June 17 marked a win for the endangered Whooping Cranes when the District Court of Colorado vacated the permit for the “R-Project,” a 225-mile electrical transmission line. The location of this line and the planned wind facility development is a potential threat to migrating Whooping Cranes as it was set to be built along their flight path.
“This decision will ensure that Whooping Cranes and other migrating birds are considered for the impacts of the transmission line and for wind turbine development,” said Kristal Stoner, Executive Director for Audubon Nebraska. “We need to increase our renewable energy in Nebraska, but it has to be in the right location to protect our natural resources and birds.”
Collisions with power lines during migration is recognized as one of the principal threats to this iconic imperiled species, and the R-Project was set to 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, 2019, Audubon Nebraska joined an amicus brief against the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (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, 225-mile-long transmission system through the Nebraska Sandhills. This project included an Incidental Take Permit under the Endangered Species Act for the American Burying Beetle, but not for the Whooping Crane.
Audubon joined 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.
On Wednesday, June 17, the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado decided to set aside the incidental take permit, meaning that the permit will be vacated. For the project to continue, additional analyses will need to be conducted to consider the cumulative impact of this project.
To learn more about the endangered Whooping Crane, visit audubon.org/birds/whooping-crane.
The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive.
Allison Christenson, Communications Coordinator
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