The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act prohibits the taking (killing, wounding, or disturbing) of bald and golden eagles without a permit. Eagles can be killed by wind turbines, yet, as the most commercially viable and scalable form of renewable energy, wind power is critical to addressing climate change, a major threat to eagles and other wildlife. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has developed a framework for permitting lawful take and conserving eagles and has recently proposed regulations for the issuance of eagle take permits where the take is associated with an otherwise lawful activity, such as wind energy. Helping to reconcile the goals of wind energy development and eagle conservation is an urgent priority of the American Wind Wildlife Institute (AWWI) and its partners. This white paper and the November 2011 AWWI Eagle Workshop at which an earlier working draft was discussed draw on input from scientific experts on bald and golden eagles to define the technical issues around wind energy development and eagles, and to identify research that would improve implementation of and compliance with the Service’s Eagle Guidance.
We summarize information about the population status and trends of bald and golden eagles and discuss “take” threshold in terms of eagle management units. We review anthropogenic sources of eagle mortality along with estimated magnitude of take from wind energy and from leading sources such as electrocution, collision, shooting, and poisoning. Potential mitigation options are identified. Research topics considered include: a) identifying and addressing information gaps on demography and status relevant to calculating take thresholds; b) developing unbiased estimates of eagle mortality; c) creating models for siting and operational strategies that avoid or minimize eagle fatalities at wind energy facilities; d) expanding options for compensatory mitigation; and e) coordinating and enhancing existing collaborative eagle research.
Because bald eagle populations appear to be thriving, Eagle Workshop participants recommend that AWWI emphasize research on golden eagles that is directly relevant to wind energy development. The white paper concludes that AWWI should focus over the next 12 months on expanding options for compensatory mitigation while continuing to identify, support, and collaborate with other research initiatives, as appropriate.