Let’s add one more thing to the list of potential stumbling blocks for Chokecherry and Sierra Madre, that ginormous Wyoming wind farm project. It’s a little guy, weighing in around 2 to 7 pounds – but it could pack a wallop.
The Obama administration last week approved a Carbon County, Wyo., site as appropriate for development of the wind farm, which could consists of 1,000 turbines. Environmental groups, however, say the area is prime habitat for the greater sage grouse, a ground bird that the federal government calls “an icon of western sagebrush ecosystems” and that is under consideration for Endangered Species Act listing.
Project developer Power Company of Wyoming (PCW), a subsidiary of Anschutz Corporation, said in an email to EarthTechling that none of the development would take place in state-designated sage grouse core areas, and that the project “includes full compliance with the terms of the Governor’s Executive Order regarding development in non-core areas.”
In its approval announcement, the Department of the Interior said “the project will avoid Sage-Grouse Core Areas through a conservation plan that accommodates ongoing ranching and agricultural operations…. Permits to build the project will be provided on a phased basis, and will be contingent on implementation of wildlife protection measures.”
Nevertheless, in a press release, the Wyoming-based group Biodiversity Conversation Alliance denounced the site approval.
“Choosing this site for green energy was a terrible mistake,” said Barbara Parsons, who served on the South Central Sage-grouse working group, formed by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department in 2004 to develop conservation plans for the bird in the region where Chokecherry and Sierra Madre is planned. “When one thousand concrete pads and the connecting roads are built, this prime wildlife habitat will be permanently erased from the landscape.”
Parsons maintains that in 2008, “bullying and cajoling and twisting arms” by Anschutz “got the Core Area changed to exclude the lands where they wanted to build wind turbines.”