Habitat Loss Alteration

Other wildlife species may be reluctant to cross roads, which could have adverse effects such as decreasing reproduction within the local population, causing difficulty finding mates and sufficient food, and interruption of migration routes. After construction, roads may be used as travel lanes by some predators, which could increase predation on prey species such as small mammals and herpetofauna (i.e., reptiles and amphibians).

Potential avoidance of wind projects by big game such as deer and elk has been a concern of state and federal wildlife agencies. In theory, wind farms may disrupt wildlife movements, particularly during migrations. For example, it is possible that herd animals such as elk, deer and pronghorn could be affected if rows of turbines were placed along migration paths between winter and summer ranges or in calving areas.

Studies conducted at Foote Creek Rim in Wyoming documented no measured displacement effects of pronghorn that use the site year round (Johnson et al. 2000), and a study of elk in Oklahoma indicated no adverse effect (Walter et al. 2006). The effects of wind energy on mule deer and elk have not been investigated in detail. Studies at oil and gas facilities in Wyoming have documented displacement and local population declines of mule deer (Sawyer et al. 2006a, b). The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is conducting a radio-tracking study of

An Oklahoma study that evaluated the response of Rocky Mountain elk to wind energy development found that "although disturbance and loss of some grassland habitat was apparent, elk were not adversely affected by wind-power development as determined by home range and dietary quality" (Walter et. al., 2006).


Example elk in Wasco County, Oregon, in part to document pre- and postconstruction use of the area of a proposed wind energy project.

Potential adverse effects to big game should be considered when important big game habitat is present in a project area; including winter range, calving/fawning areas, migration corridors, summer, or year-round range. On the other hand, big game may use roads as travel lanes if the human disturbance level is low after construction, and habituation may occur over time.

Other animals also could be affected by the direct habitat loss that may occur at a wind project. Such impacts are expected to be relatively small, except in the case of elimination or isolation of a habitat patch or feature that is important to the continued wildlife occupancy of the site. These impacts are to be noteworthy if a state- or federally-listed species is affected.

Indirect impacts can also induce wildlife population changes; invasion by weeds in native or agricultural communities could displace vegetation with higher wildlife food or cover value and cause wildlife population declines. Increased fire hazard can result from more human activity in the area that results in accidental fire from smoking or sparks from equipment and vehicles driving across dry vegetation. Increased frequency of fire in forest and range habitats may result from invasion by fire-associated species such as cheatgrass and could eliminate forest or shrub-steppe habitat. Agencies may require indirect impacts to be evaluated to determine the level of significance, depending on the characteristics of the site.

In areas subject to development pressure, wind projects can have a positive impact on wildlife by pre-serving open space and habitat that would otherwise be occupied by suburban housing and commercial development. The projects also may be fully compatible with management objectives for protected species remaining in the area during wind project operation.

Water quality and fish and amphibian habitat can be adversely affected by increased sediment deposition and loading if wind project development increases runoff or soil erosion from the site. These impacts are temporary and short-term during the construction phase of the wind project and can be avoided or minimized by following an erosion and sediment control plan. Spills of toxic substances, which can also adversely affect wildlife, can be avoided through observance of a Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasures (SPCC) plan.

Species sensitive to disturbance are likely to avoid the site during construction, but may return during the operation phase after a habituation period. The length of time for habituation would vary among species, but it may be more than 2 years after construction, and longer-term monitoring in some form should be considered if this is a concern of the permitting agency for a particular species.

The following table lists studies that can be used to evaluate habitat loss or alteration on wind energy project sites.

Renewable Energy Eco Friendly

Renewable Energy Eco Friendly

Renewable energy is energy that is generated from sunlight, rain, tides, geothermal heat and wind. These sources are naturally and constantly replenished, which is why they are deemed as renewable.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment