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Feds extend duration of eagle-take permits

Over the objections of environmental groups, the federal government agreed Friday to issue eagle-take permits to wind companies for 30 years, instead of five. The permits allow companies to kill a certain number of eagles without penalty, while requiring additional mitigation and conservation measures.

Industry lobbied for the change, saying that the short permits left too much uncertainty when planning major projects.

Environmental groups strongly oppose the longer timeframes. Audubon Rockies Director Brian Rutledge says we just don’t know enough about the interactions between wind farms and birds to be making commitments 30 years out.

“The heart of our objection is the loss of eagles at a rate that no one can project and with a minimum of ability to respond even with what mitigation for the loss will be,” Rutledge says.

But in a recent interview with WPR, Fish and Wildlife Service Migratory Bird Division Chief Casey Stemler said if there are problems, the agency isn’t just going to let them slide.

“We’re certainly going to have a conversation with that company to say ‘okay, whoa, what do we got going on here?’ It’s not something that we just issue and walk away from. There’s going to be consistent monitoring from the Fish and Wildlife Service throughout whatever the tenure of the permit might be,” he says.

The new permitting plan calls for formal check-ups every five years.

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