Golden Eagle and wind turbine. Photo by Taylor Berge/Shutterstock
(September 29, 2022) A proposed rule announced today by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service aims to improve the permitting process for incidental take of eagles, but unfortunately weakens current safeguards for Bald and Golden Eagles just as they face increasing threats from new energy infrastructure. The Bald Eagle, our nation’s symbol, needs strong protections as it continues its decades-long march back from the brink of extinction, while the Golden Eagle, likely in decline in North America, is particularly threatened by poorly sited wind energy development.
“Renewable energy is important to a sustainable climate future for humans and birds alike,” said Lewis Grove, American Bird Conservancy’s (ABC’s) Director of Wind and Energy. “At the same time, we at ABC believe that renewable energy can and must be expanded with adequate safeguards for birds and other wildlife, to limit unintended consequences.”
There are positives to the proposed rule, including new protections from powerlines. The general permit proposed for powerlines could greatly reduce eagle mortality and is to be commended. Electrocutions are a leading cause of eagle deaths, and extensive new transmission lines will be required as renewable energy resources continue to be developed.
“We applaud new protections for eagles from powerline electrocution,” Grove said. “However, the rule fails to provide needed safeguards for eagles against threats posed by increased wind energy development.” The proposed general permit for wind energy does not include adequate eagle protections nor require robust third-party compliance monitoring, according to ABC.
“We also remain concerned about the lack of an overarching mitigation strategy to ensure balanced development, as well as inaction to eliminate major threats to eagles including lead and pesticide poisoning,” Grove said. “According to recent population estimates, Golden Eagle populations are likely declining in North America. There are serious concerns about population-level impacts from even modest increases in human-caused mortality.”
ABC believes that today’s proposed rule will have both positive and negative impacts on our nation’s eagles. The organization encourages eagle lovers to comment in support of the improvements needed to make this rule overall an effective step forward for recovering eagle populations.