Worries over wind farms cloud condor repopulation program
On the wind power side, however, state and federal regulators have put the brakes on the process. They believe there is a risk, especially in the case of a large project like a 200-megawatt condor, that it will drive local condors to extinction.
The wind power industry has been working behind the scenes with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — the nation’s top wildlife regulator — since 2008 to develop ways of bringing down the size of the condor population through captive breeding. The wind-generated electricity is already in place, and the wind farm itself has a license to operate.
The wind industry has pushed hard for the wind farm to participate in the condor repopulation program because it has a big incentive: a possible federal contract, worth up to $30 million, that could result from federal incentives granted by the Bush administration in February 2006.
The wind industry has been putting out feelers to Fish and Wildlife Service for almost a decade, with little success. In the mid-2000s, with the help of Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson and Montana Representative Pat Roberts, the wind industry had pushed legislators to get behind the condor repopulation program.
At the time, state legislatures had been working to pass a bill that would give the wind industry an incentive to bring down the condor population by creating an incentives program and placing a moratorium on new wind farms. But the wind industry has not succeeded at getting the legislation passed.
So in 2005, the wind industry turned to the Fish and Wildlife Service. In the late 1990s, the company Vistra Inc., a consulting firm hired by the wind industry, had worked out an agreement with Fish and Wildlife to do a study to calculate the optimal size of a condor population.
“We’ve had this program with Fish and Wildlife, but they’re saying it’s too complicated and they want to move it into a different area,” said Paul Raskob, the chief executive officer at Vistra Inc., referring to a new program called the Condor Conservation and Recovery Program.