This document summarizes a series of conversations conducted in 2021, building on the synthesis of a Forum in 2020, among stakeholders representing federal and state agencies, conservation and science NGOs, academics, consultants, and the wind industry. Forum activities have been organized and facilitated by the American Wind Wildlife Institute (AWWI) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) with support from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Wind Energy Technology Office.
In 2020, a white paper titled “Prairie grouse and wind energy: the state of the science” was drafted by John Lloyd and Taber Allison (AWWI); Cameron Aldridge (USGS); Chad LeBeau (WEST, Inc.); Lance McNew (Montana State University); and Virginia Winder (Benedictine College). Subsequently, AWWI and NREL held a cross-sector Forum on grouse and wind energy where conversations were informed by the results of the white paper. The paper was distributed to all forum attendees for comment and was discussed during an informational webinar presented by several of the paper authors, who discussed key findings and participated in an extensive question and answer session with participants. A recording was shared with all Forum attendees. Following this webinar, sector-specific breakout calls were conducted where participants engaged in a facilitated discussion with other members of their sector (industry, NGO, and state/federal) about research needs, challenges in meeting those needs, and potential solutions to the identified challenges. A concluding session was held for Forum invitees to hear outcomes of sector-specific calls. Attendees discussed research interests, challenges, solutions, and potential pathways forward. Forum participants were not asked to reach agreement on any issue. After the Forum, a synthesis of the discussions was distributed to attendees, and they were asked to submit comments.
Given the new administration and proposed listing of Distinct Population Segments (DPS) for the lesser prairie-chicken, NREL and DOE asked AWWI to reach out to the key stakeholders who participated in the Forum and schedule follow up calls to see if research questions or priorities had changed. Calls were conducted with the same three sectors as well as a call with one scientist and written comments from a second scientist, both affiliated with universities. A series of questions drafted by AWWI and reviewed by NREL provided the basis for the calls with each sector (see Appendix A). AWWI did not seek consensus among call participants.
The synthesis centers on the intersection between wind energy development and conservation of grouse in the grasslands and shrub-steppe of the central and western United States. Many participants brought up interest in a broader understanding of cumulative impacts to prairie grouse from all anthropogenic sources, such as other renewable energy sources, ranching, oil and gas development, housing, wildfires, and climate change. Research questions around, and investigation into these topics can provide important context that should not be overlooked. However, these topics are outside of the scope of this document since the primary focus of the Forum and conversations is on challenges, solutions, and priorities for the wind energy-specific community.