FWS to issue EDF eagle "take" permit

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) will issue a five-year permit for the take of golden eagles to a subsidiary of EDF Renewable Energy, the first of its kind for a specific US wind project.

The permit covering the 50-turbine, 102MW Shiloh IV project east of San Francisco in California, will allow up to five of the iconic birds to be killed at the site over a five-year period.

The permit requires EDF to engage in conservation measures that protect the local population of golden eagles. If implemented, FWS says these steps will result in no net loss of eagle populations in the area.

FWS’ published its environmental assessment of the planned permit and response to public comments in today’s Federal Register. Thirty days from now, FWS will issue the eagle permit to Shiloh IV. 

Conservation groups accuse President Barack Obama’s administration of giving the wind industry a pass on eagle kills and injuries in its drive to accelerate clean energy development. They note his administration has prosecuted one wind developer – Duke Energy - for eagle kills in five and one-half years, while US installed wind generation capacity has more than doubled in that period.

The American Bird Conservancy (ABC) has sued the US Interior Department over a new federal rule that allows wind farm operators and owners to kill or injure eagles for 30 years without fear of prosecution.

In its permit application, EDF provided an eagle conservation plan that describes measures the company will enact to avoid, minimize and mitigate the project’s impacts to eagles.

The plan was prepared in close coordination with FWS using eagle conservation guidelines developed for the wind energy industry.  EDF also submitted a strategy to conserve bats and other migratory birds.

“The Shiloh IV eagle permit sets a precedent for proactive and collaborative eagle conservation at wind farms in northern California and beyond, and we commend EDF Renewable Energy for taking this critical step,” says FWS Director Dan Ashe.

He calls on other wind energy developers in the region to follow this model and reduce their potential legal liability.

Wind energy companies are not required to have an eagle take permit. However, those operating without one risk federal penalties, including criminal prosecution, under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act for any unauthorized take of eagles.

“We can’t solve the problem of eagle mortality at wind farms overnight, but this commonsense solution merits the support of all who advocate for the long-term conservation of eagles,” he adds.

Under the act, FWS can issue eagle permits to entities whose otherwise-lawful activities may result in take of eagles that is unintentional and incidental. 

“Take” means to pursue, shoot, poison, wound, kill, capture, trap, collect, destroy, molest or disturb eagles, their nests or their eggs.

Congress sanctioned the eagle permit process as an incentive-based mechanism that provides overall conservation benefits to eagles and, in return, grants developers and other permit holders a degree of legal and financial certainty.