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Environmental Impacts of Wind-Energy Projects
2003, with all but 9,200 of those deaths occurring in California. Toxic chemicals, including pesticides, kill more than 72 million birds each year, while domestic cats are estimated to kill hundreds of millions of songbirds and other species each year. Erickson et al. (2005) estimate that total cumulative bird mortality in the United States “may easily approach 1 billion birds per year.”
Clearly, bird deaths caused by wind turbines are a minute fraction of the total anthropogenic bird deaths—less than 0.003% in 2003 based on the estimates of Erickson et al. (2005). However, the committee re-emphasizes the importance of local and temporal factors in evaluating the effects of wind turbines on bird populations, including a consideration of local geography, seasonal bird abundances, and the species at risk. In addition, it is necessary to consider the possible cumulative bird deaths that can be expected if the use of wind energy increases according to recent projections (see Chapter 2).
TURBINES CAUSE FATALITIES TO BIRDS AND BATS
Information on fatalities of birds and bats associated with wind-energy facilities in the Mid-Atlantic Highlands is limited, largely because of the relatively small amount of wind-energy development in the region to date, the modest investments in monitoring and data collection, and in some cases, restricted access to wind-energy facilities for research and monitoring. This lack of information requires the use of information from other parts of the United States (and elsewhere). The following discussion summarizes what is known regarding bird and bat fatalities caused by windenergy facilities throughout the United States. National and regional results are related to the potential for fatalities in the Mid-Atlantic Highlands where appropriate.
Early industrial wind-energy facilities, most of which were developed in California in the early 1980s, were planned, permitted, constructed, and operated with little consideration for the potential impacts to birds or bats (Anderson et al. 1999). Discoveries of raptor fatalities at the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area (APWRA) (Anderson and Estep 1988; Estep 1989; Orloff and Flannery 1992) triggered concern about possible impacts to birds from wind-energy development on the part of regulatory agencies, environmental groups, wildlife resource agencies, and wind- and electricutility industries throughout the country.
Initial discoveries of bird fatalities resulted from chance encounters by industry maintenance personnel with raptor carcasses at wind-energy facilities. Although fatalities of many bird species have since been documented at wind-energy facilities, raptors have received the most attention (Anderson and Estep 1988; Estep 1989; Howell and Noone 1992; Orloff and Flannery