Group sues Interior for data on bird, bat impacts

Source: Phil Taylor, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, June 27, 2012

An environmental group today sued the Interior Department for allegedly withholding information on how commercial wind farms affect birds and bats.

The American Bird Conservancy, in a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, said the Fish and Wildlife Service has failed to provide correspondences with wind developers and other data on the impacts to birds and bats near wind projects in 10 states.

The Washington, D.C.-based group said it filed six Freedom of Information Act requests more than eight months ago for information on projects in Arizona, California, Florida, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Texas.

“ABC has tried to obtain the responsive records that will shed light on the government’s approach to monitoring and minimizing the effects of proposed and existing wind power facilities on migratory birds,” the group said in a 12-page filing. It said one request was referred to the Bureau of Indian Affairs but that the government has refused to produce all the records the public is entitled to receive.

A FWS spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment this morning.

“It’s ridiculous that Americans have to sue in order to find out what their government is saying to wind companies about our wildlife,” said Kelly Fuller, wind campaign coordinator for ABC. “ABC is concerned that many of these projects have the potential to take a devastating toll on songbirds, majestic eagles and threatened and endangered species.”

The group warns that bald and golden eagles could be harmed in addition to federally protected species such as whooping cranes, northern aplomado falcons, least terns, piping plovers, marbled murrelets, snail kites, wood storks and northern crested caracaras.

ABC for years has argued the agency’s voluntary guidelines for siting wind turbines are insufficient to protect sensitive birds and bats from collisions, habitat fragmentation and other threats (Greenwire, March 23).

The guidelines finalized in March — which encourage wind developers to consult with agency biologists as early as possible to assess a project’s potential impacts — have been endorsed by the Audubon Society and the American Wind Energy Association.