Farmer files federal lawsuit to prevent wind farm from starting, to protect Whooping Cranes

Farmer files federal lawsuit to prevent recently completed Pratt area wind farm from starting, to protect Whooping Cranes

wind farm
Wind farm project area

PRATT – A Pratt County farmer has filed a suit in federal court seeking to prevent a new wind farm in Pratt County from starting up because of the risk he believes it poses to Whooping Cranes.

Edwin Petrowsky, a former member of the Pratt County Zoning Commission, filed the suit Nov. 23 seeking temporary and permanent injunctions against NextEra Energy Resources.

Petrowsky contends the Ninnescah Wind Farm, which consists of 121 wind generators in the southeast quadrant of the county, is in the flyway of the Aransas-Wood Buffalo Whooping Crane, which is an endangered species. The wind farm is expected to go online next week.

At last count, there was only an estimated 329 wild Aransas-Wood cranes in North America.

Petrowsky charges that NextEra is aware of the danger the project is creating, yet has failed to obtain an “incidental taking permit” that would allow the incidental killing of some birds under the Endangered Species Act.

NextEra spokesperson Steve Stengel said that the company has worked with state and federal authorities “all throughout development of the project” and that the siting of the turbines “has taken into account migratory flyways.”

“Whooping Cranes generally fly higher than the heights of the turbines,” Stengel said. “But, in working with the agencies, we have agreed to ongoing bird monitoring at the site.”

According to an earlier story in the Pratt Tribune, the company has agreed to bird and bat monitoring during its first year of operation, “to track mortality rates.” The farm is also in an area with a high number of bat hibernation sites.

Parts of the wind farm, which will generate 200 megawatts of electricity that Westar Energy is under a 20-year contract to purchase, are within 35 to 40 miles of the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge and Cheyenne Bottoms, both designated as critical habitat for the whooping crane. The Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge, another designated habitat, is also nearby.

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***** FOTWW’s mission is to help preserve and protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo
population of wild whooping cranes and their habitat. *****

Friends of the Wild Whoopers is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization.

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Whooping Crane “Stopover Habitat” Project Continues Northward

By Chester McConnell, FOTWW

Whooping Crane “stopover habitat” project Management Team travels North

Efforts to identify, improve and protect Whooping Crane “stopover habitats” on military bases is a vital component in attempts to assist the only remaining wild Whooping Crane population on the planet. The Whooping Crane “stopover habitat” project Management Team traveled into Oklahoma and Kansas recently to continue evaluation of suitable sites on military lands. Stopover habitats are essential components of the ecosystems needs of Whooping Cranes.

Whooping Crane

— Beck Pond on Fort Riley, Kansas provides all the components for an excellent Whooping Crane “stopover habitat. Much of the shore is clear of tall vegetation and provides open space for a landing site. Pond banks have gradual slopes into the water and shallow areas for roosting sites. Much of the surrounding area is open which allows Whooping Cranes to observe predators. —

Whooping Crane habitat types

Basically there are three habitat types used by Whooping Cranes.
(1) Nesting habitat on Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada is vital for reproduction and adding more cranes to the population.

(2) Wintering habitat at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Texas coast is likewise important to allow a warm place with abundant high quality food to allow cranes to rest and recuperate from the nesting season and long migration flights.

(3) Stopover habitats are essential all along the 2,500 mile migration corridor so Whooping Cranes can rest and feed during their long flights between Wood Buffalo and Aransas.

Whoopers must stopover 10 to 20 times to rest and feed during each of their two annual migration. Each of the three habitats types is essential to the survival of endangered Whoopers.

Wetland ponds evaluated

Sixteen wetland ponds were evaluated on three military installations by the Management Team from Friends of the Wild Whoopers (FOTWW) and Gulf Coast Bird Observatory (GCBO). Management recommendations were made that would improve and maintain these wetland ponds as prime stopover habitats. Importantly, many other wetland habitats are located on each base that could be relatively easily and inexpensively developed as stopover habitats if the need arises. Wildlife personnel on each base visited could bring additional ponds up to standard using the information provided to them by the Management Team.

We invite you to be a partner with us in this important stopover habitat project

We need your help. FOTWW’s travel expense (motels, auto expense, and meals) cost an average of $270 per day. If you would like to help, you can send us a donation by check, credit card, or PayPal. Please click here and then click on “become a Friend (member) of the Wild Whoopers”.

Please help us, help them!
THANK YOU!
FOTWW

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friendsofthewildwhoopers.org

***** FOTWW’s mission is to help preserve and protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo
population of wild whooping cranes and their habitat. *****
Friends of the Wild Whoopers is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization.

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Whooping cranes spotted near Aulne, Kansas

Peabody Gazette-Bulletin

By OLIVIA HASELWOOD

Staff writer

Those traveling down Quail Creek Rd. near 140th Rd. may have noticed some large strange looking white birds. Those who noticed the birds for what they were could not get home to get their cameras fast enough.

There are only around 600 wild whooping cranes according to Cornell University Lab of Ornithology, nine of which stayed to rest in a disked milo field near Aulne. The landowner, Eugene Just, had sowed oats in the field.

“If they are eating the oats, I won’t have any oats left,” Just said.

Local bird enthusiast Lloyd Davies of Marion said the birds stopped to eat grain as they made their yearly migration from Texas to Canada.

“They basically make a jaunt from Texas to here, fatten up, and fly the last leg north,” he said. “Since there are only 240 in this flock and only 500 in existence, it’s pretty rare.”

He said most of the flock will travel to the sand hills outside Kearney, Neb., where they will stay for nearly six weeks before completing their trip to Canada.

The cranes were still near Aulne Tuesday, but Davies said they will only stay for a short period before continuing their trek north. Trackers on many of the birds help researchers inform local birdwatchers where the cranes are located.

Davies said this is the first time he has seen the birds in Marion County, but he witnessed three or four outside of Manhattan a couple of years ago.

He noticed that several of the birds were banded and thought they were juveniles, which he said is a good sign of population growth in the right direction.

Mike Carroll of Marion said he was on his way home from church when he saw the cranes in the field.

“My first guess was they were a swan or a crane; they were just too tall for snow geese,” he said. “I saw Lloyd’s post on Facebook and had to go back out there with the camera.”

Carroll returned to the field with his brother-in-law to take photos of the birds.

“I felt quite privileged to have seen them,” he said. “It’s like the first time you get to see one of the eagles at one of the lakes. It’s just really cool.”

Carroll said he is not an avid bird watcher but found the cranes to be too good of a photo opportunity to pass up.

“I just find it interesting to see different birds not generally seen here,” he said.

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Whooping Cranes-Signs of Spring

Posted on Fri, Mar. 21, 2014
By Beccy Tanner
The Wichita Eagle

Any day now, whooping cranes are expected to pass through the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.

Last year, the first whooping crane arrived on March 6.

In 2012 and 2011, the whoopers arrived on March 16.

Travis Heying/ File photo Two rare whooping cranes come to rest at the Little Salt Marsh at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge in 2010.

“Statistically, their peak movement is the last week of March and the first two weeks of April,” said Barry Jones, visitor services specialist at the refuge, in Stafford County.

The arrival of the whoopers generally signals the spring migration. But there are signs that spring has arrived.

Already, flocks of sandhill cranes have been passing through the refuge on their way to the staging grounds on Nebraska’s Platte River. Other birds – four tundra swans were spotted in Quivira along with a handful of pelicans, 200 Baird’s sandpipers and thousands of ducks – are resting in the water-filled marshes.

Read more here: Signs of Spring

 

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