by Jimmy Tobias
A battle over birds is unfolding at a new wind farm just east of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. It pits a Spanish company against a California utility, while bird lovers watch from the sidelines to see who wins.
The Rim Rock wind farm, owned and operated by the Spanish company NaturEner, is located near a high-density breeding and nesting ground for golden eagles and ferruginous hawks northwest of Shelby.
"Kevin Rim is a great place for wind but it is also an incredible place for raptors," says Janet Ellis, program director of Montana Audubon. "The turbines are sitting on top of this rim and they have identified seven golden eagle nests in the area, 47 ferruginous hawk nests, ... 10 different species of raptors that nest on the rim, and it has been known for a long time as a mecca for raptors in Montana." She adds that Kevin Rim is an Audubon-designated Important Bird Area.
One of the wind farm's principal clients, San Diego Gas & Electric Company, wants to back out of its commitments with NaturEner because of the threat the farm poses to birds in the area. The two companies took the issue to court in December, with SDG&E filing a lawsuit in California and NaturEner filing suit in Montana.