Audubon Advocates Speak Up for Birds in Palm Beach Wind Turbine Debate

Yesterday, the Palm Beach County Commission held a quasi-judicial hearing on the zoning of Sugarland Wind, a proposed industrial wind project that aims to place over 100 turbines the size of the Statute of Liberty in the Everglades Agricultural Area.

Thank you to Audubon of the Everglades, South Florida Audubon Society, and other Audubon chapters throughout the state for speaking up yesterday through direct testimony and resolutions directed at the Palm Beach County Commission to protect birds.

Audubon Florida supports wind energy but it has to be in the right place. Our staff have been urging the construction company behind the turbine project and the Palm Beach County Commissioners to postpone this project until there is adequate data to understand the potential impacts to the rich wildlife in the area, including endangered Wood Storks, Everglade Snail Kites, Audubon's Crested Caracaras, and federally protected Bald Eagles. Audubon sent a letter requesting the collection of three years of on the ground data to detail the potential impacts to wildlife, an opinion shared by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

After hours of public comments and cross examinations from project development staff from members of the public, the Commission unanimously voted to approve zoning for the Sugarland Wind Project to proceed.

Despite this news, the Commission did decide to impose a number of conditions to protect wildlife, which include:

  1. The requirement for bird avoidance solutions for the wind project operations to protect birds and bats,
  2. The project must be compatible with current and futureEvergladesrestoration projects, including Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan projects and water quality projects.
  3. The Fish and Wildlife Service was added as an agency that must approve the project before it can finally proceed.

Audubon Florida would like to give a special thank you to Audubon of the Everglades’ President Linda Humphries, Rosa Durando, and our environmental allies from other organizations who gave impassioned public comments urging the Commission to protect our wildlife. Rebekah Gibble from the Fish and Wildlife Service also testified on the importance of data before the project moves forward.

Audubon Florida’s own Jane Graham testified and live tweeted the hearing at @EvergladesJane to let the advocates know what was happening in real time.

The Next Step: The Sugarland Wind project will now undergo further evaluations from the United States Army Corps of Engineers, Florida Department of Protection, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

Audubon Florida will be actively engaged in promoting sound science through this process to protect our treasured wildlife in Florida. 

**Update: a day after the decision, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service issued land based wind siting guidelines, which emphasize rigorous science for siting decisions. Click here for National Audubon Society president David Yarnold’s statement.

Stay tuned and thanks for speaking up to protect Florida’s birds!

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