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Eagle-take permitting gets underway for Wyoming wind farm

The federal government is getting ready to issue its first eagle-take permit for a wind power project in Wyoming. 

Normally, killing eagles is illegal. But the five-year permits allow wind companies to kill a certain number of eagles without penalty.

The Power Company of Wyoming hasn’t actually applied for a permit for its Chokecherry-Sierra Madre wind project in Carbon County yet, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has started asking for public input in anticipation that it will.

Migratory Bird Division Chief Casey Stemler says they’ve been working for several years on a conservation plan to minimize the potential for collisions.

“Such that any remaining take that may occur would be unavoidable. And that’s the kind of discussion that we have ongoing with the company now,” Stemler says.

Wyoming wind farms have killed more than 30 eagles over the last five years, and one company was recently fined a million dollars for eagle deaths at its facilities. 

The eagle take permit program started in 2009, but the government hasn’t issued any of them to date. Stemler says that’s because there’s a long process that has to happen before a company can even apply -- starting with at least two years of surveys, followed by consultation with the agency and mitigation plans.

“By having the permit, we then have a way to work closely with the companies that come to us to try to help reduce chances of killing eagles. I mean, that’s our ultimate goal, obviously, is to work with the companies so they can move forward with what they’re trying to do, but also for us to fulfill our mission with the Fish and Wildlife Service,” Stemler says.

He adds that they haven't decided how many eagle takes will be permitted at the Chokecherry-Sierra Madre project.

The agency is hosting public scoping meetings in Rawlins and Saratoga December 16 and 17 to discuss the permitting process.

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