Project could receive green light as soon as November 14, putting threatened species such as Marbled Murrelet and other wildlife at risk
(Washington, D.C., November 13, 2019) The Humboldt Wind Energy Project proposes to place 47 wind turbines on Bear River and Monument Ridges in Humboldt County, California. This proposed project poses substantial risks to federally Threatened species, such as Marbled Murrelet and Spotted Owl, as well as other species of conservation concern such as Bald and Golden Eagle, all of which reproduce slowly and are vulnerable to loss of individuals to collisions with turbines. Other concerns have also been raised by experts, including questionable calculations of the numbers of Threatened birds likely to be killed by the turbines; inadequate proposed measures to compensate for mortality of birds and other wildlife; and insufficient accountability for long-term monitoring and protection of wildlife. Despite this, the proposal has moved forward quickly over the last 18 months and may be approved as early as Thursday, November 14.
“It’s hard to conceive of a worse place to put wind turbines,” said Joel Merriman, Director of the Bird-Smart Wind Energy Program at American Bird Conservancy (ABC). “ABC supports wind energy projects that provide adequate protections for birds. The Humboldt Wind Energy Project doesn’t come close. In its 37-page comment letter, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife indicated that ‘all or portions of the wind turbine facilities fall into Category 4, Project Sites Inappropriate for Wind Development.’ We couldn’t agree more.”
The Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) on the Humboldt project was released in April 2019 and received many comments and suggestions from local experts that would have reduced impacts to birds and other wildlife. These have largely gone unheeded in the Final EIR (FEIR). Despite this, the Humboldt County Planning Commission held a public hearing on November 7 and will hold a second on November 14, with a possible vote for project approval on the 14th. The project has been put on a fast track: Stakeholders had only four business days to review the FEIR before the first hearing and will have only nine days before the hearing where the proposal may be approved. Reviewing the FEIR is no small task, since the combined documents amount to hundreds of pages.
“The Northcoast Environmental Center (NEC), along with many concerned citizens, participated in commenting on the Terra-Gen Humboldt Wind Energy Project DEIR,” said Larry Glass, President and Executive Director of the NEC. “Whether you support this project or you have serious questions about it, the developer’s response to public comments printed in the FEIR is completely inadequate. Many of the issues of concern to the NEC and others were dismissed or not sufficiently responded to. This document should be withdrawn until adequate responses can be provided.”
“This proposed project site overlaps the National Audubon Society-designated Cape Mendocino Grasslands Important Bird Area,” said Merriman. “It’s also a hotspot for hawks and eagles. It’s close to Marbled Murrelet critical habitat. Marbled Murrelets and Spotted Owls are known to be present in the area. The list of concerns goes on and on.”
“Because of the high likely impacts given the sensitive area, the public rightly demands that all feasible technology to avoid and minimize impacts be implemented before considering approval,” said Tom Wheeler, Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC). “But too many proven measures have been left on the table — things that have been adopted, often voluntarily, at other wind projects. We expect better here in Humboldt.”
In contrast, the Skookumchuck Wind Energy Project in western Washington State is the only approved wind energy project in the Marbled Murrelet’s breeding range. This project was required to curtail (turn off) turbines during high activity periods in the Marbled Murrelet breeding season. The Humboldt project, on the other hand, dismissed the idea of curtailment entirely, ignoring best practices and industry precedent despite posing a significant risk for a multitude of species.
ABC, EPIC, and the NEC support thoughtfully planned wind energy projects that incorporate adequate protections for birds. These organizations acknowledge the role of wind energy in combating climate change, but maintain that wind energy must be developed in a way that does not cause new environmental problems.
“This proposed project does not provide enough information, proposes inadequate mitigation, and ignores precedent and best practices. This puts too many rare and iconic bird and other wildlife species at unnecessary risk,” said Merriman. “We urge the Humboldt County Planning Commission to please send this project back to the drawing board until an acceptable proposal can be developed.”
American Bird Conservancy is a non-profit organization dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on abcbirds.org, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (@ABCbirds).
The Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) advocates for the protection and restoration of Northwest California’s forests, using an integrated, science-based approach, combining public education, citizen advocacy, and strategic litigation.
The Northcoast Environmental Center has engaged in conservation and environmental protection in northwestern California for over 47 years. Our mission includes educating agencies and the public about environmental concerns that may have an effect on our local resources and citizens.
Bold commitment to map and conserve “last frontiers” for 230 birds, turtles, and more
The stunning Araripe Manakin is found in one of approximately 150 Brazilian Alliance for Zero Extinction sites, Chapada do Araripe. Photo by Ciro Albano. (Additional photos available on request.)
(Washington, D.C., August 6, 2018)Brazil has established itself as a world leader in biodiversity protection, becoming the first nation in the world to adopt the global Alliance for Zero Extinction(AZE) framework to identify and map sites holding the last known populations of highly threatened species.
The Ministry of Environment of Brazil published an ordinance in July 2018 recognizing AZE sites as an official tool to implement national policies for protection of the country's threatened species.
Brazil is home to nearly 150 critical sites that are together the last frontiers for more than 200 endangered species. “The main goal is to put a spotlight on the last refuges of the most threatened species in Brazil,” explained Ugo Eichler Vercillo, Director of Species Conservation and Management for the Ministry of the Environment of Brazil. “It will help to promote the integration of public policies and private actions at these sites.”
Called the Brazilian Alliance for Zero Extinction (BAZE), the initiative was inspired by the global AZE, which comprises over 90 nongovernmental biodiversity conservation organizations and engages with governments, multilateral institutions, the private sector, and others to identify and effectively conserve the most important sites in the world for preventing imminent species extinctions.
“The Brazilian Alliance for Zero Extinction will create a site map that acts as a compass for public and private conservation policy, pointing out species with conservation gaps and turning on a red light to indicate critical areas,” said Gláucia Drummond, President of the Brazilian conservation group Fundação Biodiversitas. Biodiversitas is a member of the global AZE Steering Committee and is the Brazilian leader of the BAZE.
"Congratulations to Brazil for this important step," said Mike Parr, Chair of the Alliance for Zero Extinction and President of American Bird Conservancy. "Of all the world's problems, preventing imminent species extinctions is one of the most solvable. Brazil just took a giant step forward toward this solution."
BAZE contributes to the achievement of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), especially those of Target 11, which focus on conservation of areas of particular importance for biodiversity. It will also contribute to Target 12, with a focus on avoiding the extinction of species. These targets have been set at a global level under the CBD with a goal of achieving the targets by 2020.
Encouragingly, Brazil has also secured a commitment for additional CBD-signatory nations to consider adopting the AZE approach within their borders. The initiative, led by the Brazilian Ministry of the Environment, is currently set for discussion at the next Conference of the Parties (COP 14), to be held in November in Egypt.
Work on the global AZE program is supported by the Global Environment Facility in conjunction with ABC, BirdLife International, and the United Nations Environment Program.
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American Bird Conservancy is dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on abcbirds.org, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (@abcbirds1).
(Washington, D.C., July 19, 2018) The U.S. Department of the Interior is proposing new rules to implement for the Endangered Species Act (ESA) that will make it more difficult to recover Threatened and Endangered birds.
“These rules put species listed as ‘Threatened,’ rather than the more dire category of ‘Endangered,’ at greater risk of endangerment by eliminating the blanket protection known as the 4d rule,” said Steve Holmer of American Bird Conservancy. “Under these changes, birds newly listed as Threatened could legally be killed or harmed. The changes would also make it more difficult to list species that the best science indicates should be listed, and to conserve and restore habitat, due to the weakening of Sec. 7 consultation for management of federal lands.
“Several bird species listed as Threatened under the ESA — the Marbled Murrelet and Northern Spotted Owl in particular — likely owe their current existence to the ESA’s blanket 4d rule against take and the interagency cooperation mandated by Sec. 7,” continued Holmer.
One of the proposed changes is to adopt the 4d rule process currently used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for marine species. Instead of providing blanket protection for species newly listed as Threatened, NOAA puts 4d rules in place as threats arise, leading to delays in conservation action.
For example, because the Hawaiian monk seal is listed as Endangered, NOAA is addressing the emerging threat of the disease toxoplasmosis on the seal. “If the monk seal were listed as a Threatened species instead of Endangered under the ESA, it would require additional protection from toxoplasmosis in the form of new 4-d rule,” said Holmer. “The overall effect could be substantially delayed protection and an increased risk of further population losses.”
Seventy-eight percent of mainland birds listed as Threatened or Endangered under the ESA have populations that are now stable, increasing, or have recovered enough to be delisted, according to a 2016 report published by American Bird Conservancy. The Endangered Species Act: A Record of Success analyzed population trends and recovery success for all U.S. listed birds, including those in the Hawaiian Islands and U.S. territories where the recovery success rate is lower due to the high number of threats.
“Added funding could help continue the upward trend of 41 listed U.S. bird populations and make their eventual recovery possible,” said Holmer. “Black-capped Vireo was recently delisted, and Kirtland’s Warbler and Nene (Hawaiian Goose) are on their way toward delisting due to successful conservation. We are supportive of these delistings provided that adequate conservation measures are assured moving forward.”
A proposed definition change to the ESA would make it easier to eliminate critical habitat, because any loss would have to be considered “as a whole.”
“Critical habitat is essential for maintaining and recovering species, but this change would allow the loss of habitat to occur drip by drip,” Holmer said. “Eventually there could be little critical habitat left.”
Another change could undermine the listing process by allowing for misleading economic analysis to be included in the listing rule, potentially inviting political interference. The benefits of wildlife conservation, which provide billions of dollars to the economy, are undervalued or not even included in these analyses.
“Maintaining the existing science-based listing process is crucial to conserve declining bird populations,” said Holmer. “Just this decade, seven new populations of birds were listed. If slanted economic analysis were included, it is likely that some of these species — such as the Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Red Knot, and Gunnison Sage-Grouse — may not have been granted ESA protection due to political interference. American Bird Conservancy is urging that the existing science-based listing process be retained.”
A 60-day comment period has been set for these proposed changes. Submit comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Photo: Changes to the ESA may reduce protections for birds such as Red Knots. Photo by Ray Hennessy/Shutterstock
American Bird Conservancy is dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (@abcbirds1).
Chelonian Conservation and Biology – Global biodiversity is becoming more threatened as the human population continues to grow and use the world’s resources. Turtles have the misfortune of being on the leading edge of biodiversity decline and serve as an indicator of ecosystem degradation.
Researchers have identified 16 turtle “hotspots” around the world. These regions host the many native species of tortoises and freshwater turtles. By focusing on such areas, conservationists can target preservation efforts where the greatest effects can be achieved.
Scientists from the Chelonian Research Foundation, Conservation International, and State University of New York at Stony Brook recently published an article in the journal Chelonian Conservation and Biology that names three types of hotspots—biodiversity hotspots, high-biodiversity wilderness areas, and turtle priority areas. Taxon richness and endemism values are offered for the 16 identified hotspots, which host 262 species, or 83 percent of all turtle species.
To help set conservation priorities, actions such as the creation of the international Red List of Threatened Species have been taken. Just over half of all turtle species have been identified as threatened with extinction according to the Red List criteria—one of the highest percentages of any major vertebrate group.
Another approach is the identification of turtle conservation priority areas such as biodiversity hotspots, megadiversity countries, and ecoregions. Concentrating conservation activity in areas with high species richness, high endemism and irreplaceability, along with high percentages of threatened species and high levels of threats such as habitat degradation and loss can lead to the greatest outcome for the conservation effort.
This study of turtle hotspots finds 21 countries that harbor 15 or more species of nonmarine turtles. Two sites of exceptional turtle richness are the Mobile Bay, Alabama, area and the Ganges-Brahmaputra confluence in Asia where at least 18 turtle species coexist. The richest biodiversity wilderness areas for turtles are the deserts of North America and the Amazonia region.
The original habitat within the 16 hotspots that contain most of the world’s turtle species amounts to less than 7 percent of the Earth’s land surface. While every turtle taxon, every region, and every area is unique in some way and deserves conservation efforts, targeting efforts on those places with the highest diversity and endemism, as identified in this study, can bring about the greatest results.
Full text of the article, “Turtle Hotspots: An Analysis of the Occurrence of Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles in Biodiversity Hotspots, High-Biodiversity Wilderness Areas, and Turtle Priority Areas,” Chelonian Conservation and Biology, Vol. 14, No. 1, 2015, is now available.
About Chelonian Conservation and Biology
Chelonian Conservation and Biology is a scientific international journal of turtle and tortoise research. Its objective is to share any aspects of research on turtles and tortoises. Of special interest are articles dealing with conservation biology, systematic relationships, chelonian diversity, geographic distribution, natural history, ecology, reproduction, morphology and natural variation, population status, husbandry, community conservation initiatives, and human exploitation or conservation management issues. For more information, please visit http://www.chelonian.org/ccb/.