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LWF Urges Avoidance of Bird Mortality in Wind Energy Development

April 10, 2006 12:00 AM

At recent legislative committee hearings, the Louisiana Wildlife Federation (LWF) urged the state to be cautious as it moved forward with wind energy development along the Gulf coast.  The committees were considering HB 428 by Rep. Wilfred Pierre of Lafayette to authorize and regulate the development of wind farms -- aggregates of turbines with long vanes (similar to windmills) that will be mounted on towers to capture and convert Gulf breezes to electricity.  In addressing the committees, LWF executive director, Randy Lanctot cited the spectacular migration of songbirds that reaches Louisiana's shore each spring.  He noted the significance of the event to birders from around the world, and its importance to a growing eco-tourism economy for Louisiana.  He cautioned that the development of wind energy in Louisiana should be planned from the beginning to minimize impacts on birds and other wildlife that may become disoriented and collide with the structures.

Providing testimony with Lanctot was Phillip Stouffer, Ph. D., assistant professor of wildlife conservation in the School of Renewable Natural Resources at Louisiana State University.  Dr. Stouffer described the characteristics of the migration, the numbers of species and individual birds involved, the rate of passage and the vulnerability to collisions when forced to fly at lower altitudes in response to adverse weather conditions.  He provided a handout to committee members with statistics describing the trans-Gulf migration.  Empasizing the migration's unique qualities, Stouffer said that inferences based on the effects of windfarms on birds in other locales throughout the nation and world cannot be uniformly applied to the situation along Louisiana's Gulf coast.

Accompanying Lanctot and Stouffer at the testimony table was local birder and naturalist, Miriam Davies.

The legislation was amended to include the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries in the review process for siting the turbines.  Proponents of the technology assured the legislative committees that state-of-the-art tracking methods will be used to measure and predict migration pulses and that they were prepared to modify operation of the turbines, as necessary, to minimize any adverse effects on bird life.

The LWF's proactive effort to assure the consideration and conservation of wildlife in the development of wind energy is authorized and directed by Resolution 14A adopted by the delegates to LWF's 66th annual convention held last March in Monroe.

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