Going Green

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Balancing Needs in the New Energy Economy

Achieving a balance between development and nature is often a difficult task. As we look to move from a petroleum based energy economy to alternative sources of energy, we have the opportunity to take a thoughtful, balanced approach.
There are important questions that must be asked for each of the new energy technologies. Most of them have to do with consequences to the environment. Some have to do with impacts on food prices. Still others are related to human factors such as jobs and health. Unintended consequences seem to abound with every new endeavor.

Realizing that it may seem to be a minor issue to some, one thing that has come to my attention recently is the potential impact of wind energy development on the small amount of remaining habitat that supports the Lesser Prairie Chicken (LPC).
The LPC is a species that was once common throughout the short and mid-grass prairies of the southern High Plains. Over the years it is estimated that about 90% of their former range has been made unsuitable for them. Most of that land has been converted to farming but other tracts have been lost to population growth and petroleum industry development.
Wind Farms are now threatening some of the last remaining suitable habitat for the LPC. Many of these farms are planned or under construction on large contiguous tracts of native prairie that have thusfar escaped the plow or other development.
I believe in the entrepreneurial spirit and I believe that one should be able to utilize his land according to his wishes (as long as it is legal, ethical and moral). However, sometimes there are higher considerations that must be weighed. Fortunately there are tools to aid landowners faced with decisions regarding development versus wildlife. One is the CCAA. The "Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances" is a tool by which the landowner can work with a wildlife biologist to create a habitat management plan that would be beneficial to the LPC while receiving assurances that no further land use restrictions or conditions will be imposed in the event that the LPC is declared endangered.
As various individuals and corporations look at developing the wind potential of the southern High Plains, it is my prayer that they will seriously consider the potential benefits of implementing a CCAA where suitable habitat is available. It might be that they (the landowner) will be able to achieve both worthy goals -- sustainable, renewable energy and conservation of the Lesser Prairie Chicken. It is certainly something that deserves discussion.

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