Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Golden Gate, Santa Clara Valley Audubons answer article on Altamont

The following was published in the East Bay Express on October 27 in response to an article by Robert Gammon. The original article is here.

Climate Change Threatens Birds

While well-intended, Robert Gammon's article suffers from the author's preconceptions about the controversy in the Altamont Pass and a lack of research. For one, Mr. Gammon's article relies on data from 2007 and prematurely concludes that wind turbines in the Altamont Pass are "shredding raptors at an increasing rate." Yet, as Dr. Smallwood of Alameda County's Scientific Review Committee explained later in the second to last paragraph of the article, everyone involved is waiting for the most recent mortality estimates to be released. Until the most recent mortality estimates are released, it is premature to conclude whether the wind companies' mortality reduction measures have worked.

Mr. Gammon's article fails to provide any context for wind energy or avian mortality in the Altamont or the complexity of the controversy. According to the National Audubon Society, climate change is expected to result in the loss of 25-33 percent of all species on earth, including many species of birds. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change anticipates that climate change will be the most significant driver in the loss of global biodiversity by the end of this century. In 2008, Governor Schwarzenegger issued a widely-lauded executive order to mandate that California get 33 percent of its power from renewable energy resources by 2020. Wind power is necessary to reach this goal and to minimizing impacts of climate change. Unfortunately, some degree of avian mortality appears inevitable wherever wind farms are developed.

Notably, Mr. Gammon's article fails to include interviews with representatives of the California Energy Commission, the California Department of Fish & Game, or the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service — the agencies tasked with regulating energy development and wildlife resources in California. For decades, none of these agencies acted to reduce avian mortality in the Altamont.

Mike Boyd and Shawn Smallwood are right about many things. Too many birds continue to be killed in the Altamont unnecessarily. The settlement — to which CARE is a signatory — is a consensus document; and, we believe that the wind companies have not always met their obligations. We demanded that companies remove additional high-risk turbines after they missed some early deadlines. While we are concerned that the wind companies have not been adequately held accountable for the continued killing of birds in the Altamont, we all must wait for the most recent monitoring team report so that the Scientific Review Committee can determine whether measures implemented have been effective in reducing avian mortality in the Altamont.

We find it unfortunate that Mr. Boyd, or any observer, would consider Golden Gate Audubon (or any Audubon chapter) to be more "pro-wind" than "pro-bird." Our staff and volunteers dedicate every day to making the Bay Area a safer place for birds and other wildlife. Rather than offer cheap shots at those trying to solve these problems, we encourage everyone who cares about birds and other wildlife to get involved and help us solve this apparently intractable question: how do we develop new, renewable energy resources quickly and on a large scale in ways that protect current wildlife populations?

There are no easy answers, but we urge the East Bay Express' readers to help solve these problems by joining the stakeholder groups and public information meetings about wind power in the Altamont (and elsewhere) and by contacting their state legislators, the California Energy Commission, the Department of Fish & Game, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to enforce environmental laws and implement policies that protect birds and other wildlife as California develops renewable energy projects. Only with input from the public and the full involvement of state and federal agencies will we even begin to develop new energy resources wisely.

Mark Welther, Executive Director, Golden Gate Audubon

Bob Power, Executive Director, Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Wintu Audubon leads wind energy mitigation effort in Shasta

Wintu Audubon led efforts to mitigate for significant impacts on Bald Eagle and Sandhill Crane at the first wind energy project in Shasta County. Construction on the 42 turbine site begins in October, 2009. Energy developer Babcock & Brown agreed to fund research on Bald Eagle and to mitigate for habitat loss for Sandhill Crane at a ratio of 4 to 1. California Department of Fish & Game is purchasing wetlands to add to a reserve for Sandhills nearby. The efforts at Wintu were led by Conservation Chair Claudia Yerion-Lyons.

Mendocino CoastAudubon offers community service to beach violators

Mendocino Coast member Becky Bowen reported at a recent Northern California Council meeting that the chapter has launched a workshop program for California State Parks and California State Department of Fish & Game rangers on beach violations as part of their SAVE OUR SHOREBIRDS program. Not only did citations for walking dogs off leash, vehicles and horses on beach and other violations increase 100% but Mendocino Coast offered to provide community service to convicted violators in the form of hours of shorebird monitoring. There's a win win.

Mendocino Coast Audubon watches Blue Whale

At a NorCAL Council Meeting, Mendocino Coast reported on a Blue Whale that got beached on their coastline recently. Seems that the krill and other nutrients are very abundant and close to shore bringing the largest mammal on the planet within sight of the shore. MCA reported that the dead whale is a research opportunity for local students at Humboldt University.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Golden Gate Audubon receives national Environmental Education Award

Golden Gate Audubon's Eco-Oakland program received the award for Outstanding Service to Environmental Education by an Organization operating at the local level at the October 5-7, 2009, conference of the North America Association of Environmental Education in Portland, Oregon. This is national recognition for a local education program. Shown here are Eco-Oakland Program Manager Anthony DeCicco and Golden Gate Executive Director Mark Welther receiving the award. Anthony and the Eco-Education youth gave one of the outstanding presentations at the March 2009 Assembly at Asilomar.

Friday, October 2, 2009

LA Audubon breaks ground on USF&W native plant garden at elementary school

On September 25th, 2009 Dorsey High School students from the Baldwin Hills Restoration Leader and Greenhouse Internship programs visited Leo PolitiElementary School to teach students how to use compasses and test soil to prepare for restoration. Leo Politi students learned how to use a compass to measure the aspect of a slope and sampled three types of soil - pure sand, pure clay, and then a sample of their campus's soil. Restoration Leaders and Greenhouse Interns will be working with students at Leo Politi Elementary throughout the school year to help establish a native habitat garden as habitat for birds and other wildlife on the Leo Politi campus. Los Angeles Audubon, Leo Politi Elementary, the Greenhouse Program, and NewFields are working together with the help of a schoolyard habitat grant from US Fish & Wildlife.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

30 Audubon chapters oppose drilling for oil in California coastal waters

In a coordinated effort led by Audubon California Director of Policy Dan Taylor and the newly formed Chapter Political Action Network (CPAN) 30 chapters joined Audubon California in opposing offshore drilling for oil in California's waters. The network opposition will be used in signing letters and opposing legislation or executive orders that might open the door to drilling offshore.

Napa/Solano's Cheryl Harris honored by Red Cross

American Red Cross of Napa County presented a Real Hero of Napa County Environment Award to Cheryl Harris, President of Napa/Solano Audubon in a ceremony on September 22, 2009 sponsored by the Napa Valley Register and Trinchero Family Estates vineyards. Harris was honored for her work restoring habitat at vineyards for birds, and for educating the community on the benefits of restoration, a program aided by a Toyota Together Green Innovation grant awarded to her chapter.
"Birds indicate the health of an environment. In the last 40 years, many bird populations have declined 70-90% as a result of loss of habitat. Harris is passionate about the need to do more to provide habitat for wildlife in Napa County," Red Cross said in honoring Harris.