Politics & Policy

Bald Eagles Fall to Green Energy

A Bald eagle in flight.
Obama favors wind-power companies over America’s national symbol.

When bald eagles confront danger, most normal Americans would leap to preserve, protect, and defend America’s national symbol. But Team Obama’s response is completely different: It wants to give wind-power companies long-term permits to butcher Bald Eagles on the altar of green energy.

The dirty secret about “clean” wind power is that its turbines are giant, whirling machetes. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), “With more than 100,000 turbines expected to be in operation in the United States by 2030, annual bird mortality rates alone (now estimated by the Service at 440,000 per year) are expected to exceed one million.”

Like other birds, eagles sometimes do not detect blades that often revolve at 200 miles per hour. Such birds of prey focus on finding smaller creatures to devour and then fatally smack into windmills.

Bald eagles and golden eagles are among the victims. This is the first significant bad news for bald eagles since their return from near-extinction. According to the Audubon Society, only 417 nesting pairs of bald eagles inhabited the continental United States in 1963. The bald eagle joined the Endangered Species List on July 4, 1976. Public and private protection helped secure its June 2007 delisting. At least 7,066 nesting pairs now populate the lower 48 states, among a total world population of some 330,000.

#ad#And now this.

Most Americans would expect Washington to shield these beautiful, majestic, and soaring creatures. Instead, they are being sacrificed in the name of environmental correctness.

“We anticipate issuing programmatic permits for wind, solar, and other energy projects,” says an FWS fact sheet. It also states: “Permits may authorize lethal take that is incidental to an otherwise lawful activity, such as mortalities caused by collisions with rotating wind turbines.”

“Lethal take” is Washingtonian for “federally approved eagle slaughter.” Precise eagle-kill numbers are tough to determine, in part because “other animals gobble the carcasses almost immediately,” the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s R. J. Smith explains. About 67 golden eagles are estimated to be killed annually just at Northern California’s Altamont Pass wind farm.

The carnage expands from there.

“In California, it is very reasonable to assume that over 100 golden eagles are killed each year,” wildlife biologist Jim Wiegand, vice president of Save the Eagles International, tells me. “Based upon the death rate at Altamont Pass of 60 to 90 each year, or 0.10 to 0.15 per megawatt produced, the death rate easily could be over 500 a year from wind farms located in golden-eagle habitat in the western United States. . . . Since 2005, there has been a 50 percent decline in golden-eagle nest sites recorded near Altamont Pass. It has been hidden from the public, and I had to uncover this fact. In addition, no golden eagles have nested in the 86-square-mile region of Altamont Pass for over 20 years, even though they once did, and this is prime golden-eagle habitat.”

“Despite what has been published, Altamont is not an aberration,” Wiegand adds. “This wind farm just happens to have had some of the better mortality studies that have been conducted on wind farms. In addition, it has been proven (but covered up) that wherever these turbines are placed, there is no escape. They kill the indigenous bird species.”

#page#Some ornithophiles already place the words “golden eagle” and “extinction” in the same sentence.

Nonetheless, a 2009 Obama-era law lets people disturb or even kill eagles, so long as harming or whacking them is unintentional. Even worse, FWS announced last month, “the Service proposes to extend the maximum term for programmatic permits from five to 30 years.” So, the Obama administration plans to widen sixfold the loophole by which wind farmers may operate killing fields for eagles. This will spare wind companies the penalties that can befall those with eagle blood on their hands but without political connections.

First-time violators of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1940 can receive $5,000 fines and one-year prison sentences. Second offenses double those punishments. Felony convictions can trigger $250,000 fines.

#ad#However, as the Los Angeles Times reports, “federal authorities have not prosecuted any wind farm operators” for slicing eagles in two — along with condors, bats, redtail hawks, and other birds that run afoul of these giant rotors.

As an FWS press release states, “Eagles collected by Federal and State officials are sent to the Service’s National Eagle Repository, where they are distributed to Native Americans for religious and cultural use.” Despite this abundant supply of eagle feathers and cadavers that American Indians value, the Obama administration last March let Wyoming’s Northern Arapahos kill two bald eagles in a tribal ceremony. If not unprecedented, no such permit, FWS reports, had ever been granted through at least 2009. Thus, the Obamaites celebrate diversity by attacking biodiversity.

Among others, the evil oil companies that Team Obama loves to hate do not enjoy such favorable treatment.

• Last August, after helicopter-borne federal officials spent 45 days crisscrossing North Dakota for evidence, Obama-appointed U.S. attorney Timothy Purdon prosecuted seven petroleum producers for the 28 dead birds in or near their open waste pits. Mallard ducks, gadwalls, a solitary sandpiper, and others fatally mistook these pools of industrial discharge for natural ponds. Facing maximum fines of $15,000 per bird and six months behind bars under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, these oilmen pled guilty and agreed to pay $1,000 per bird. On January 18, however, federal judge Daniel Hovland dismissed Purdon’s case as excessively broad.

• Last July, FWS threatened to fine Alison Capo of Virginia, the mother of 11-year-old Skylar Capo, $535 for illegally possessing a woodpecker that her daughter saved from a hungry cat and soon released. Public disgust with such power-lust finally made FWS back off.

• Three years ago, after FWS investigated, a utility called PacifiCorp paid $10.5 million in fines after 232 golden eagles and other protected birds were electrocuted after landing on its power lines in Wyoming between January 2007 and July 2009.

Team Obama mocks the solemn words chiseled above the columns of the U.S. Supreme Court: “Equal justice under law.”

If bald eagles dropped dead beside oil derricks, Washington would pound the petroleum industry flatter than Wiener schnitzel. Instead, wind propellers chop bald eagles in half. Team Obama then lets wind companies eradicate even more of this republic’s innocent national bird.

This is not the behavior of normal Americans.

New York commentator Deroy Murdock is a nationally syndicated columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University.

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online.

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