Are wind turbines killing off the whooping crane population?

Posted on May 13, 2013 by Anthony Watts

An attempt to stimulate discussion about whether or not wind turbines could kill off all endangered whooping cranes in only five years, as some environmentalists suggest.

Guest post by Caleb Shaw

I am having trouble getting to the bottom of a serious issue, (or a serious issue for a bird lover like myself.) It may well be that wind turbines are killing endangered birds, and may lead to the extinction of the California Condor and the Whooping Crane.

Because wind turbines involve a great deal of capital, (not merely the big-bucks of fat-cats, but also and especially the political capital surrounding the save-the-world idea of Global Warming,) the bullying of media-warping power politics seems to be involved. You can’t get a straight answer to a simple question.

All I want to know is whether or not the population of whooping crane has fallen by over a hundred, since wind turbines were erected in their flyways.

I think it may well have happened, but because the government would get bad press if such was “a fact,” the facts get muddled. The government is on record as saying wind turbines are good, and has invested huge amounts of taxpayer’s money in erecting them. They will downplay bad news. One way to downplay is to change the way of counting whooping cranes. For 61 years an aerial count was used. Now a new “hierarchical distance sampling” is used, and gives a number with an absurd degree of uncertainty. .

What is the degree of uncertainty? “Plus or minus 61 whooping cranes.” That could be as much as a half of the total population. It is a failure to give an honest questioner an honest answer.

261 would not be good news, but would indicate the population was at least holding steady, however, if you subtract 61 from the positive direction and go 61 in the other direction, you have 139 whooping cranes, which is an environmental disaster.
It also would be a political inconvenience, and a business inconvenience to all fat cats who have invested huge amounts of money into the enormous, towering, and very ugly turbines.

However I always thought true environmentalists didn’t care about what was inconvenient for politicians, and inconvenient for fat cats, and instead cared about what was inconvenient for whooping cranes.

When you can’t even get the data that matters, not even from the Environmental Protection Agency, it starts to look like environmentalists have been bought out by, and have sold out to, fat cats and politicians. I always thought that was the one thing that environmentalists never, ever would do.

I figured environmentalists needed to be warned. Therefore I left the following comment, (actually a sort of letter-to-the-editor,) at the environmentalist website Wind Turbine Syndrome, on the post: http://www.windturbinesyndrome.com/2012/the-free-flying-whooping-crane-population-will-be-lost-within-5-years-avian-wildlife-expert/#comment-20922
“I have linked to your story in a post at my obscure website: http://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2013/04/13/for-the-birds/
I have also left links to your post when I comment at other websites.

The problem is that environmentalists have overused the sympathy of the public, because some less-than-altruistic environmentalists have raised the alarm, but have done so for reasons that involve political and even business interests. By allowing such people to infiltrate our ranks we have dug a grave for ourselves, because we are now like the little boy who cried wolf. When we raise the alarm, the public rolls their eyes and doesn’t listen.
An example of such a false alarm may well be the “snail darter,” which is a small fish which lives in a California delta. Because California’s climate has included both copious rainfalls and withering droughts, the delta has varied hugely, and the little fish has evolved to cope with tremendous variations. However the environmentalists involved made it sound like the slightest bit of irrigation in America’s richest farmland, (which has the longest growing season,) could wipe the obscure minnow out, by reducing the water in the delta.

While there are good arguments on both sides, the uproar made environmentalists look bad for two reasons. First, it made them look like they cared more for a few hundred minnows than feeding hundreds of thousands of Americans. Second, it made them look like liars, when it turned out that particular minnow had survived horrific historic droughts when the delta was practically dry. Once environmentalists have been made to look bad in this manner, the public is slow to forgive the stain on their reputation.

The whooping crane population was down to around 21 in 1941. It was only due to the work of altruistic environmentalists, who worked hand in hand with Washington DC, that the population bounced back to over 200. It is a triumph, and shows environmentalism at its best.

We need to return to that goodness, but we cannot do so with people who abuse environmentalism in our ranks. We are like a beautiful garden, but our ranks contain some rank weeds.

Some of our members are merely young, and need the guidance of older and wiser members. However others are rather obviously more interested in money, quick profits, and power politics than anything that has to do with keeping nature in balance, and beautiful creatures alive.

None of us much likes to be disagreeable, but we had better disagree with these people, who are actually fakes and phonies. In the most polite manner possible, we need to bring up the truth and demand the facts, and confront them. They are corrupting a beautiful thing, and if we don’t stand up for what environmentalism stands for, we are standing by as a sewer pipe pollutes a beautiful river, but in this case the river is environmentalism itself.

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