fox News reports.
According to Forbes, wind farm operators can adhere to a five-stage approach that will help in avian conservation, but the American Wind Energy Association finds the approach "stifling" for wind energy businesses and believes it has no direct benefit to eagles.
It's necessary that all businesses, environmentally-focused or not, comply with federal protection laws conserving wildlife. Even if solutions are more complex or costly, it's critical that companies prevent the deaths of innocent animals.