As promised in April, the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) has filed suit in federal court against the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI). The group charges the government agency with multiple violations of federal law in connection with the DOI's December 2013 ruling to offer wind energy companies and others to obtain 30-year eagle take permits. The previous rule provided for a maximum duration of five years for each permit, which authorizes projects to ‘take’ (i.e., injure, kill or otherwise disturb) eagles.
On April 30, ABC sent the DOI and its U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) a notice of intent to sue. ABC argues that the new eagle take rule violates the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Endangered Species Act, and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Washington, D.C.-based public interest law firm Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal is representing the conservation group.
ABC says is initiating this lawsuit in order to have the rule invalidated pending full compliance with federal environmental statutes. The group adds that it believes wind energy and other renewable energy sources can be encouraged without putting bald and golden eagles at risk.
"In the government's rush to expand wind energy, shortcuts were taken in implementing this rule that should not have been allowed," says Michael Hutchins, national coordinator of the ABC's Bird Smart Wind Energy Program "We understand that some bird mortality is inevitable. However, in this case, long-term, cumulative impacts to eagle populations were not properly assessed, and the 30-year take permit rule was adopted in the absence of the required NEPA analysis concerning impacts on eagle populations or any other species that share the eagles' range."
ABC President George Fenwick adds, "We issue this lawsuit as a last resort, and we hope it will lead to an approach that better balances the compelling national interests in eagle conservation with the expansion of wind power."