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8-14-12: New Regs Allow Western MD Bats and Wind Turbines to Coexist
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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) says little bats are no match for big wind turbines. They estimate the Indiana bat (Myotis sodalist) weighs as much as three pennies, making the mouse-eared bat easily susceptible to the high speeds of The Criterion Wind Project's 28 turbines.
Criterion, located on Garrett County's Backbone Mountain, is Maryland's first wind farm. Environmentalists hail its ability to power tens of thousands of homes. Yet, FWS is watching the wind farm closely. According to a 2010 Baltimore Sun article, two conservation groups and two individuals sued Criterion Wind Project owner Constellation Energy in 2010, claiming the 400-foot turbines posed a serious threat to the endangered Indiana bat.
A recently issued FWS draft "Habitat Conservation Plan" designed to protect the Indiana bat would give the power companies a few bats here and there. An "incidental take" permit would not penalize companies for killing a low number of bats as long as the incidents are a natural result of the companies’ lawful activities. Companies that apply for the permits would still be responsible to initiate practical measures to reduce the amount of bats killed from their activities.
According to an FWS Service release, Criterion Wind Project requested an incidental take permit last month. The Service has proposed Criterion turn its wind turbine blades "parallel to air flow" from dusk to dawn in late summer and early fall—the period of time when the Indiana bat is most active.
The Service has opened a period of public comment on the draft plan which ends on September 28.