Audubon Nebraska is deeply concerned about the lack of consideration the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) gave for the threat the R-Project 345-KV Transmission Line (R-Project) poses to the endangered Whooping Crane.
Standing at around five feet tall with a wingspan of seven feet, the whooping crane is one of the largest, rarest, and most magnificent birds in North America. They migrate south in the fall, passing through the Nebraska Sandhills before completing their 2,500-mile journey in Texas at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.
Though they returned from the brink of extinction in the last several decades, the species still remains at critical risk due to multiple factors, including power line collisions.
Collisions with power lines during migration is recognized as one of the principal threats to this iconic imperiled species, and the proposed R-Project would be constructed directly across the center of the whooping crane migratory corridor, creating a high risk of injury and death from collisions.
On November 14, Audubon Nebraska joined an amicus brief against the USFWS regarding Endangered Species Act compliance for the construction of the R-Project across the Whooping Cranes’ migratory path.
The USFWS issued its decision notice on June 17, 2019, which permitted the Nebraska Public Power District to begin construction of a 345,000-volt, 224-mile long transmission system through the Nebraska Sandhills. This project includes an Incidental Take Permit under the Endangered Species Act for the American Burying Beetle, but not for the Whooping Crane. The USFWS issued its decision despite being provided recent analyses showing Whooping Crane migration through the vicinity of the planned transmission lines and the harm to cranes that is likely to result from their collision with the power lines.
Audubon will join with the Center for Biological Diversity, the International Crane Foundation, and the American Bird Conservancy to file an amicus brief supporting a civil lawsuit by Western Nebraska Resources Council, a nonprofit corporation; Hanging H East, L.L.C.; Whitetail Farms East, L.L.C.; and the Oregon-California Trails Association. This lawsuit is in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.