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Ill Winds on the Climate Horizon

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorJanuary 20, 2010 10:47 PM


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In 2007, I wrote a cover story for Audubon magazine about Wyoming's imperiled sage grouse population. New research had shown that the iconic bird avoided using habitat in the vicinity of roads, gas wells and other related energy infrastructure. All the noise and traffic was a big turnoff. As the scientist who led one of the studies explained to me then,

This species needs big, undisturbed landscapes to breed, spread its nests, and hatch its chicks.

When I wrote my story in 2007, there were already palpable fears that the sage grouse was destined for the federal endangered species list, which would bring Wyoming's lucrative gas industry to a screaming halt. But politicians and federal land managers diddled and no serious drilling restrictions were put in place. In October, a more definitive, three-year sage grouse study was published in PLoS ONE, which reaffirmed everything I wrote about in 2007. This time around, though, the feds and Wyoming's governor are taking action. But what's notable is that the new measures will also affect the nascent wind industry. As reported in Scientific American,

The governor's ruling has placed the future of a $600-million wind farm planned by Horizon Wind Energy in doubt.

Here's the SciAm headline:

Wyoming's environmental Hobson's Choice: Killing wind energy or endangering birds?

Over dramatic perhaps, but it still captures the larger dilemma that I keep predicting will pit greens against greens. There is a brewing conservationists versus wind proponents battle. Throw in the NIMBYists who want to protect their views and we got ourselves a recipe for an all out smackdown.

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