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Leading scientists blast Steens Mountain wind proposal for devastating wildlife impacts

Wind energy development threatens golden eagles and sage-grouse

Sage-grouse and golden eagles populations on Steens Mountain would be greatly harmed by the proposed industrial wind energy development and high-voltage transmission line, according to leading wildlife experts in court filings today.

Bend, Ore. Oct 04, 2012

Sage-grouse and golden eagles populations on Steens Mountain would be greatly harmed by the proposed industrial wind energy development and high-voltage transmission line, according to leading wildlife experts in court filings today. 

Two Oregon conservation groups -- Oregon Natural Desert Association and Audubon Society of Portland – are in federal court challenging BLM’s approval of the industrial Echanis Wind Project and a 49-mile transmission line which would cut through the heart of pristine wildlife habitat on Steens Mountain.

Dr. Clait Braun, one of the world’s foremost sage-grouse experts, told the Court that BLM did “not present a scientifically credible analysis of current sage-grouse habitats and populations on Steens Mountain or the potential impacts of the proposed energy developments upon sage-grouse habitats and populations in this important area.” He explained that the wind development would eliminate a key corridor connecting sage-grouse populations in the region.

An expert on eagles and wind energy, Dr. Shawn Smallwood, informed the Court that the wind project “has the potential to cause substantial biological impacts, some of which could rival the impacts that have made the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area so notorious.”

“Slicing through this irreplaceable habitat with the proposed transmission line, roads and wind towers would deliver a devastating blow to this already sensitive species,” explained Bob Sallinger, Conservation Director for the Audubon Society of Portland.  

“Yesterday we marked the 12th anniversary of the passage of the Steens Mountain Cooperative Protection and Management Act.  Congress set this landscape aside because it contains some of the most important wildlife habitat remaining in the West; we can’t allow it to be fragmented by this short-sighted development,” said Brent Fenty, the Executive Director of the Oregon Natural Desert Association.

Advocates for the West, a Boise-based public interest environmental law firm, is representing the Oregon groups free of charge in the federal court litigation.  “Steens Mountain is one of the jewels of the West and is crucial to maintaining sage-grouse, eagles, and many other sensitive species,” said Executive Director Laird Lucas.   “We are asking the court to tell BLM to follow its own science and ensure protection of these vulnerable species on Steens Mountain.”

Learn more about the lawsuit and Portland Audubon's Steens Mountain work.

CONTACT:
Brent Fenty, Oregon Natural Desert Association- office: (541) 330-2638; cell: (541) 678-1974
Bob Sallinger, Audubon Society of Portland- office: (503) 292-9501 x110; cell: (503) 380-9728

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