New Wyo Game and Fish guidelines aim to reduce renewable energy impact

This wind development-environmental conflict map can be found here You can click on it to make it larger.

A story by Angus Thuermer in Wyofile:  I like how G&F used their experience with existing installations to develop a process; maybe other states can benefit? I also like the pre-monitoring and possible ongoing adaptive management.

The guidelines seek early engagement with developers and at least two years of wildlife monitoring before they break ground. By working with developers even when they’re selecting a location, impacts can be minimized, said Amanda Losch, the agency habitat protection program supervisor.

“We really wanted to clarify a process where we had a lot of communication and touch points … so there’s constantly a back and forth,” she said. “For us, it’s all about having open lines of communication.”…

A new section fleshes out what the agency wants in post-construction monitoring plans. The new guidelines also expand on the role of technical advisory panels for each project.

“In this document, there’s more information on who should be on it, what should they be doing,” Losch said.

Thuermer also had a round-up of some impacts with links to studies:

Development of industrial-scale renewable energy projects could be wildlife managers’ next challenge as consumer demand and federal policies favor them over fossil fuels. Wyoming is the top state for potential wind development, the Wyoming Energy Authority states.

Energy companies have developed 1,816 megawatts of wind power production capacity in Wyoming and are building another 4,341, according to the American Wind Energy Association. The wind farms are affecting wildlife.

Recent research suggests pronghorn antelope shy away from turbines on their winter range. “We found evidence that pronghorn avoided wind turbines in winters after development within their winter home ranges,” authors stated in the abstract of a 2020 scientific paper. They acknowledged the topic needs more study.

Before adoption of the new guidelines, Game and Fish already was recommending that the Industrial Siting Council allow no wind development in critical “core” greater sage grouse areas “without clear demonstration … that the activity will not cause a decline in sage grouse populations.”

five-year study of 346 telemetry-tagged female grouse comparing undeveloped area to a wind farm detected that they were less likely to select brood-rearing and summer habitat in disturbed areas.

There’s also worry about turbine blades killing birds and bats. The first phase of the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project south of Rawlins, for example, is expected to kill two bald eagles and 14 golden eagles a year, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Power Company of Wyoming LLC is developing that 1,000-turbine, 3,000-megawatt field across 320,000 acres on the private Overland Trail Cattle Company Ranch. The USFWS calculation of the turbines’ toll on eagles applied to the development of only the first 500 turbines, expected to be erected starting in 2022.

Sounds like the next act in the Sage Grouse Drama may introduce new characters…

2 thoughts on “New Wyo Game and Fish guidelines aim to reduce renewable energy impact”

  1. It’s nice to see some planning going on. “It’s easier to protect wildlife by planning ahead than by trying to make up for destroyed habitat, the guidelines state.”

    “Compliance with the 80-page guidelines for renewable energy, and the department’s recommendations based on them, will be voluntary, the document states. For recommendations to become requirements, they must be “stipulated by a permitting agency or entity,” the document states.

    But “guidelines” make a pretty anemic “plan.” If there are no mechanisms to enforce the plan, well, the track record on “voluntary” conservation actions is a reason why so many species have been listed as threatened or endangered.

    It also mentions that, “Game and Fish also makes recommendations to federal agencies like the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management that decide on development restrictions.” It’s interesting that “National Forest System” lands are “excluded” on this map, but BLM’s most sensitive areas are only “sensitive.” In any case, federal land management plans should be reviewed to make sure they are protecting at-risk species at least to the same degree as the State guidelines.


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