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Incidental take permit application for the St. Lawrence wind Jefferson County, N Y

Incidental take permit application for the St. Lawrence wind Jefferson County, N Y

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Published by pandorasboxofrocks
Incidental take permit application for the St. Lawrence wind power project Jefferson County, New York
Incidental take permit application for the St. Lawrence wind power project Jefferson County, New York

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Published by: pandorasboxofrocks on Jan 05, 2012
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Grassland birds have been declining faster than any other habitat-species group in the northeastern United
States (Lazazzero et al. 2006). The primary cause of these declines is abandonment of agricultural lands
and development of residential housing, resulting in habitat loss due to reversion to later successional
stages or development. Remaining potential habitat is also being lost or severely degraded by
intensification of agricultural practices, such as conversion to row crops or early and frequent mowing of
hayfields (Lazazzero et al. 2006).

Grasslands are important to the target grassland birds due to their nesting requirements. These species
typically build nests on the ground and require a certain amount of cover and minimum disturbance for
nesting success. Additionally, the height of the vegetation and size of the area is important to support
territorial displays or feeding requirements. Henslow’s sparrow, short-eared owl and upland sandpiper
breeding/nesting habitat is typified by older (>10yrs) hay fields or livestock pastures greater than 30ha in
size with <50% woody invasion (McGowan and Corwin 2008, Herkert et al. 2003, Dechant et al. 2003c,
NatureServe 2005). The preferred breeding/nesting habitat of northern harrier is also grassland but with a
different vegetative composition and minimum size. Northern harriers prefer marshy meadows, riparian
zones or fallow fields greater than 10 ha in size with thick woody vegetation (0.5-1m tall) occurring at
>50% (Dechant et al. 2003c). Habitat characteristics for target grassland birds are reviewed in Sections
4.1 through 4.4.

The proposed SLW Project, if constructed, will likely preclude or greatly minimize additional land
development within the project area. In New York, grassland bird population declines are linked strongly
to the loss of agricultural grasslands, primarily hayfields and pastures (Morgan and Burger 2008; Figure
3.3). Stabilizing the loss of agricultural and grassland habitats from residential development and
conversion of farmland has been identified as a high priority for grassland bird conservation by Audubon
New York (Morgan and Burger 2008). Wind projects typically allow landowners to maintain the historic
land use of an area (e.g., farming, ranching) by providing supplemental income from leases. In addition,
constraints on wind turbine locations such as set-backs from property boundaries, residences, business,
schools, and roads, limit the ability of additional developments such as housing subdivisions. The Cape
Vincent area has developed into a recreational and second home area for non-local residents. According
to U.S. Census Bureau data there was an increase in housing development in Cape Vincent Township by
approximately 31% in the 1990s (USCB 2000). Housing structures built in Cape Vincent Township have
increased since the 1940s; however, the greatest increase has been since 2000 (Table 3.8). Property in the
area is under pressure for sale and development leading to increased human use and alteration of land use
in areas currently in natural states or managed for agriculture. The SLW Project will essentially protect
the areas within the project boundary in the current state with limited additional change due to
development, with the indirect outcome of maintenance of grassland and agricultural habitats. This
mosaic provides breeding, overwintering and foraging habitat for grassland birds that will be maintained
for the life of the project with less risk of loss to future housing development or encroachment by
increased number of humans and their associated impacts (e.g., pets). Essentially, the project will
maintain the rural nature of the area over future conditions which would likely be increased housing and
development and decreased open space and natural habitats, unless the current trend in development is
reversed.

Article 11 St. Lawrence Wind

Western EcoSystems Technology, Inc.

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November 1, 2010

Table 3.8. Housing Characteristics, Cape Vincent Town,
Jefferson County, New York.
Year Structure Built

Number

Percent

2001-2008

658

23

1990-2000

627

22

1980-1989

479

18

1970-1979

489

17

1960-1969

256

9

1950-1959

~180

6

1940-1949

~170

6

Total

2201

100

Figure 3.3. Trends in land use and ownership for agricultural land in New
York (from Stanton and Bills 1996).

Construction of a wind energy facility will result in direct loss of habitat along the actual project footprint.
Direct loss of habitat associated with wind energy development is relatively minor compared to most
other forms of energy development. Although wind energy facilities can cover substantial areas, the
permanent footprint of facilities such as the turbines, access roads, maintenance buildings, substations and
overhead transmission lines, generally occupies only 5 to 10% of the entire development area (BLM
2005; Figure 3.4). Habitat loss resulting from construction and operation of SLW infrastructure has the
potential to cause direct loss of potential breeding habitat for grassland birds in the case of upland
sandpiper, Henslow’s sparrow and northern harrier and potential loss of overwintering habitat for short-
eared owls.

Article 11 St. Lawrence Wind

Western EcoSystems Technology, Inc.

28

August 27, 2010

Maple Ridge Wind Project, New York. Pre-existing
land-use intact following project development with
agricultural, woodland and grassland habitats present
within Project Area.

Modern suburban housing development.
Footprint largely removes pre-existing
native and non-native habitats and land use.

Altamont Wind Farm, California. Infrastructure arrayed
almost exclusively in grassland with minimal alteration
to the landscape or pre-existing land use resulting from
construction or operation of the facility.

Figure 3.4. Photographs of land use and landcover following development of modern wind energy facilities and suburban housing
development in grassland and mixed-agricultural settings.

Article 11 St. Lawrence Wind

Western EcoSystems Technology, Inc.

29

November 1, 2010

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