U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Final Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines

July 18, 2013

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS), as part of the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI), regulates under and enforces several laws that are relevant to wind energy development including the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA).  These statutes are relevant whether development is on public or private lands.  

Ensuring that wind farms minimize harm to wildlife

The Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines, which were finalized by the FWS in March 2012, help ensure that wind farms minimize impacts on wildlife. These final guidelines were informed by discussions over five years between the wind energy industry, wildlife conservation organizations, Native American tribes, and federal and state regulators. By supporting and using the guidelines, the wind energy industry voluntarily adheres to a higher standard for wildlife protection than any other energy industry in the United States – even beyond what federal law requires.
The guidelines address issues such as:

  • Preliminary site assessments
  • Site characterization
  • Pre-construction wildlife and related studies
  • Post-construction studies

The guidelines also provide species-specific information on study protocols; best management practices for construction, operation, and retrofitting; repowering; and decommissioning.

Finally, the guidelines address mitigation by outlining how to first avoid, and then minimize, potential adverse impacts of wind turbines to wildlife and their habitats.

Collective commitment to safeguarding wildlife

AWEA and 40 individual member companies – including project developers, utilities and turbine manufacturers – signed a letter to USFWS showing the collective commitment to a process that represents a reasonable balance between the need to deploy wind energy, and addressing the relatively modest impacts associated with development and operation of wind facilities.

More on wildlife protection guidelines

The FWS website offers additional information on the Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines, including tools that can help in site analysis.