Wind farms won't be prosecuted for condor deaths, says USFWS

Posted: May 15, 2013

Written by

Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times/GW
Wind farm

The Fish and Wildlife Service on Friday said the operators of wind farms in the Tehachapi Mountains will not be charged if their turbines kill protected condors.

The announcement drew anger from environmentalists, who said the move undermines the California condor program.

The birds were nearly extinct 25 years ago and still have a small population. Federal laws prohibit their disturbance or killing.

But FWS made an exception for the 270,000-acre Tejon Ranch that will last for 50 years. The wind project is expected to expand to cover 8 percent of critical condor habitat.

"This is the first time we've authorized incidental takes of California condors -- and we're approaching them very cautiously," said Fish and Wildlife Director Daniel Ashe.

Ashe said new technology that could help save the birds was promising. Many wind farms are looking to use radar and other systems that could identify incoming species and switch off the turbines until they pass.

"The good news is that we have an expanding population of condors, which are also expanding their range," he said. "We have to make sure that as the condor population grows, we are learning to work with local private businesses to fit a conservation effort into the landscape."

Wildlife activists were unhappy with the decision.

"I can't believe the federal government is putting so much money into a historic and costly effort to establish a stable population of condors, and at the same time is issuing permits to kill them. Ludicrous," said Daniel Burnett, the treasurer of Kerncrest Audubon.

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