Conservation Minnesota

Protecting What Was Once Endangered

Today is an important one for bird lovers.  The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is conducting a meeting on allowing a wind farm in Goodhue county that has the potential to kill bald and golden eagles who nest and migrate through the area near the Mississippi river.  The wind project proposer, AWA Goodhue Wind, wants to build up to 50 turbines within a 12,000 acre footprint.  Because of the threat to eagles, and also possibly to endangered bat species, the company is seeking a required federal “incidental take” permit in case the turbines do end up harming eagles.

At the same time, the Minnesota legislature is considering a bill to allow legal hunting of wolves during a prescribed season.  Wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan have just been taken off the federal endangered species list for state management.  Our DNR’s initial hunting plan will allow 400 wolves to be taken, out of an estimated population of 3,000 in the state, or 13 % of the total.

I well remember in the early 1970’s when both animal species were endangered and became listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.  It was a pleasure to see how protection and law brought these species back from possible extinction.  The efforts have been one of the real success stories of the environmental and conservation movement.

So it becomes interesting that incidental taking permits for bald eagles and hunting permits for wolves are now becoming legal.  Although wind power is an encouraging alternative energy source, the placement of turbines on the landscape should be carefully thought out to minimize any harm to a threatened eagle population.   Similarly, the number of wolves allowed to be taken, and the time of year to conduct hunting them, should start off very conservatively in order to gauge success and study their roaming status.

After the success of restoring the population of these iconic species, we surely don’t want to go too far backwards in allowing the killing of them.

About John Helland

John Helland
John Helland is a history graduate of the University of Minnesota. He served as the nonpartisan legislative research analyst for the Minnesota House of Representatives after graduation. He worked extensively on environment and natural resources legislation and issues, and was the primary nonpartisan research staffer for the House Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance committees from 1971 to 2008.
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Mary Hartman says:

Hello John Helland,

I was active with the Goodhue County residents fighting to bring sensible siting to the proposed AWA Goodhue project. The 48 turbines were micro-sited before any environmental impact assessments were done, which is the crux of the problem. There are some places that are not suitable for wind energy developments; like the Mississippi River Flyway. Thank you for drawing attention to this battleground. It is important that Minnesotans become engaged so we can keep some balance in our conversations, and in legislation on these important issues.