Will Wyoming wind projects hurt pronghorn?
With wind energy developments and projects expanding across the West, wildlife biologists are curious if wind turbines will impact wildlife. Wyoming has several large wind developments in progress that “dwarf the familiar groupings of turbines on the road from Casper to Laramie,” the Casper Star Tribune reports. Because of the size of the projects-in-progress, researchers want to determine if the scale of a wind energy development will impact wildlife, particularly the largest herd of pronghorn within the state that roam the mostly untouched region where the new wind turbines will be installed.
“It’s such a scale, we just want to make sure we know everything we can,” Lee Knox, a wildlife biologist for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s (WGFD) Laramie region, told the Casper Star Tribune. “So any future projects, if there happen to be any impacts, we can mitigate.”
The study is a collaboration between WGFD and the University of Wyoming’s Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Unit. The study will focus on the 500-megawatt TB Flats wind farm and “measure big wind’s impact on pronghorn from construction to operation” by collaring 60 pronghorn does and keeping tabs on them for a six-year period “with an eye on potential habitat fragmentation or under-use,” according to the Casper Star Tribune. Construction is expected to begin June 21.
“One of the reasons it is the largest herds is that for the most part, it is an intact sage brush ecosystem, where pronghorn are able to migrate long distances from their summer to winter range, move somewhat freely throughout their range,” says Knox.
While a previous study found that oil and gas development has a negative impact on mule deer, prior pronghorn studies conducted at the Dunlap wind farm found that wind energy projects pose little to no issues with pronghorn; however, the Dunlap wind farm is significantly smaller than the TB Flats project. In fact, many of the issues with wind farms are due to bird fatalities since birds can actually come into direct contact with the turbines.
Will this be an issue for pronghorn? Stay tuned to goHUNT to find out.