Bird advocates allege government secrecy

The American Bird Conservancy (ABC) has accused the federal government of suppressing information about wind energy projects and their potential negative impact on wildlife.

A lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. on June 26, alleging two Interior Department (DOI) agencies violated the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by failing to comply with statutory deadlines for disclosure of information, and by failing to provide their correspondence with wind developers related to potential impacts on birds and bats in 10 states.

“It’s ridiculous that Americans have to sue in order to find out what their government is saying to wind companies about our wildlife—a public trust,” said Kelly Fuller, Wind Campaign Coordinator for ABC. “ABC is concerned that many of these projects have the potential to take a devastating toll on songbirds, majestic eagles, and threatened and endangered species.”

ABC filed six requests under FOIA – all of them more than eight months ago. ABC’s FOIA requests asked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s correspondence with wind developers regarding birds and bats, as well as related information about wildlife impacts. The requests were to be processed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which subsequently referred one request to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). ABC said the requests were supposed to be honored within 20 working days.

In May, the FWS finalized voluntary guidelines for minimizing impacts from wildlife by wind development. The guidelines were adopted after a lengthy process, during which the wind industry complained proposals were too strict.

ABC’s FOIA requests were in regard to proposed and existing wind energy developments in Arizona, California, Florida, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Texas.