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Wind energy development along the U.S. Pacific coast poses a risk to marine birds such as the Marbled Murrelet, which is federally listed as Threatened. Photo by Glenn Bartley

January 29, 2019 – The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is leading an effort to consider birds in their planning of wind energy development off the shores of California, including in three areas approximately 25 to 50 miles off the coasts of Humboldt Bay, Morro Bay, and Diablo Canyon – areas designated as having wind energy potential. American Bird Conservancy has provided further considerations, including ways to minimize impacts in these areas to seabirds, such as the Marbled Murrelet, a species listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

As part of BOEM’s 100-day comment period, American Bird Conservancy submitted a letter to help inform the planning process. The letter specifies concerns regarding potential adverse impacts of wind energy on birds, including the murrelet.

“We support the effort to combat climate change through responsible renewable energy development, and we believe that birds and wind power can coexist, if the wind industry adopts practices and standards that protect birds,” said Holly Goyert, Bird-Smart Wind Energy Campaign Director for American Bird Conservancy. “By assessing these sites, high-risk areas where wind development will endanger seabirds can be avoided.”

American Bird Conservancy also recently wrote a letter voicing concerns over potential impacts on Marbled Murrelets from the proposed Skookumchuck Wind Energy Project in the state of Washington, suggesting improvements to that project’s draft Habitat Conservation Plan in order to avoid, minimize, and offset any potential losses of Threatened Marbled Murrelets.

Similarly, ABC proposes that the planning for wind energy development off the coast of California prioritize efforts to avoid and minimize impacts to birds, including:

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  • having developers buy into a mitigation fund to support seabird conservation efforts and independent research on the vulnerability of birds to wind energy facilities off the California coast.
  • using site-specific research and predictive mapping to determine whether there are any high-risk areas within the wind energy areas that should be excluded. This would help BOEM and developers to carefully site wind energy facilities in locations that avoid bird “hotspots”: important foraging areas, migratory paths, or other places where birds congregate.
  • having developers implement avian monitoring and minimization plans that are subject to public review. ABC has made similar recommendations regarding wind energy off the coasts of Rhode Island and Massachusetts, to avoid impacts on the Roseate Tern, which is listed as Endangered under the ESA. Like other seabirds, this species faces threats from climate change and competition from commercial fisheries, in addition to offshore wind energy development.

“Birds are susceptible not only to collisions with wind turbines, but also habitat loss from displacement by these facilities,” said Goyert. “Independent, transparent studies should be designed to improve the monitoring and minimization of bird impacts through scientifically rigorous surveys and the innovation of detection and deterrent technology.”

American Bird Conservancy has also recommended that the California Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force establish an avian stakeholder advisory group and a mitigation fund to offset bird losses. Such a group would help ensure that the public remains informed about research findings, and would monitor impacts and offsets relating to bird conservation and wind energy development.

“California’s marine birds are integral components of marine ecosystems, emblematic species of the state, and valuable to the vibrant coastal tourism economy,” said Hannah Nevins, American Bird Conservancy’s Seabird Program Director. “American Bird Conservancy is eager to work with BOEM and other partners to protect and conserve birds, while promoting sustainable, renewable sources of energy.”

American Bird Conservancy is dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on abcbirds.orgFacebookInstagram, and Twitter (@abcbirds).