Windfarm permit "seriously contradicts" Endangered Species Act
A proposed windfarm in the Karso del Sur Important Bird Area (IBA), Puerto Rico, could wipe out five percent of the global population of the Critically Endangered Puerto Rican Nightjar Caprimulgus noctitherus.
The proposal, which has been strongly condemned by Sociedad Ornitológica Puertorriqueña (SOPI, BirdLife in Puerto Rico), is the latest in a series of windfarm proposals around the world which threaten bird populations of conservation importance.
The Karso del Sur IBA is the most important remaining stronghold for Puerto Rican Nightjar, which has been reduced to a global population of 1,400-2,000 individuals. The affected areas inside the IBA are Punta Verraco, Cerro Toro and Punta Ventana in the municipality of Guayanilla. They lie within the internationally recognised Man and Biosphere Reserve of Guánica, from which they are separated only by a barbed wire fence.
“The most significant repercussion of the development of this industrial complex will be the land displacement, which could impact 40 of the 46 identified territories of this ground nesting species,” said SOPI spokesperson Luis Silvestre. “The WindMar Renewable Energy project will incidentally wipe out around five percent of the Puerto Rican Nightjar total population.”
“Approving the incidental take permit demonstrates a serious contradiction and lack of respect for the Endangered Species Act" —Joel Franqui Gil de Lamadrid, President of the Puerto Rican Ornithological Society
The US Fish and Wildlife Service recently approved an “incidental take” permit for the WindMar project in Guayanilla. This permit requires a Habitat Conservation Plan but allows the company to incidentally impact or cause harm to the endangered species without any penalty. The already endangered species that will be affected but which are “protected” under the Endangered Species Act (1973) are Puerto Rican Nightjar, Roseate Tern Sterna dougalli and Brown Pelicans Pelecanus occidentalis.
“Approving the incidental take permit demonstrates a serious contradiction and lack of respect for the Endangered Species Act that was established specifically to protect these most vulnerable of birds” remarked Joel Franqui Gil de Lamadrid, President of the Puerto Rican Ornithological Society.
SOPI and the Guayanilla community group Comité Pro Costa Ventana (Committee for the Conservation of Ventana Coast) are proposing that the lands be acquired by the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, and added to the biosphere reserve of Guánica, so that a co-management plan can be established to conserve the natural resources as well as benefiting the local community.
Climate change is perhaps the most serious threat to the world’s biodiversity, damaging the last remaining habitats of threatened species, and causing catastrophic breeding failures amongst seabirds as rising sea temperatures drive the plankton their prey species depend on to colder waters. BirdLife considers that in many parts of the world, wind has the greatest potential of all renewable energy sources, but believes that windfarm proposals should be treated on a case-by-case basis to establish that there will be no negative impact on wildlife.