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  Nebraska Wind Energy and Wildlife Project

Wind Energy & Wildlife Tools

Overview

dickcissel. usfws image

Dickcissel. USFWS image.

 

 

 

 

For inquiries regarding proposed projects, questions about the environmental review process, and requests for environmental reviews, please contact:

Michelle Koch, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, 2200 N. 33rd St. Lincoln, NE 68503
michelle.koch@nebraska.gov, (402) 471-5438.

Eliza Hines, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Nebraska Field Office 9325 South Alda Road, Wood River, Nebraska 68883
eliza_hines@fws.gov, (308)382-6468, Extension 204

 

For questions about wind and wildlife research and interactions, the Nebraska Wind and Wildlife Working Group, and Guidelines, please contact:

Caroline Jezierski, Nebraska Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit, School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska - Lincoln
windwildlife@unl.edu, (402) 472-8188.

Consultation Process

Development projects are reviewed by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) with the purpose of ensuring projects do not adversely impact at-risk species or their habitats.

Send the following information to Michelle Koch (NGPC, 2200 N. 33rd St. Lincoln, NE 68503) and Martha Carlisle (USFWS, 203 W. 2nd St. Grand Island, NE 68801) for an environmental review:

  • Map of project location including project footprint.
  • Project description (entire project and component needing a state permit).

Review facts:

  • Projects are reviewed in the order they are received.
  • Approximate turn-around time is 30 days.
  • There is no expedited option.

Nebraska endangered and threatened species resources:

Pronghorn Antelope

Pronghorn Antelope. Photo by Joseph Fontaine.

 

Navigating the Wildlife Consultation Process: Wind Energy in Nebraska

Developed in cooperation with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with the purpose of providing basic information on the wildlife consultation process for parties interested in wind energy development in Nebraska.

Navigating Wildlife Consultation Process
Navigating Wildlife Consultation Process 2

 

For inquiries regarding proposed projects, questions about the environmental review process, and requests for environmental reviews, please contact:

Michelle Koch, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, 2200 N. 33rd St. Lincoln, NE 68503
michelle.koch@nebraska.gov, (402) 471-5438.

Eliza Hines, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Nebraska Field Office 9325 South Alda Road, Wood River, Nebraska 68883
eliza_hines@fws.gov, (308)382-6468, Extension 204

Nebraska's Biodiversity and Wind Energy Siting and Mitigation Map

This map was developed through extensive collaboration of natural resource managers, non-profit conservation organizations, public utilities, and a variety of other wind energy stakeholders.

The purpose of the map is to delineate areas where potential adverse impacts of wind energy on biodiversity, including wildlife concentrations, in Nebraska are most likely to occur and the subsequent level of mitigation that will likely be recommended.

The Map is based on a variety of other maps and GIS layers, some of which were developed specifically for these guidelines. An explanation of how maps and layers contributing to the Map were developed is provided in Appendix A of the Guidelines for Avoiding, Minimizing, and Mitigating Impacts of Wind Energy on Biodiversity in Nebraska.

Wind energy developers and planners are encouraged to refer to this Map as an initial step when considering new sites.

This map is one of the decision support tools that is available for wind energy developers in the state of Nebraska.

Nebraska's Biodiversity and Wind Energy Siting and Mitigation Map

Guidelines for Avoiding, Minimizing, and Mitigating Impacts of Wind Energy on Biodiversity in Nebraska

 

Guidelines for Avoiding, Minimizing, and Mitigating Impacts of Wind Energy on Biodiversity in Nebraska were developed by the Nebraska Wind and Wildlife Working Group.

This NEW guidance document combines the previous Guidelines for Wind Energy and Wildlife Resource Management in Nebraska and the Mitigation Guidelines for Wind Energy Development in Nebraska.

These guidelines provide information on ways to avoid, minimize, and mitigate impacts of wind energy on wildlife and habitats and provide wind energy developers and operators with a better idea of what, if any, mitigation will likely be recommended for permanent impacts based on proposed wind turbine locations of utility-scale wind energy developments.

Not all recommendations will be applicable to all wind energy development projects, which are reviewed and discussed on a project-by-project basis. Site-specific recommendations may be made that are not included in this document.

There are places in the state where no amount of minimization measures or mitigation would appropriately offset impacts to highly sensitive areas and/or species.

Following the guidelines in this document does not replace consultation or coordination at the state or federal level required by these Acts. Therefore, at any given site, additional measures may also be needed above and beyond what is recommended in this document.

Please contact Caroline Jezierski, the Nebraska Wind Energy and Wildlife Project Coordinator, at windwildlife@unl.edu if you have any questions.

The Guidelines include:

  • Biodiversity Concerns
  • Practices to Avoid and Minimize Impacts to Biodiversity
  • Pre- and Post-Construction Guidelines
  • Estimating Fatalities
  • Mitigation Guidelines
  • Research Needs
Nebraska Mitigation Worksheet Example
Guidelines for Avoiding, Minimizing, and Mitigating Impacts of Wind Energy on Biodiversity in Nebraska

Avian Assessment Guidance for Wind Energy Facilities

An avian assessment is a key component for evaluating the risk of impacts of wind energy facilities on Nebraska’s birds.

Nebraska’s Avian Assessment Guidance for Wind Energy Facilities provides information and technical guidance to assist wind energy project proponents with conducting an avian assessment that meets the standards and expectations developed by staff of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Nebraska Field Office (USFWS). 

Included in the Avian Assessment Guidance document:

  • Suggested timeline for pre- and post- construction avian surveys
  • Whooping Crane Desktop Stopover Risk Assessment
  • Mountain Plover Survey
  • Breeding Bird Survey
  • Nesting Raptor Survey
  • Prairie Grouse Survey

For each survey listed, recommendations for survey design and reporting are given, but it is highly recommended to work with NGPC and USFWS prior to beginning surveys and during the survey process.  Following these guidelines is voluntary, but recommended.

Burrowing owls. Photo by Joseph Fontaine.

Burrowing owls. Photo by Joseph Fontaine.

 

For inquiries regarding proposed projects, questions about the environmental review process, and requests for environmental reviews, please contact:

Michelle Koch, Environmental Analyst Supervisor, NGPC
michelle.koch@nebraska.gov, (402) 471-5438

Eliza Hines, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Nebraska Field Office 9325 South Alda Road, Wood River, Nebraska 68883
eliza_hines@fws.gov, (308)382-6468, Extension 204

For technical questions regarding avian surveys, to have avian survey protocols reviewed, or to submit comments or suggestions about this document, please contact:

Joel Jorgensen, Nongame Bird Program Manager, NGPC
joel.jorgensen@nebraska.gov, (402) 471-5440

Bat Assessment Guidance for Wind Energy Facilities in Nebraska

The Bat Assessment Guidance for Wind Energy Facilities in Nebraska provides recommendations for pre- and post-construction surveys and data analysis that can help avoid or minimize bat fatalities at wind energy facilities in Nebraska.

The specific objectives are to:

  • Determine bat activity patterns before and after the development of wind energy facilities;
  • Evaluate the bat fatalities associated with operation of wind energy facilities; and
  • Provide reliable information for siting and operation of current and future wind energy facilities in Nebraska.

Take Home Points:

  • Consult early and often with the NGPC and the USFWS
  • Feather wind turbine blades as a standard practice at all Nebraska wind energy facilities.
  • At least one year of pre- and post-construction acoustic surveys are recommended.
  • At least two years post construction mortality surveys are recommended.
  • Data collection and analysis should be conducted by a trained bat biologist.
  • Sharing data is recommended to help enhance recommendations for operational mitigation and siting.
Eastern Red Bat. Photo by Keith Geluso.

Eastern Red Bat. Photo by Keith Geluso.

 

 

 

For inquiries regarding proposed projects, questions about the environmental review process, and requests for environmental reviews, please contact:

Michelle Koch, Fish and Wildlife Specialist, NGPC
michelle.koch@nebraska.gov, (402) 471-5438

Eliza Hines, Assistant Field Supervisor, USFWS
eliza_hines@fws.gov, (308)382-6468, Extension 204

To have bat survey protocols reviewed, please contact:

Mike Fritz, Zoologist, NGPC
mike.fritz@nebraska.gov, (402) 471-5419

Waterfowl in flight. Photo by Joseph Fontaine.

Waterfowl in flight. Photo by Joseph Fontaine.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Guidelines (USFWS) were developed through collaboration with the Wind Turbine Guidelines Federal Advisory Committee whose members provided recommendations about responsible development of wind energy and effective measures to avoid and minimize impacts to wildlife and their habitats.

The final version of The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines was released on March 23, 2012. For a summary of the Guidelines, check out the guidelines fact sheet.

The Guidelines provide a structured, scientific process for addressing wildlife conservation concerns at all stages of land-based wind energy development. Although the Guidelines leave the decisions up to the developer, the USFWS retains the authority to evaluate whether developer efforts to mitigate impacts are sufficient, to determine significance, and to refer for persecution any unlawful take that it believes to be reasonably related to lack of incorporation of Service recommendations or insufficient adherence with the Guidelines.

The Guidelines use a "tiered approach" for assessing potential adverse effects to species of concern and their habitats. The first three tiers are for the pre-construction stage; the last two are for post-construction. The tiered approach provides the opportunity for evaluation and decision-making at each stage, enabling a developer to abandon or proceed with project development, or to collect additional information if required.

The five tiers are summarized as:

  • Tier 1 - Preliminary site evaluation (landscape-scale screening of possible project sites)
  • Tier 2 - Site characterization (broad characterization of one or more potential project sites)
  • Tier 3 - Field studies to document site wildlife and habitat and predict project impacts
  • Tier 4 - Post-construction studies to estimate impacts
  • Tier 5 - Other post-construction studies and research

The most important thing a developer can do is to consult with the USFWS as early as possible in the development of a wind energy project. The USFWS is committed to providing timely responses. Service Field Offices should typically respond to requests by a wind energy developer for information and consultation on proposed site locations (Tiers 1 and 2), pre- and post-construction study designs (Tiers 3 and 4) and proposed mitigation (Tier 3) within 60 calendar days.

Table 1 of the Guidelines, Suggested Communications Protocol (below), is divided into the roles of the wind energy project developer or operator and the USFWS for each of the Tiers.

USFWS Suggested Communications Protocol

Adherence to the Guidelines is voluntary and does not relieve any individual, company, agency of the responsibility to comply with laws and regulations.

 

The information on this website was taken from the Guidelines.

 

More information:

http://www.fws.gov/windenergy/- U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Wind Energy Development Information.

http://www.fws.gov/nebraskaes/Wind%20Power%20Development%20in%20Nebraska.html- U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Wind Power Development in Nebraska.

USFWS Eagle Conservation Plan Guidance: Module 1 - Land-based Wind Energy (v2)

The desire for an increase in domestic and renewable energies has resulted in the development of specific guidance to help make wind energy facilities compatible with eagle conservation and the laws and regulations that protect eagles.

The Eagle Conservation Plan Guidance document provides guidance for the siting, construction, and operation of wind energy facilities in a manner that conserves Bald and Golden eagles.

The plan defines a number of stages:

  • Stage 1: Initial site assessment
  • Stage 2: Site-specific surveys and assessments
  • Stage 3: Predicting eagle fatalities
  • Stage 4: Avoidance and minimization of risk using conservation measures and ACPs and compensatory mitigation(if required)
  • Permit Decision
  • Stage 5: Calibration and updating of the fatality prediction and continued risk assessment

 

Bald eagle. USFWS.

Bald Eagle. USFWS image.

 

 

More information:

http://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/BaldAndGoldenEagleManagement.htm- U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Migratory Bird Program, Bald and Golden Eagle Management.

http://outdoornebraska.ne.gov/wildlife/wildlife_species_guide/eagles.asp- Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Bald Eagle Species Page.

Public Conservation Lands

  • Nebraska has a wide variety of public conservation lands including state parks, state recreation areas, wildlife management areas, national forests, national wildlife refuges, and more.
     
  • Through the Open Fields and Waters Program, some private lands owners in Nebraska have granted access to their lands to the public for hunting and/or fishing.
     
  • These state, federal, partner, and private lands are important for wildlife conservation and public recreation.
     
  • Several counties have setbacks from these lands for wind turbines.
     
  • To determine if any of these lands are near your project location, you can use an online Public Access Atlas or download the Atlas into Google Earth.
Public Access Atlas
Wetland Mapper Example

 

Wetlands Mapper

Knowing whether wetlands are located in or around your wind energy project footprint and what type of wetlands they are is important.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Wetlands Inventory has an interactive Wetlands Mapper available for use.

Quick instructions for use:

  • Zoom into the area you are interested in until the different wetland types appear in the legend. If you are too far out, the legend will say Wetlands Mapping Status.
     
  • Click on a wetland for more information.
     
  • Decode the classification code.
     
  • Use the table below to correlate the wetland type provided by the wetland mapper and wetland type listed in county zoning ordinances.

 

 

 

Cowardin Water Regime (Wetland Mapper code) Stewart and Kantrud class                         (USFW code used by County Zoning)
Temporarily flooded (A) Class I- ephemeral ponds
Temporarily flooded (A) Class II- temporary ponds
Seasonally flooded (C) Class III- seasonal ponds and lakes
Semipermanently flooded (F) Class IV- semipermanent ponds and lakes
Permanently flooded (H) Class V- permanent ponds and lakes
NA Class VI- alkali ponds and lakes
NA Class VII- fen (alkaline bog) ponds

 

NWI Cowardin Codes can be found at: http://www.fws.gov/wetlands/Data/Wetland-Codes.html.

Cowardin Manual is available at: http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/wetlands/classwet/index.htm.

NOTE: The Cowardin System is the preferred wetland classification system in Nebraska.

 

 

Wetland Information

Nebraska's wetlands are diverse and include marshes, lakes, river and stream backwaters, oxbows, wet meadows, fens, forested swamps, and seep areas.

Some of Nebraska's wetlands only hold water following a rain and are dry other times of the year, while others hold water year-round.

Wetlands can:

  • Improve water quality;
  • Provide habitat for wildlife, fish, and unusual plants;
  • Reduce flooding;
  • Produce food and fiber;
  • Supply water;
  • Provide recreation and education opportunities.

More Information: GUIDE TO NEBRASKA’S WETLANDS and their conservation needs

Whooping Crane Operational Contingency Plan

A Whooping Crane Operational Contingency Plan "template" was developed based on previous contingency plans and input from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

An operational contingency plan outlining what steps will be taken in the unlikely event a Whooping Crane is observed near a wind energy project can help reduce the potential for Whooping Crane-wind turbine collisions.

The Whooping Crane is state and federally listed as an endangered and is found in Nebraska during spring and fall migration.

Although Whooping Cranes migrate at elevations higher than 1,000 feet, they rely on frequent stopover sites to rest and feed.

It is in approach or departure to stopovers and during flights to feeding areas while at stopover locations that Whooping Cranes are more susceptible to collisions with structures, such as wind turbines.

Modifying wind turbine operations when Whooping Cranes are within five miles of a wind energy facility is judicious.

It is highly recommended that wind energy developers and operators develop an operational contingency plan for Whooping Cranes for wind energy development projects in Nebraska.

The "template" can be used to assist in plan development. Use of the "template" does not replace consultation with the NGPC and USFWS.

whooping crane operational contingency plan
Mitigation Guidelines

Mitigation Guidelines for Wind Energy Development in Nebraska

The Mitigation Guidelines for Wind Energy Development in Nebraska were developed to standardize the mitigation process. Wind energy developers will be provided a better idea of what mitigation, if any, will likely be recommended for wind energy facilities developed in different parts of the state. Once a project location is selected, the mitigation ratios established in the docu-ment can help developers estimate the cost of mitigation for a given project.

Comments received on the document were compiled and reviewed.

Based on the comments received on Mitigation Guidelines and associated map, we decided to combine all of the guidelines for avoiding, minimizing, and mitigating impacts into one document, Guidelines for Avoiding, Minimizing, and Mitigating Impacts of Wind Energy on Biodiversity in Nebraska.

The Mitigation Map was reviewed and updated to cover both mitigation and siting considerations. Check out the new version, Nebraska's Biodiversity and Wind Energy Siting and Mitigation Map.

ainsworth

Estimating Fatalities

Good estimates of fatality are challenging because the relationship between the number of observed carcasses and the number of animals that were killed is not direct.

Estimating bird and bat fatalities from wind energy operation requires a good survey design to detect the fatalities and a reliable estimator to determine how many fatalities may have occurred.

There are several factors that contribute to the detection of a carcass including:

  • When the carcass arrived;
  • Fraction of turbines searched;
  • Proportion of fatalities in the searched area (relative density of carcasses);
  • Proportion of carcasses persisting to the next search; and searcher efficiency.

Through survey design, some of these factors can be controlled to help increase the detection probability.

Survey Recommendations

  • Search as many turbines as possible.
     
  • Target searches in easier visibility classes. Detection probability should be over 30%.
     
  • Take into consideration the density weighting of carcasses (the probability of a carcass landing in the search area). Smaller carcasses generally fall closer to the wind turbine than larger carcasses.
     
  • Use a minimum of 20 small birds and bats and 10 large birds for searcher efficiency and carcass persistence trials (trials can be designed so the same carcasses can be used for both). Place carcasses continuously throughout the study period, e.g., one or two every other day rather than several on one day, then none for a long period of time.
     
  • To determine carcass persistence rates, place a small number of carcasses out each day and observe their persistence at day 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 10, 14, 21 … (longer studies for larger carcasses or longer search intervals). It is important to check the persistence more often immediately after placing the carcass. Many small carcasses do not persist very long on the land and knowing the persistence pattern is important to accurately estimate how often searches need to be conducted and, ultimately, fatalities.
     
  • Prior to initiating fatality surveys, it is highly recommended the survey design be tested in the Evidence of Absence Software program (http://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/ds881) to determine the detection probability.
     
  • Use a non-biased fatality estimator to estimate fatalities of non-rare species. A recommended, free fatality estimator is available at: http://pubs.usgs.gov/ds/729/. A very important feature of the software is that it provides measures of uncertainty in the estimates it produces.
     
  • For rare species (i.e. threatened and endangered species, eagles, or other species of concern), for which fewer than 10 fatalities are predicted, use the Evidence of Absence Software (http://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/ds881). The Software uses information about the search process and scavenging rates to estimate detection probabilities to determine a maximum credible number of fatalities, even when zero or few carcasses are observed.

 

Reporting

The estimate of turbine-caused fatality reported will always be greater than or equal to what was observed at the wind energy facility.

Include:

  • Proportion of wind turbines surveyed for different methods (i.e. complete searches out to 80-120 meters, modified road and pad, etc.).
  • Wind turbine numbers searched.
  • Sampling coverage (density weighted proportion of area searched for each carcass size class and each turbine).
  • Search interval for each for different method (i.e. complete searches out to 80-120 meters, modified road and pad, etc.).
  • Carcass persistence and searcher efficiency results for bats, small, medium, and large birds.
  • Number and species of fatalities found.
  • Estimate of fatality per turbine and for entire facility for bats, small, medium, and large birds.
  • 95% confidence interval around estimates.

Remember, failing to detect and estimate a fatality (absence of evidence) cannot necessarily be interpreted as evidence of a fatality being absent (evidence of absence).

For more information see Huso and Dalthorp 2014 (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jwmg.663/abstract).

 

Fatality Estimator User's Guide

USGS research statistician Manuela Huso and co-authors published new software and a user’s guide designed to provide accurate and unbiased estimates of wildlife fatality at wind facilities.

The fatality-estimator software uses carcass counts and detection-rate information provided by the user. More importantly, the software provides measures of uncertainty in these estimates.

The estimates are critical to predicting potential fatality prior to construction, developing techniques to reduce fatalities, and assessing cumulative effects on wildlife populations.

The software is available for free at: http://pubs.usgs.gov/ds/729/.

A presentation of the fatality estimator was given during the Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines Tier 4 Post-Construction Studies and Reporting webinar offered by the USFWS. A recording of the webinar, transcript, and copy of the presentation are available at: http://www.fws.gov/windenergy/wind_training/wind_training.html.

 

Evidence of Absence Software

Evidence of Absence software (EoA) is a user-friendly application used for estimating bird and bat fatalities at wind farms and designing search protocols. The software is particularly useful in addressing whether the number of fatalities has exceeded a given threshold and what search parameters are needed to give assurance that thresholds were not exceeded. The software is applicable even when zero carcasses have been found in searches.

EoA uses information about the search process and scavenging rates to estimate detection probabilities to determine a maximum credible number of fatalities, even when zero or few carcasses are observed.

The software is available for free at: http://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/ds881

Avian Protection Plan (APP) Guidelines

The Edison Electric Institute's Avian Power Line Interaction Committee (APLIC) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) jointly prepared the Avian Protection Plan (APP) Guidelines.

The voluntary principles presented in the document can be used to develop an APP specific to the needs of a utility or wind energy developer.

Developing an APP is recommended in the Guidelines for Wind Energy and Wildlife Resource Management to help identify and minimize the risks to migratory and resident birds.

County Zoning

  • Several counties in Nebraska have zoning regulations or ordinances for wind energy facilities.
     
  • Approximately half of the counties with zoning regulations have setbacks from wind turbines required.
     
  • The most common setback for commercial scale wind turbines is 600 feet from Public Conservation Lands and Wetlands .
     
  • Wind Energy Guide for County Commissioners is a Wind Powering America publication designed to provide county commissioners, planners, and other local county government officials with a practical overview of information required to successfully implement commercial wind energy projects in their county.

Zoning Regulations in Nebraska

To access County Zoning Regulations for wind energy developments, click on the county name below:

Adams Burt Custer Franklin Hamilton Keith Merrick Platte Sheridan Webster
Antelope Butler Dakota Frontier Harlan Keya Paha Morrill Polk Sherman Wheeler
Arthur Cass Dawes Furnas Hayes Kimball Nance Red Willow Sioux York
Banner Cedar Dawson Gage Hitchcock Knox Nemaha Richardson Stanton
Blaine Chase Deuel Garden Holt Lancaster Nuckolls Rock Thayer
Boone Cherry Dixon Garfield Hooker Lincoln Otoe Saline Thomas
Box Butte Cheyenne Dodge Gosper Howard Logan Pawnee Sarpy Thurston
Boyd Clay Douglas Grant Jefferson Loup Perkins Saunders Valley
Brown Colfax Dundy Greeley Johnson Madison Phelps Scotts Bluff Washington
Buffalo Cuming Fillmore Hall Kearney McPherson Pierce Seward Wayne