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Eagles killed by Palm Springs windmills raise concerns

Ian James — The Desert Sun — July 7, 2014

When eagles fly over San Gorgonio Pass, they confront a barrage of deadly obstacles among the whirring blades of windmills. It’s unclear how many birds are killed, but federal officials say the wind turbines here and at other wind farms are taking a significant toll.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it has received reports of 15 golden eagles killed by windmills in the Palm Springs area since 1999, an average of one eagle a year. That number, however, is most certainly a tiny fraction of the actual number of deaths because monitoring is spotty, reporting is voluntary and enforcement actions are rare.

The Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that on average, more than 20 golden eagles are probably killed each year among the wind turbines of San Gorgonio Pass, out of an estimated 120 golden eagle deaths annually at wind farms across California.

Those deaths, or “takes,” of golden eagles are prohibited under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. And in order to avoid prosecution, wind energy companies or other companies that could cause eagle deaths are supposed to apply for permits specifying how many birds they can lawfully kill, and what steps they will take to offset those fatalities with other conservation measures.

Since the permits were introduced by the government in 2009, though, very few wind energy companies have stepped forward to apply. The first and only permit of the kind was approved last month for a wind project in Northern California’s Solano County, allowing up to five eagles to be killed there during the next five years.  Continue reading here….

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