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USFWS Says No to Wind Farms in Sage Grouse Core Habitat

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The US Fish and Wildlife Service has drawn a clear line in Wyoming, stating that designated Core Habitat for the Sage Grouse must remain free of wind turbines.  Even turbines built in order to conduct further research on effects on sage grouse would “negate the usefulness of the core area concept,” according to a response from the FWS to inquiries from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.  In addition, mitigation aimed at minimizing the impacts of wind farms is considered inappropriate in these core habitat areas.  The implication is that any research efforts should take place in less critical habitat.  Aaron Clark, an adviser on energy infrastructure to Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal, said the governor’s office supports the Fish and Wildlife Service’s hard line on wind farms in core areas. “We don’t want to close the door on everything for ever,” Clark said. “If somebody can bring in some really good science that shows that wind turbines don’t have an adverse effect on sage grouse, obviously then our position needs to change. But everything we’ve seen so far is pointing the exact opposite way.” For more info, see this AP story, read a Press Release from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, or read the letter from the FWS to the State GFD.

UPDATE 8/13/09: Horizon Wind has indefinitely suspended its planning for one of the two wind farms planned for the sage grouse core habitat, though a spokesman affirms that “the project is not dead.”  This New York Times article provides a clear recap of Wyoming’s initial plan to allow two wind farms in the core habitat, in order to study their impacts as several other wind farms await approval. The state, which is working hard to avoid having the FWS list the grouse as endangered, had requested guidance on their plan, and received a rebuke from FWS.

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