bobolink grassland bird

Update: Wind Turbines and Birds

There is more disturbing news on the green energy front concerning birds. A study by the US Geological Survey looked at the effects of wind turbines located in North and South Dakota on grassland bird populations. Researchers found that wind turbines displaced seven of nine species. Displacement continued for two to five years after construction.

Native Grassland Birds in Danger

As the study points out, the bird species in question are already in serious decline. Native grasslands are one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world. It makes sense that wildlife populations would also suffer. This case represents a disconnect between green energy and the value placed on these habitats.

The American Wind Energy Association identified states such as North Dakota as having a high potential for wind energy. Its grassland habitat, after all, offer unobstructed vistas, perfect for wind farms. Low populations densities also add to the potential.

However, the fact that some ideal places for wind farms also happen to be in prime grassland bird habitat underscores the need for more study and more informed management decisions. One has to applaud the fact that this study was funded by both the US Geological Survey and NextEra Energy, Inc., the top clean energy of North America.

The Nuances of Environmentalism

One also can’t help but see the irony that the study exposes too. Here we have a situation in which environmentalists of the climate change flavor are pitted against environmentalists of the conservation biology side. And this isn’t going to be the only one that comes along.

The fate of the planet and its many species will inevitably create other conflicts of interest. The difference lies in the fact that the battles will include those on the supposed same side. We tend to think of them occurring between the two political parties rather than within.

In any case, conflicts like this one will challenge us in the years ahead. Resolutions will demand rational thinking that sets aside the politics associated with climate change.

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photo credit: Bobolink, male via photopin (license)