The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and wind energy companies have signed a memorandum of understanding, pledging to work together to develop a wind energy habitat conservation plan (HCP) for the FWS' Midwest region. Such a plan would outline measures to conserve threatened and endangered species that may be affected by wind energy facilities in eight Midwestern states.
A multi-species, regional HCP approved by the FWS would include measures for long-term conservation of federally endangered Indiana bats and members of other protected species that may be incidentally harmed or killed by wind turbines or other activities associated with the construction and operation of wind energy facilities. The plan would apply to the activities of cooperating companies in Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.
‘It is the industry's expectation that development of the regional HCP will streamline the permitting process, allowing effective conservation of wildlife and easing the [FWS'] administrative burden, while also allowing for more wind energy to be deployed nationally,’ says John Anderson, AWEA's director of siting policy.
Under the HCP, wind developers will acquire an incidental take permit, which will exempt otherwise lawful activities (i.e., construction and operation of a wind energy facility) from the prohibition of take under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Under the ESA, ‘take’ means harming, harassing, or killing endangered or threatened species.
The FWS has awarded states in the FWS' Midwest region an ESA grant of approximately $3.3 million to develop a broadly constructed HCP designed to address the potential impacts of wind energy. The wind industry's commitment to provide the required 10% matching funding will help facilitate development of the plan.
The Conservation Fund, an environmental nonprofit, will lead the strategic conservation work accompanying the HCP. In the coming months, the wind industry applicants will begin the selection process for the ESA technical contractor and work with the FWS and states to develop the HCP.
SOURCE: American Wind Energy Association