Articles filed under Impact on Wildlife from Idaho
A new study led by a U.S. Geological Survey biologist reaches a simple conclusion: Do not disturb the sage grouse. Steve Knick's work shows that 99 percent of active leks, or breeding sites, are in areas with no more than 3 percent of the land disturbed by humans for uses such as roads, power lines, pipelines and communication towers.
The Bureau of Land Management will defer for two years a final decision on a huge wind farm on the Nevada border while it considers how to keep sage grouse from listing under the Endangered Species Act. BLM suspended its environmental study of the proposed China Mountain Wind Energy project.
"Most wind energy projects that are already in operation are in ongoing violation" of the act, since most birds killed at wind farms are protected, the petition says. The conservancy group alleges a "systemic failure" by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to enforce the law. The conflict highlights an ongoing tension between conservationists and a rapidly expanding industry seen as the linchpin of a clean energy future.
"I can hardly imagine what the government is thinking. Whooping cranes are the rarest of all the cranes, the rarest of American birds," said Paul Johnsgard, author of several books on the cranes and professor emeritus of ornithology at the University of Nebraska.
One of the Magic Valley's largest energy projects crossed a significant hurdle Friday with the release of a draft environmental analysis of its effects. The next step requires your help.
The FWS recently released a draft of its voluntary guidelines for land-based wind energy project development in an effort to encourage responsible selection of project locations. The tougher guidelines could affect the China Mountain wind farm proposed for southern Twin Falls County, among others in Idaho, because they define "mitigation" as avoiding potential wildlife problems.
The project is drawing some concern for how it may impact the greater sage grouse population. The sage grouse has been named a candidate species for federal protection because of its struggling population. Few studies exist on how wind farms affect sage grouse, limiting scientific predictions of the impact.
Katie Fite, biodiversity director for Western Watersheds Project, said no conservation plan will be sufficient because after all the fires, China Mountain - southwest of Rogerson - is one of the few places left for sage grouse in the Jarbidge area.
Scientists are pretty sure these days just what oil and gas development do to nearby greater sage grouse. But less is known for sure about wind turbines - which generate noise and provide tall roosts for predators, among other potential issues. Now, a group of biologists, energy developers and electric utilities is pursuing several long-term projects to study how wind farms affect the bird, which is a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act.
Idaho and the federal government have signed an agreement that offers incentive and protection for ranchers and landowners who voluntarily take conservation steps to improve the plight of the sage grouse. ...Todd Tucci, attorney for Advocates for the West, said the bigger challenge is dealing with sage grouse habitat on public land, where wind energy development, oil and natural gas drilling and cattle grazing pose thornier policy questions.
Sage grouse are being reviewed a second time because of a federal suit filed by Idaho's own Western Watersheds Project in 2006. In December 2007, U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill overturned a previous decision not to list the bird because of concerns about political meddling at the Interior Department. The judge ordered Fish and Wildlife to take another look.
Now, three species in Idaho have the potential to be listed as endangered within just a few years. If any is granted federal protection, it could drastically change the nature of development across much of the West, where the open sagebrush-covered lands are still often the focus of development. A critical mass of conflicting factors is on the horizon as the growing energy needs of the West and a concerted push to develop wind energy land squarely in the front yard of two of the regions' most sensitive species.
As the U.S. tries to reduce the climate change spurred by the warming of the atmosphere because of increasing carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels, alternative forms of energy production will be necessary. And yet, it doesn't make sense to trample sensitive ecosystems in the new rush to develop alternative energies. It would be an oxymoronic case of destroying the Earth in order to save it.
Plans by two electric utilities to build 1,150 miles of new high-voltage transmission lines across southern Idaho and Wyoming are on schedule, with a draft environmental impact statement on the work expected late this summer. ...Idaho Power began work on a series of environmental studies that will provide crucial information for the draft document.
Developers of a proposed 185-turbine wind farm and the Bureau of Land Management are continuing to gather information on the effects the farm would have on the sagebrush-filled desert southwest of Rogerson. The 425-megawatt China Mountain Wind Energy Project would be scattered across a 30,700-acre area. Though a draft environmental impact statement on the project is still a year away from release, the BLM this week launched a 30-day comment period on whether three meteorological towers should be placed in the area of the future farm. Several other towers already sit in the area.
David Parrish, reassigned from Magic Valley regional supervisor to Boise as fisheries program coordinator, wrote in a letter to The Times-News on July 6 that the 185-turbine China Mountain wind farm "will have negative repercussions on Idaho's wildlife." "It's a no-brainer - the footprint of a project that will cover prime habitat (for) sage grouse, mule deer, antelope and other sagebrush dependent species," Parrish wrote.
The China Mountain Wind Farm, if constructed, may be positive for the local economy from a tax revenue standpoint, but it will have negative repercussions on Idaho's wildlife. It's a no-brainer - the footprint of a project that will cover prime habitat sage grouse, mule deer, antelope and other sagebrush dependent species. Impacts will extend well beyond the acreage of sagebrush that's removed to support the infrastructure for the massive project which includes around 70 miles of new and improved roads, up to 15 miles of new power line construction, substations, maintenance facilities and more.