If you and I kill a bald eagle or disturb its nest, the consequences can be severe. Under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the felony killing of a bald eagle is punished by a fine of $250,000 and prison time. The authorities are taking the killing seriously. Well, sort of. As it turns out, not everyone is equal under the do-not-kill-bald-eagles law. If you happen to be a favored industry like say, a wind farm, you could get a get-out-of-jail-free card after killing up to five bald eagles if you request a permit and the feds grants it. The Associated Press reports:
A California wind farm will become the first in the U.S. to avoid prosecution if eagles are injured or die when they run into the giant turning blades, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Thursday.
Under President Barack Obama, wind energy has exploded as a pollution-free energy source that can help reduce the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. But it is not without opposition from wildlife advocates.
The Shiloh IV Wind Project LLC will receive a special permit allowing up to five golden eagles to be accidentally killed, harmed or disturbed over five years. Previously, such a violation could potentially draw criminal charges and discourage private investment in wind farms, which are known for catching birds in their rotors.
Fish and Wildlife Service Director Daniel Ashe said the permit encourages development of renewable energy while requiring the wind company to take steps to protect eagles from turbines and power lines. The move will help California reach its goal of producing one-third of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, he said.
“We can’t solve the problem of eagle mortality at wind farms overnight,” Mr. Ashe said in a statement.
The Federal government is being sued over the permits, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Bald eagles watch out, turns out, you are not that special after all. That’s a lesson some 888,000 bats and 573,000 birds had to learn back in 2012.