American Bird Conservancy Files Suit Over Eagle Take Permits

Jun 20, 2014

An environmental group is suing the federal government over eagle take permits. The permits allow wind farms to kill a certain number of protected bald and golden eagles annually without penalty. In December, the Fish and Wildlife Service changed the duration of the permits from five to 30 years in response to industry lobbying.  Wind companies said the shorter period didn’t provide enough certainty for investors.

Now, the American Bird Conservancy is suing over the extension, saying the government didn’t follow proper procedure in changing the duration of the permit. Spokesman Michael Hutchins said in a recent interview that there isn’t enough scientific data to know how the extended permits will impact eagle populations.

“There’s a lot of questions here. We’re basically involved in a big experiment with our public trust resources at stake,” Hutchins said. The government has promised to continue reviewing the permits every five years. 

“Even though they're going to do reviews, they’re internal reviews, which means there’s going to be reduced transparency during the process,” Hutchins said.

He added that it’s unclear whether as a result of the five-year reviews a wind farm could actually be shut down. The lawsuit seeks a full review of the extension.

Federal biologists estimate that wind farms have killed roughly 120 eagles nationwide in the last five years. Thirty of those were in Wyoming.