WINDHAM / GRAFTON, VT—October 20, 2016—Today the chairmen of the select boards of the towns of Grafton and Windham received a letter from the American Bird Conservancy expressing grave concern over high risk to bats and birds in regard to Iberdrola’s proposed wind turbine development on the ridgelines between the two towns.

The letter states that, “This project, involving the construction of 24, 500-foot tall industrial wind turbines on high mountain ridges, is a potential threat to migratory and resident birds and bats. The area surrounding the site is one of the last undeveloped areas in Vermont and is a significant wildlife habitat. Vast numbers of migratory raptors move through this area and it is an important breeding and foraging area for migratory songbirds, including species of conservation concern.”

Bicknell’s Thrush

The American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is particularly concerned about the Bicknell’s Thrush which is a rare habitat specialist that breeds at high elevations in the balsam fir and red spruce forests of the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada including in the area of this proposed wind energy project.

“ABC’s letter explains: “This species is rare and declining (IBTCG 2010) and losses due to the poorly sited Stiles Brook Wind Energy Project would contribute to that decline. This species is currently being considered for Endangered Species status in the U.S. and IUCN-The World Conservation Union has listed it as “Globally Vulnerable.”

Excerpts from the letter include the following:

“The wind energy industry publicly claims to be concerned about bird and bat mortality, but continues to try to build large, commercial wind energy facilities in major migratory corridors and sensitive breeding areas for birds and bats in the United States (Casey 2015), thus placing our continent’s ecologically important wildlife at great risk. In the case of wind energy, careful wind generation siting is crucial in preventing the unintended impacts to native bird and bat species, and ABC is concerned that the proposed site for this project poses an unacceptably high risk to some species of conservation concern, notably Bicknell’s Thrush and various warbler species.”

“In the United States, the second leading wind power producer in the world, this risk can be substantial, with hundreds of thousands of birds and bats being killed annually, at minimum, through collisions with the fast-moving turbine blades (Erickson et al. 2015, Smallwood, 2013, Loss et al. 2013). This estimate balloons into the tens of millions when collisions and electrocutions at their associated infrastructure, notably power lines and towers, are included (Loss et al. 2015).”

“Wind energy developers are supposed to evaluate the risks to wildlife prior to proposing a project. However, hiring paid consultants to collect pre-construction risk assessments preordains the result and is a clear violation of scientific integrity practices:

“Scientists with conflicts of interest are viewed as being at least partially integrity- compromised, and, even with complete and open disclosure, are regarded, at least to an extent, as of suspect scientific credibility” (Rowe and Alexander 2012).”

“Transparency of bird and bat kill data has been a continuing and serious problem with wind energy development in the United States, including with this developer (Associated Press 2015, Jackson 2016). If this project is eventually built despite heavy local and national opposition, then all post-construction bird and bat fatality data should be collected by independent, third-party experts using standardized methods and reported directly to regulatory agencies (ABC 2015, Clarke 2014). These data should also be made available to the public and concerned conservation organizations. Whether on public or private lands, these are public trust resources and the public has a right to know.”

“ABC questions whether the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of our shared ecologically important birds and bats justifies building any large, commercial wind energy facility in areas with seasonally high concentrations of birds and bats, like Vermont’s Meadowsend Timberlands. The ecological services—pest control, pollination, and seed dispersal–that birds and bats provide are worth billions to the U.S. economy, including to farmers and farming communities in Vermont (Sekercioglu, 2015, Sekercioglu et al. 2016. Yet, many of North America’s bird species are in precipitous decline, with over a third in need of concerted conservation action (North American Bird Conservation Initiative 2016). In a recent survey, a majority of U.S. voters supported additional protections for migratory birds from energy development (National Audubon Society 2016).”