What AP left out of its latest story on eagles and wind power

11 September 2013 by John Anderson John Anderson

As with previous coverage by Associated Press’s Dina Cappiello on eagles and wind energy, critical context about wind power and wildlife went missing from her report today. It is concerning that Ms. Cappiello again minimizes wind power’s perspective despite an abundance of important information made available to her.

No one takes wildlife impacts more seriously than the wind industry, and while unfortunately some eagles occasionally collide with turbines at some wind farms, this is not a common occurrence: fatalities of golden eagles at modern wind facilities represent only 2 percent of all documented sources of human caused eagle fatalities, while only a few bald eagles have died in collisions in the history of the industry. Yet the industry is committed to, and strives for, further reducing these impacts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This figure is far lower than eagle fatalities due to other leading causes, including lead poisoning, poisoning in general, electrocutions, collisions with vehicles, drowning in stock tanks, and illegal shootings. Further, the only reason we know as much as we do is because unlike these other sources, the wind industry is conducting pre- and post-construction surveys and self-reporting the losses.  

Further, a recent study published in the Journal of Wildlife Management shows stable golden eagle populations throughout North America. The lead author is Brian Millsap, National Raptor Coordinator with FWS.  This study examined population data throughout the range of golden eagles over the past four decades (i.e., 1968-2010) and found that the population has, in general, remained stable, and in fact slightly increased overall. The study concludes, “Our results clarify that golden eagles are not declining widely in the western United States."

This is an important data point, which contradicts claims that golden eagle populations have been declining throughout their range, with some in the anti-wind community attributing that trend to the expansion of wind energy. Despite the fact that this information was delivered to the AP on deadline before the story was published, it makes no mention of the fact that there is no decline in golden eagles in the American West. 

Even so, the wind industry is and will remain actively engaged with both the regulatory and conservation communities to find ways of further avoiding, minimizing and fully mitigating for any impacts to both eagle species.

An infographic with the story also uses a contentious figure of bird strikes at wind farms, despite our sending her a comprehensive analysis showing in detail why that figure reflects the opinion of one biologist and is an outlier when compared to other mortality estimates conducted by numerous biologists and statisticians over the past several decades. 

When we realized several of these facts went missing in Ms. Cappiello’s story, we submitted them in an online comment on the AP site. While the comment was ultimately approved and posted, that process took more than a day.

Ultimately, the story exaggerates the point of view of less credible opponents of wind power. It omits mainstream bird conservation groups such as National Audubon Society and National Wildlife Federation, which support developing more wind power because it helps avoid the vastly greater wildlife impacts of other forms of energy. And it leaves out information on the progress made by the industry-conservation partnership, American Wind Wildlife Institute, which we’ve provided Ms. Cappiello previously.  

We again urge AP to treat this topic more fairly and not with unbalanced advocacy journalism that relies on misleading and incomplete information, and lacks context for its readers’ understanding of a complex issue.

Photo credit: David K. Clarke

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