The changes, criticized by some conservation groups, involve a program begun in 2009, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began a permitting program under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, applicable to developers of renewable energy projects and other activities that might injure, kill or otherwise disturb bald and golden eagles.
"Renewable energy development is vitally important to our nation's future, but it has to be done in the right way," Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said in a department release Friday. "The changes in this permitting program will help the renewable energy industry and others develop projects that can operate in the longer term, while ensuring bald and golden eagles continue to thrive for future generations."
Under the original 2009 program, permits have been for a maximum of five years, which does not reflect the actual operating parameters of most renewable energy projects or other similar long term project operations, officials said.
The revised rule extends the maximum permit tenure to 30 years, subject to a recurring five-year review process throughout the permit life.
The American Bird Conservancy had criticized the proposed changes, calling them setback in protecting Bald and Golden eagles from renewable energy projects, particularly wind farms.
"Remarkably, this approach relies exclusively on the for-profit wind industry to self-report bird fatalities, even when such information may prove detrimental to the industry's bottom line," ABC President George Fenwick said. "While some companies may play by the rules, others may not, making this system highly vulnerable to deception.
"I don't see how such a system will work to protect eagles."
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