California Condors Get an Assist From an Unlikely Source: A Wind Power Company

by akoloy

In an uncommon — and considerably controversial — transfer, federal wildlife officers in California are teaming up with a wind energy firm to breed endangered California condors in captivity, in an effort to switch any that may be felled by turbine blades.

The firm, Avangrid Renewables, which operates 126 generators within the windy Tehachapi Mountains about 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles, is working with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to breed the birds in captivity on the Oregon Zoo. The proposed program, which was reported by The Los Angeles Times this week and remains to be topic to closing approval by the Wildlife Service, might start as quickly as this spring.

“Our goal is zero fatalities,” Amy Parsons, the operations wildlife compliance supervisor for Avangrid Renewables in Portland, Ore., stated in an interview on Tuesday. “But we’re a very proactive company, and we want to take measures to minimize the risk to any species from our operations.”

Although the Wildlife Service’s Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office stated in a press release that there had been no documented instances of a wind turbine injuring or killing a condor on the plant because it opened in 2012, it famous that condor presence close to wind power initiatives — and the potential for deadly collisions — would proceed to extend with the expansion of the wild condor inhabitants.

“Conservation plans provide a mechanism for wind energy companies to manage impacts to condors and help us recover this federally endangered species,” the workplace stated.

The proposed $527,000 program, which Avangrid Renewables would pay for, anticipates the unintentional killing of two free-flying condors and as much as two eggs or chicks within the area over a interval of 30 years. It would mitigate that loss by releasing six 1.5-year-old condors into the wild over three years, a ratio primarily based on a inhabitants viability evaluation. (Under federal legislation, a company that kills a condor is normally topic to a tremendous of as much as $200,000.)

But conservationists say that as a substitute of carving out exceptions, the federal government ought to power wind farms to seek out methods to stop the deaths.

In feedback filed with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service in February, Ileene Anderson, a senior scientist on the Center for Biological Diversity, a nonprofit devoted to defending endangered species, stated the corporate’s plan fell brief. She stated a extra cheap output could be a minimal of 30 condors, not six, in step with the Wildlife Service’s mitigation ratios for different species.

She stated this system also needs to account for different threats similar to persevering with habitat loss, and may contemplate the entire inhabitants of condors, not simply these in Southern California.

Ms. Anderson additionally expressed concern that quite a few different wind power initiatives would search their very own comparable “take” permits. “We remain concerned about the potential cumulative ‘take’ that could be authorized,” she wrote.

The California condor is the most important flying hen in North America, with wings that may stretch practically 10 toes from tip to tip, and might fly as excessive as 15,000 toes. It is listed as an endangered species underneath the Federal Endangered Species Act.

There had been 518 left on the earth as of 2019, according to the National Park Service, and 99 free-flying birds within the Southern California flock nearest to Avangrid’s Manzana Wind Power Project.

The birds have been in peril for the reason that Fifties, when improvement started to intrude on their habitat and their eggshells grew to become so skinny from publicity to the now-banned pesticide DDT that they may not assist life. A captive breeding program established by the Wildlife Service introduced the species again from the sting of extinction 4 many years in the past, when solely round two dozen of the vultures remained on the earth.

Fossil gasoline lovers — former President Donald J. Trump among them — have weaponized claims that wind generators kill the birds en masse. But though birds that fly into the generators’ spinning blades do die in giant numbers — as many as 500,000 per yr, according to the Wildlife Service — they’re much more often felled by flying into buildings and vehicles, which every account for a whole lot of thousands and thousands of annual avian fatalities. (Cats additionally kill round 2.4 billion birds per yr.)

Joel Merriman, the director of the Bird-Smart Wind Energy Campaign on the American Bird Conservancy, stated in an e mail on Monday that condors had been in danger from the generators as a result of they spend a lot of their time searching for meals, making them candidates for collisions. And he famous that the cumulative danger to the condors from wind generators was higher than that posed by anybody facility.

“This is just one of several existing wind energy facilities in this area,” he stated. “It’s hard not to conclude that we have already taken too great a risk with one of our rarest and most iconic birds.”

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