The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA) 1 prohibits the “take” of these birds. The act defines take as to “pursue, shoot, shoot at, poison, wound, kill, capture, trap, collect, destroy, molest or disturb.” The 2009 Eagle Permit Rule (74 FR 46836) authorizes the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to issue nonpurposeful (i.e., incidental) take permits, and the USFWS 2013 Eagle Conservation Plan Guidance provides a voluntary framework for issuing programmatic take permits to wind facilities that incorporate scientifically supportable advanced conservation practices (ACPs). Under these rules, the Service can issue permits that authorize individual instances of take of bald and golden eagles when the take is associated with, but not the purpose of, an otherwise lawful activity, and cannot practicably be avoided.
To date, the USFWS has not approved any ACPs, citing the lack of evidence for “scientifically supportable measures.” The Eagle Detection and Deterrents Research Gaps and Solutions Workshop was convened at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in December 2015 with a goal to comprehensively assess the current stat e of technologies to detect and deter eagles from wind energy sites and the key gaps concerning reducing eagle fatalities and facilitating permitting under the BGEPA. During the workshop, presentations and discussions focused primarily on existing knowledge (and limitations) about the biology of eagles as well as technologies and emerging or novel ideas, including innovative applications of tools developed for use in other sectors, such as the U.S. Department of Defense and aviation.
The main activity of the workshop was the breakout sessions, which focused on the current state of detection and deterrent technologies and novel concepts/applications for detecting and minimizing eagle collisions with wind turbines. Following the breakout sessions, participants were asked about their individual impressions of the relative priority of each of the existing and novel ideas.
Criteria considered included:
- Likelihood of success —i.e., probability that conducting research and development (R&D) will yield useful, constructive results
- Ultimate affordability
- Ultimate efficacy
- Cost of R&D and product commercialization
- Length of time to achieve commercial application.
The purpose of this exercise was to provide workshop participants with an opportunity to share their objective recommendations as influenced by their personal experiences, areas of expertise, and levels of knowledge on the topic. It was emphasized that this was an exercise, not a plan for R&D.
Participants placed a very high level of emphasis on discussions of existing systems, including ideas that involve more independent field tests and validations of these systems. Improvements could include, but are not limited to, advancing the capability of visual cameras to detect eagles at wind power plants. There was also interest in gaining a better understanding about how eagles perceive and respond to visual and auditory stimuli (because their sensory systems are different from those of humans), which will be critical in developing novel, effective deterrent systems.
In addition, participants placed a high level of emphasis on utilizing integrated system components, including developing algorithms that will help viewers of optic data make operational decisions as well as gain a better understanding of when and under what conditions bird strikes occur.
Participants placed less emphasis on assessing secondary impacts, including habituation. Also given lower prioritization were studying deterrent placements, improving current auditory and visual deterrents, further developing solid-state Doppler radars and supervisory control and data acquisition interfaces, studying deterrent effects on humans, and improving passive acoustic monitoring. During the workshop, participants discussed that these focus areas were important activities, but, at the same time, they also indicated that initial research efforts should focus on addressing the gaps in our understanding of eagle sensory biology as well as refining core detection and deterrent systems.