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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Federal Action to Prevent Fatal Bird Collisions with Western Public Land Structures Praised
EDF suggested similar steps in January to protect sensitive species: sage-grouse, sharp-tailed grouse, and lesser prairie-chicken

Environmental Defense Fund WASHINGTON, DC, December 16, 2009 --/WORLD-WIRE/-- The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is taking action to reduce fatal collisions with thousands of miles of public land structures by western birds that the Obama administration is considering for listing under the Endangered Species Act. These western birds are the Columbian sharp-tailed grouse, greater sage-grouse, and lesser prairie-chicken.

“Listing these birds under the Endangered Species Act is likely to have long-term negative impacts on livestock grazing and energy development in the west because restrictions on land use may be required to save these species,,” said Ted Toombs, Rocky Mountain Regional Director of Environmental Defense Fund's Center for Conservation Incentives. “By taking action now to reduce the death threat of fencing to these birds, the Bureau of Land Management is making a smart, inexpensive taxpayer investment that can produce immediate benefits.”

Columbian sharp-tailed grouse live in northwestern Colorado, southeastern Idaho, Wallowa County, Oregon and south-central Wyoming (see photo of Columbian sharp-tailed grouse at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Columbian_Sharp-tailed_Grouse_(male).png).

Greater sage-grouse live in California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming (see photo of a greater sage-grouse at: http://www.edf.org/content_images/GreaterSageGrouse.jpg).

Lesser prairie chickens live in Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas (see photo of a lesser prairie chicken at: http://www.edf.org/content_images/LesserPrairieChicken.jpg).

Several studies have shown wire fencing to be a main cause of mortality for sage-grouse and lesser prairie chickens because they can’t see the thin wires and fly into them. In the results of an ongoing study released late in October 2009, during a 31-month period, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department documented 146 instances of finding sage-grouse feathers or carcasses on or near a 4.7-mile section of barbed-wire fence near Farson in western Wyoming. Subsequent research concluded that colored tags helped sage-grouse avoid flying into the fence. Fence collisions were attributed to more than 33 percent of lesser prairie-chicken mortalities in a 2004 Oklahoma/New Mexico study.

The BLM’s directive to its western field offices are similar to recommendations Environmental Defense Fund made in a January report. Recommendations in the BLM directive include:

Fences
If bird mortality due to collision with fences is documented, or if collisions are likely to occur due to new fence placement, implement appropriate actions to mitigate impact. Such actions might include marking key sections of the fence with permanent marking or other suitable means.

All Field Offices shall consider marking new fences in sage-grouse, sharp-tailed grouse, or prairie-chicken habitat and should identify marking fences as part of the cost of new fencing projects (see for example, State of Montana guidelines at http://fwp.mt.gov/content/getItem.aspx?id=34461).
  • To reduce the impact of new fences on sage-grouse, Field Offices will ensure that new fence proposals, including those for emergency stabilization and rehabilitation, are carefully evaluated for sage-grouse collision risk, and are sited in a manner consistent with conservation measures in the State Sage-grouse Conservation Plan.

  • All Field Offices are to identify priority areas for flagging or marking existing fences to avoid collisions (nesting, leks, ridge tops, etc.) For reference, see: http://www.mt.nrcs.usda.gov/technical/ecs/biology/sagegrouse/dontfence.html.

  • In the process of prioritizing areas for flagging or marking fences, state wildlife agency personnel shall be consulted.

  • When flagging or marking, consult visual resource management leads to determine markings that are most appropriate for the site.

  • To promote cost effective efforts and maximize potential benefits to bird populations, monitoring should be conducted to further document the specific fence segments that should be flagged or marked.

  • Select a set of marked fences for monitoring to determine the adequacy of the marking.
Wind Energy Associated Structures
  • To reduce the risk of collisions, avoid the use of guy wires for turbine or MET tower supports. All existing guy wires should be marked with recommended bird deterrent devices.

  • The siting of new temporary MET towers must be avoided within 2 miles of active sage-grouse leks, unless they are out of the direct line of sight of the active lek.
“There are thousands of miles of public land fences in the 15 states where these birds live, so this action literally could significantly reduce mortalities for these species,” concluded Toombs.

Environmental Defense Fund, a leading national nonprofit organization, represents more than 700,000 members. Since 1967, Environmental Defense Fund has linked science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships to create breakthrough solutions to the most serious environmental problems.

For more information, visit www.edf.org.

Contact:
Sean Crowley,
(202) 572-3331-w,
scrowley@edf.org

Ted Toombs,
(303) 447-7210-w,
ttoombs@edf.org