Sponsored by Lane Powell

Conflict in the wind

| Print |  Email
Articles - December 2011
Tuesday, November 15, 2011

1211_WindGraph_01Bringing wind farms to the West hasn’t been as simple as federal officials might have imagined. Spinning blades are proving deadly to golden and bald eagles, prompting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to temporarily halt construction of wind farms nationally, including West Butte and three others in Oregon, and to review operating farms last fall while crafting an eagle protection plan.

Cattlemen are cautiously watching wind development, supportive so long as energy leaves room for grazing allotments, according to rancher John O’Keeffe, public lands committee chair for the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association. Hunters and conservationists are looking to preserve populations of mule deer, elk and other wildlife. Of particular concern is the sage grouse, a now imperiled species of bird that dwells on the same flat, open lands also prime for wind farms.

Sage grouse breed in open spaces called leks, and will avoid them, and breeding, if tall objects hover, fearful they conceal predators. With the number of leks shrinking and no way to reproduce them, sage grouse were categorized as “warranted but precluded” by the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife in March 2010, meaning the bird’s condition warrants an endangered species listing but there aren’t the resources to make it happen. The listing was a cautionary signal to developers and conservationists. If sufficiently harmed by wind farms, sage grouse could prove the spotted owl of Eastern Oregon and wipe out energy goals for some states altogether, including Oregon.

Bob Sallinger, conservation director of the Audubon Society of Portland, is among conservation leaders looking critically at wind. While the last two years of planning and talks have led to bald and golden eagle protections, a BLM effort to protect sage grouse regionally, and a mitigation and sage grouse protection policy for Oregon, Sallinger says those are bright spots on an otherwise troubling scene: Oregon still doesn’t have a framework for determining where wind farms can go. And the political pressure to put more renewable energy on federal land — and do it fast — may meanwhile have consequences for wildlife.

“We haven’t seen that federal agencies so far are willing to stand up to wind developers and really ensure that natural resources are protected,” says Sallinger. “Ultimately, I think that’s not only going to be to the detriment of natural resources but to the wind industry itself, because what I see is that the wind industry is losing its green veneer.”

But speaking out is an awkward posture for some conservationists, many of whom championed renewable energy as an answer to climate change. Sallinger says conservation groups first avoided such disputes, glad to make progress on alternative energy goals. 
“I think what you’re seeing now is a growing shift from focusing on ‘OK, we need to be doing this’ to ‘we need to be doing it right,’” he says. “I think it’s important to understand that the market that drives renewable energy is not entirely different from the market that drives oil.”


More Articles

Let it Rain

October 2015
Monday, September 28, 2015

This year has been so dry we were caught napping when it finally started to sprinkle. Hopefully you didn’t get caught in a downpour while eagerly awaiting — don’t deny it — our curation of Oregon-grown wet weather wear.


100 Best Nonprofits announced

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

1015-nonprofits01Oregon Business magazine has named the seventh annual 100 Best Nonprofits to Work for in Oregon. The rankings were revealed Wednesday night during an awards dinner at the Sentinel Hotel in Portland.


The 10 most successful crowdfunding campaigns in Oregon

The Latest
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
081915-crowdfundingmainBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

One of the hottest new investment trends has proven quite lucrative for some companies.


After the Orange Line

Linda Baker
Tuesday, September 08, 2015
090815-trimet-thumbBY LINDA BAKER

Alan Lehto, TriMet's director of policy & planning, shares a few thoughts on ride sharing and more nimble bus services.


Down on the Bayou

October 2015
Monday, September 28, 2015

A Power Lunch at Zydeco Kitchen and Cocktails in Bend.


More Than Meets the Eye

Guest Blog
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Janet Yellen official Federal Reserve portrait-thumbBY JASON NORRIS | CFA

On September 17, the much anticipated Fed decision was delivered and the equity markets haven't liked it.


Up on the Roof

September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015

In 2010 Vanessa Keitges and several investors purchased Portland-based Columbia Green Technologies, a green-roof company. The 13-person firm has a 200% annual growth rate, exports 30% of its product to Canada and received its first infusion of venture capital in 2014 from Yaletown Venture Partners. CEO Keitges, 40, a Southern Oregon native who serves on President Obama’s Export Council, talks about market innovation, scaling small business and why Oregon is falling behind in green-roof construction. 

Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02