Wanted: Dead birds and bats killed by renewables

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“Every time we receive an animal carcass, it has research value,” Katzner said. “If I think about it scientifically, if you leave this carcass in the field, you will lose data.”

The data is important to people like Amanda Hale, a biologist who helped build the vault while she was at Texas Christian University. She is currently a Senior Research Biologist at Western Ecosystems Technology, a consulting company that, among other services, conducts research on dead wildlife at renewable energy sites. Part of her new role includes liaising with clean energy companies and the government agencies that regulate them to make sure decision makers have the latest science to inform projects. Better data could help clients make more accurate conservation plans and help agencies understand what to look for, making regulation easier, she said.

“Once we can understand patterns of mortality, I think you can better design and implement mitigation strategies,” Hale said.

However, the initiative is not without skeptics. John Anderson, executive director of the Energy and Wildlife Action Coalition, a clean energy affiliate, sees merit in the effort but worries that the program could be “used to characterize the impact of renewables in a very unfavorable light” without recognizing its benefits. Wind power has long been sensitive to suggestions that it kills birds.

Several renewable energy companies Undark contacted for this story did not respond to requests for wildlife monitoring at their facilities or stopped responding to requests for interviews. Other industry groups, including the American Clean Energy Association and the Wildlife Renewable Energy Institute, declined interview requests. But it looks like many companies are involved – in Idaho, Katzner got birds from 42 states.

William Felker, a member of the Comanche Nation who has run a bird and feather repository called Sia for decades, says he is frustrated by the lack of attention to the tribes from similar US government initiatives. According to him, indigenous peoples have a preferential right to “species of interest to indigenous peoples.” His repository catalogs and ships bird ink and feathers to indigenous peoples for ceremonial and religious purposes, and Volker also takes care of eagles.

“At the moment we just don’t have a voice in the ring and that’s unfortunate,” Volker said.

Katzner, for his part, says he wants the project to be collaborative. The Renewable-Wildlife Solutions Initiative has sent several samples to a repository in Arizona that provides feathers for religious and ceremonial purposes, he said, and the RWSI archive may send other material that it does not archive, but it has not yet contacted other locations. do it.

“It’s a shame if these bird parts are not being used,” he said. “I would like them to be used for scientific or cultural purposes.”

Many US winds farms are already tracking down and collecting fallen wild animals. At a wind farm in California, an hour north of Altamont, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District is trying to clean its freezers at least once a year — before the bodies start to smell, said Ammon Rice, head of the state utility’s environmental services department. . Samples that companies accumulate are often kept until they are thrown away. Until recently, samples were available to government and academic researchers only in parts.

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