Is it really “great for the environment ” if it’s bad news for fowl?

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Almost 10 years ago, U.S. Fish & Wildlife, along with DU and DU Canada studied breeding pairs of mallards, pintails, blue-winged teal, gadwall and Northern shovelers in areas of the Dakotas with wind turbines. USFWS biologist Dr. Chuck Loesch and his team discovered ducks utilizing wetlands around wind farms were 20 percent lower than in areas void of turbines, and on one site, the breeding pair density was 56 percent lower than a similar nesting area with no turbines. Another study published in 2018 by The Wildlife Society revealed redheads use of freshwater ponds on the Texas coast decreased by 77 percent once a 267-turbine wind farm was erected on the western coast of the Laguna Madre.

“I want renewable energy, but the turbines are not the only viable alternative,” Rutledge said. “They are doing damage to wildlife and our ability to use public lands. I think we should be putting them on old gas fields that were never reclaimed or current agriculture development…and stay off our pristine wild lands.”

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Drew Palmer is a duck guide from the Flint Hills of Kansas. He chases mallards and lesser Canada geese and has seen first-hand what a wind farm can do to waterfowl habits. He used to hunt milo fields south of Wichita that greenheads and geese fed in, but that is no longer the case.

“It changed the ducks,” Palmer said of the turbines. “I had access to fields and cattle ponds and once they put up the wind farms near South Haven, the birds stopped coming there. I don’t think the geese care as much. They will fly over them. But the ducks won’t go within two or three miles of them.”

Further down the central flyway is Dusty Brown, who has guided across North America, but his bread and butter for the last two decades has been West Texas lessers and sandhill cranes. Twenty years ago, there were few, if any, turbines in Floyd and Lynn Counties where he hunts, but many wind farms have been built since then.

“The biggest impact was it changed where birds roost,” Brown said. “(The turbines) moved the cranes and geese out of the playa lakes, and it changed the historical routes they flew. They haven’t left the area, but now they hit a wall and won’t cross the freeway.”