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Washington, D.C.-based American Bird Conservancy (ABC) has announced its intention to sue the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), charging the agency with multiple violations of federal law in connection with its recent decision to offer wind energy companies and others to obtain 30-year eagle take permits. The previous rule provided for a maximum duration of five years for each permit, which authorizes projects to "take" (i.e., injure, kill or otherwise disturb) eagles.

On April 30, ABC sent the DOI and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) a notice of intent to sue, and the group has chosen public interest law firm Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal to represent it. ABC argues that the new eagle take rule violates the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA).

ABC says it is initiating legal action in order to have the rule invalidated pending full compliance with federal environmental statutes. For example, the group charges that the 30-year eagle permit rule was adopted in the absence of any NEPA document or any ESA consultation regarding impacts. It is, therefore, a “glaring example of an agency action that gambles recklessly with the fate of the nation’s bald and golden eagle populations,” the letter says.

Michael Hutchins, national coordinator of ABC's Bird Smart Wind Energy Campaign, says, "Bald eagle populations may be technically recovered, but their popularity and symbolic importance to our nation suggests that the American people are not going to tolerate the deaths of many.

"Golden eagles are another matter,” Hutchins continues. “Much more needs to be known about their status before the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can safely decide how many wind energy companies can kill with no net loss to the population."

ABC contends that it “strongly” supports wind power, but only when the projects “are located in an appropriate, wildlife-friendly manner and when the impacts on birds and other wildlife have been conscientiously considered and addressed before irreversible actions are undertaken.”

The group recently joined forces with Ohio-based Black Swamp Bird Observatory to successfully halt a one-turbine project planned by the Ohio National Guard. Following that victory, the two groups have set their sites on the 18 MW Icebreaker wind farm, a demonstration project being developed by Lake Erie Energy Development Corp.

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