Disturbing data suggests Golden Eagles appear on verge of extinction in our region
By Miriam Raftery
February 15, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) –A state inventory of California’ rarest animals, birds and plants reveals that Golden Eagle populations have suffered a precipitous decline statewide, including here in San Diego County. Statewide, only 141 element occurrences (eagle nests and foraging habitat) are listed in all of California. Locally, the inventory lists just 14 “occurrences” countywide—with only one nest remaining in East County.
“So much for Bittner’s estimates,” wildlife biologist Jim Wiegand with Save the Eagles International told ECM. David Bittner is the so-called eagle expert hired by major energy companies to justify wind projects locally. Bittner was convicted in federal court and sentenced in August to charges of failing to file data reports with the federal government and illegal taking of an eagle.
Wiegand has previously estimated local nesting sites at 10--a fraction of Bittner's recent estimates.
San Diego and Imperial County Eagles Are at Risk
January 5, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) -- In December, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) released its final decision to weaken a key rule that protects Bald and Golden Eagles, in order to more quickly develop renewable energy.
The Protect Our Communities Foundation (POC), a nonprofit community organization in San Diego’s East County, opposes this rule change stating it would harm eagles, has not been adequately studied, and violates federal law. Two local wind projects would be affected by the change.
“Eagles symbolize America’s national heritage and deserve more protection, not less. This rule change will make it harder to protect the remaining eagles that San Diegans love,” said Donna Tisdale, POC’s Secretary.
By Miriam Raftery
December 4, 2013 (Boulevard) -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has completed its examination of a raptor euthanized after it was struck by a semi- truck in Boulevard on November 27.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has confirmed the species of bird as a red-tailed hawk, said Jane Hendron, Public Affairs Division Chief with the USFWS in Carlsbad.
Originally posted Sunday, June 2, 2013 at San Diego Loves Green.
By Roy L. Hales
(Image left: Jim Wiegand, of Save the Eagles, sent me this amplification of an image from Google Earth with the explanation, “The blades hung out past the search area. They only looked in the cleared/gravel area around the turbine.”)
Some people are reminiscent of Old Testament Prophets speaking to a people that do not want to listen. While they may not speak in the name of God, they know something is wrong and dedicate their lives to righting it. Jim Wiegand has assumed that mantle in his defense of America’s eagle population. He sometimes uses words like “fraud” and “complacency,” which I find difficult to hear – we often underestimate the extent to which denial, lack of responsibility and hard heartedness guide decisions – but I am also beginning to wonder if they are appropriate. There are very definitely appear to be forces at work to trying stop us from making a conscious choice.
EAGLE EXPERT HIRED BY WIND INDUSTRY LOCALLY PLEADS GUILTY TO ILLEGAL GOLDEN EAGLE TAKE AND FAILING TO FILE REPORTS ON BIRDS HE TRACKED
By Miriam Raftery
April 19, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – David Bittner, eagle expert with Wildlife Research Institute, pled guilty to federal charges of unlawful taking of a Golden Eagle without a permit and failing to file any data reports for a four-year period on birds that he had banded.
Bittner conducted studies on Golden Eagles for Iberdrola’s Tule Wind project in East County, which was approved by the federal government on public lands as well as by the county on private properties. Portions of the project on state and tribal lands, where several Golden Eagle nests were reported, are pending approvals by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and State Lands Commission.
“Can those agencies rely on Bittner’s Golden Eagle work for Tule wind that was apparently unpermitted and unlawful?” asks Donna Tisdale, chair of Boulevard Planning Group and a founder of two citizens groups, Protect Our Communities Foundation and Backcountry Against Dumps, that has filed a lawsuit seeking to halt the project. “What other breaches of law or professional ethics might be involved?”
BILL WOULD LET ENERGY COMPANIES REMOVE NESTS AND EGGS, EXEMPT COMPANIES FROM PENALTIES FOR KILLING EAGLES, HAWKS AND OTHER RAPTORS
By Miriam Raftery
March 9, 2013 (Sacramento)—Wildlife experts are reacting with outrage to AB 516, a bill in the California Legislature that would allow energy and utility companies to obtain “take” permits authorizing destruction of birds, eggs and nest that stand in the way of electrical transmission infrastructure.
SDG&E was caught flying helicopters too close to protected eagle nests at least four times during construction of Sunrise Powerlink. Those incursions in three East County locations resulted in removal of one pilot and suspension of others, as well as grounding, GPS tracking and other regulatory enforcement actions. But if this bill goes through, such activities could occur without penalty in the future.
COURT HEARS ARGUMENTS IN DESERT PROTECTIVE COUNCIL’S CASE OVER WILDLIFE THREATS POSED BY OCOTILLO WIND PROJECT
UPDATE: February 28, 2013 -- Judge Curiel has denied the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff's have not yet announced whether they will file an appeal. View decision here.
“The codes are quite clear …You can’t take a Swainson’s hawk. Not even one…There is also no take for Peregrine falcons and owls. If turbine curtailment is good enough for golden eagles, it should be good enough for these species, too.” ----Laurens Silver, attorney for plaintiffs
“It is not the BLM’s role to enforce state law…All through downtown there are glass buildings that could cause a take.” – Marissa Piropato, attorney for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management
By Miriam Raftery
Maris Brancheau also contributed to this report
February 27, 2013 (San Diego) – Is the federal government turning a blind eye to violations of state laws intended to protect raptors (birds of prey) and other wildlife at the Ocotillo Express Wind Facility? That’s the contention of a lawsuit filed by the Desert Protective Council, an environmental group, and others against the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Pattern Energy and others.
“Wind farms are the main cause. The issuing of license to kill will accelerate the decline toward extinction.”—Save the Eagles International
An East County Magazine Special Report
By Miriam Raftery
January 6, 2012 (San Diego’s East County) – San Diego County’s 48 pairs of nesting golden eagles and even rarer bald eagles could be in peril if proposed industrial-scale wind farms are built. In a press release issued today, Save the Eagles International (STEI) issued a dire warning, providing detailed documentation proving that golden eagles and their nests are disappearing rapidly near wind farms across the U.S.
The group also blasted the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for changing its mission from protecting wildlife to “catering to the interests of an industry” that is a “ruinous one to boot.”
New nesting pair found near McCain Valley, an ECM reader reports
By Miriam Raftery
December 4, 2011 (San Diego’s East County) – San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) has been granted a variance to continue flights within 4,000 feet of golden eagle nests through December 7 and, in the event of exceptional unforeseen circumstances, as late as December 15 for completion of Sunrise Powerlink work.
SDG&E SHIFTS HELICOPTER FLIGHTS AS EAGLE NESTING SEASON BEGINS; UTILITY SEEKS VARIANCE FROM STATE AND FEDERAL REGULATORS
Lakeside residents mourn loss of pristine views as towers dominate face of mountain listed as county scenic view corridor.
By Billy Ortiz and Miriam Raftery
December 2, 2011 (San Diego’s East County) – December 1st marked the start of breeding season for Golden Eagles in San Diego’s East County. For SDG&E, that means the Sempra-owned utility company must provide a 4,000 foot no-fly buffer zone around Golden Eagle nesting sites.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that SDG&E has applied to federal and state regulators for a variance to extend flights by several days around eagle nests. But as of yesterday, flights near nesting sites remained halted or rerouted.
By Jim Wiegand, wildlife biologist
April 17, 2010 (San Diego’s East County) -- The controversy surrounding wind farms in America has been brewing for over 25 years. The debate centers around the use of the deadly propeller style wind turbines and the large death toll to what are supposedly protected species. One of these species, the federally protected golden eagle, has been at the forefront of this debate from the beginning.
This is for good reason, because at Altamont Pass California, 50-75 golden eagles have been killed each year in the blades of the prop wind turbine. This killing has been taking place for over 25 years. Dr. Shawn Smallwood the foremost expert of bird mortality at the Altamont Pass wind farm estimates that 2300 golden eagles have been killed by the spinning turbine blades.
SENATOR HOLLINGSWORTH OPPOSES PLAN
February 28, 2010 (Sacramento) –Assemblyman Pedro Nava (D-Ventura) has introduced a bill to ban use of lead shot by hunters of pheasant, quail, and other game birds in California wildlife areas. The measure is modeled after a federal ban enacted in 1991, which prohibits lead shot in hunting of ducks and other waterfowl.
“It has demonstrably improved the health of waterfowl,” Nava said. “But there are 37 other species besides waterfowl that are also known to suffer from lead poisoning.” He cited golden eagles and wild turkeys as two examples.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service should investigate bird deaths at wind farms
By Jim Wiegand, Wildlife Biologist
February 12, 2010 (San Diego)--Every day at wind farms across America threatened or endangered species are killed from collisions with blades of the prop wind turbine. This is considered legal because the offending wind farms either hold the "incidental take permit" or were not required to have one because they did not fully disclose environmental impacts of their activities. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services requires the procurement of an incidental take permit for any individual or private industry if threatened and endangered species will be killed in a project. This killing is referred to as "take" -- and the perrmit holder has immunity from prosecution.