On May 13, 2003, the FWS within the DOI issued Interim Guidance on Avoiding and Minimizing Wildlife Impacts from Wind Turbines (Interim Guidelines). The FWS indicated its intent to evaluate the guidance over a two-year period.
On December 8, 2003, AWEA submitted comments on the Interim Guidelines to the FWS. AWEA noted that the lack of consultation with the wind industry prior to issuance of the guidance had resulted in a document that has technical flaws, contains inaccurate assumptions, and calls for a level of regulation disproportionate to wind's impacts on wildlife, especially as compared to impacts from other activities.
Additionally, although the Interim Guidelines are voluntary, AWEA noted that permitting agencies throughout the country were beginning to adopt the guidance as required procedure. AWEA encouraged the FWS to engage in a dialogue with the wind industry, providing an opportunity to exchange research and information on the potential effects of wind energy projects on wildlife.
On April 26, 2004, the FWS issued a memorandum regarding implementation of the Interim Guidelines. Among other things, the FWS clarified that the guidance is intended to be general in nature and should be applied as appropriate based on local conditions. The FWS stated: the "Interim Guidelines are not to be construed as rigid requirements, which are applicable to every situation, nor should be read literally." Nevertheless, government agencies and other stakeholders continued to apply the Interim Guidelines as mandatory requirements, without taking into consideration site-specific considerations.
On March 13, 2007, DOI announced the formation of a Wind Turbine Guidelines Federal Advisory Committee (FACA) to provide recommendations and advice to the DOI and the FWS "on developing effective measures to protect wildlife resources and enhance potential benefits to wildlife that may be identified." On October 26, 2007, the Secretary of the Interior announced in a press release that 22 individuals had been named to serve on the FACA. Meetings of the Committee will be open to the public and notice of upcoming meetings will be published in the Federal Register. The public will have an opportunity to provide input at the meetings.
The FACA presents a critical opportunity for the FWS to publish a revised document that is protective of wildlife without imposing an undue economic burden on the industry. The potential mandatory nature of the Interim Guidelines makes it imperative that the wind industry continue to provide the FWS with current information and resources. Section 5.1 describes studies and methodologies for assessing and mitigating potential impacts to biological resources.
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