Wind Farms And The Double Standard, Slaughtering Endangered Species

Since the discovery that the Bay Area’s Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area in California is responsible for killing over 60 Golden Eagles per year for the last 30 years and the obvious fact that other turbines at wind farms around the country have killed more Eagles and birds under Federal protection, one has to wonder if the Federal government is going to enforce the current laws in place protecting these birds.

 

The law itself is very specific. The Federal Bald and Gold Eagle Protection Act. The bald eagle will continue to be protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act even though it has been delisted under the Endangered Species Act. This law, originally passed in 1940, provides for the protection of the bald eagle and the golden eagle (as amended in 1962) by prohibiting the take, possession, sale, purchase, barter, offer to sell, purchase or barter, transport, export or import, of any bald or golden eagle, alive or dead, including any part, nest, or egg, unless allowed by permit (16 U.S.C. 668(a); 50 CFR 22). Take includes pursue, shoot, shoot at, poison, wound, kill, capture, trap, collect, molest or disturb (16 U.S.C. 668c; 50 CFR 22.3). The 1972 amendments increased civil penalties for violating provisions of the Act to a maximum fine of $5,000 or one-year imprisonment with $10,000 or not more than two years in prison for a second conviction. Felony convictions carry a maximum fine of $250,000 or two years of imprisonment.

 

The fine doubles for an organization. Rewards are provided for information leading to arrest and conviction for violation of the Act. Here are a couple of stories about people who were caught and convicted for killing eagles. Wildlife Detective Work and Forensic Science Expose Family Secrets - – Eagle-Killing-Cousins Sentenced – - Tallahassee, FL. – Toby Lee Dalton, 21, of Eastpoint and Willie Pelt, 19, of Port St. Joe Florida were convicted and sentenced for the shooting and killing of an adult male Bald Eagle in United States District Court in Tallahassee, Florida. The men killed the eagle with a .22 magnum rifle in Eastpoint last year on October 15, 2000.

 

The sentencing completes a yearlong joint investigation by Special Agents of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC) Officers. The United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida charged both subjects with violating the United States Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (EPA), 16 USC 668 (a).

 

Both men allegedly pled guilty in U.S. District Court on 04/25/01. Under the EPA, the men could have received a maximum penalty of one year in Federal Prison, and up to a $100,000 fine. The Bald Eagle is listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. U.S. District Court Judge Hinkle sentenced Dalton to 9 months in Federal Prison. Pelt was sentenced to 18 months probation, 50 hours of Community service at the St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge, and forfeiture of the .22 Magnum Rifle used to kill the eagle. Dalton had initially reported the dead Bald Eagle to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) as a Good Samaritan.

 

Further investigation by Special Agents of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Division of Law Enforcement noted inconsistencies in his story making Dalton the prime suspect. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Crime Scene Unit conducted an examination of the area where the eagle was found and recovered .22-magnum rifle cartridge, which later proved to have been the killing shot.

 

After executing a Federal search warrant on Dalton’s home, conducting numerous interviews, following difficult leads and acting on information provided by a concerned public, USFWS agents recovered the rifle used to kill the eagle from Dalton’s first cousin, Willie Pelt. Ballistic tests conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Forensics Laboratory, and the FDLE Crime Laboratory proved the cartridge recovered at the crime scene and bullet fragments recovered from the eagle matched Pelt’s rifle. Faced with the evidence, Pelt confessed to participating in the crime, stating that Dalton shot the eagle out of a pine tree, “to test the sights on the new rifle.” Pelt admitted to administering the coupe de gras to the eagle with a point-blank bullet to the breast after Dalton’s first shot knocked it from a pine tree breaking the bird’s wing.

 

After learning of Pelt’s confession, Dalton admitted his involvement in the eagle’s death. Sam Hamilton, Regional Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southeastern Region stated: “The Service is committed to protecting and conserving our Nation’s fish and wildlife resources and will do everything within its power to apprehend those who criminally exploit our precious natural heritage.

 

My thanks to the Office of the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and to the Special Agents of the Service’s Division of Law Enforcement for bringing to justice those who wantonly killed a living symbol of America’s freedom.”

 

The Bald Eagle was brought back from the brink of extinction through efforts to ban the use of the pesticide DDT, which was damaging the eagle’s eggs, and through the protection afforded by the Endangered Species Act. The Bald Eagle is a federally protected species, which is also protected under Florida Law. The bald eagle is afforded protection under three federal statutes. The Eagle Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act of 1973, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Killing or wounding an eagle is a violation of all three acts. Florida Statute 372.0725 makes it a third degree felony to kill or wound any species designated as endangered or threatened under Florida Law.

 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.

 

The Service manages the 94-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses more than 535 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 70 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services field stations.

 

The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies. Here is another story from March 11, 2010. Four Arrested For Killing Eagles and Other Protected Birds The Department of Justice announced the arrest of four men following an undercover investigation into the illegal killing and trade of bald and golden eagles and other protected birds.

 

The men are charged with violations of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Lacey Act. - The charging documents, unsealed in U.S. District Courts today collectively allege that the individuals Ricky Sam Wahchumwah of Granger, Wash., Alfred L. Hawk Jr. of White Swan, Wash., William Wahsise also of White Swan, and Reginald Dale Akeen also known as J.J. Lonelodge of Anadarko, Okla., were involved in killing eagles and selling feathers and other bird parts in violation of the law. - —According to an affidavit filed along with the complaints, special agents working undercover were able to document the sales of protected migratory bird parts.

 

One complaint alleges that a single covert purchase from Hawk Jr. yielded a bald eagle tail, two golden eagle tails, one set of golden eagle wings, four red-shafted northern flickertails, four rough-legged hawk tails and two northern harrier tails for a total of $3,000. According to the documents, Hawk, Jr. and Wahsise allegedly hunted and killed three bald eagles the morning of the sale by sitting near some wild horses killed to bait and attract eagles. A third complaint alleges that Wahchumwah sold one golden eagle tail in violation of the law.

 

The sworn affidavit accompanying the complaint states that Wahchumwah sold the tail to an undercover special agent for $500. Eagles and other protected migratory birds are viewed as sacred in many Native American cultures, and the feathers of the birds are central to religious and spiritual Native American customs.

 

By law, enrolled members of federally recognized Native American tribes are entitled to obtain permits to possess eagle parts for religious purposes but federal law strictly prohibits selling eagle parts under any circumstances - The charges and allegations contained in the complaints are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

 

The arrests announced today are part of an on-going investigation into the illegal killing of bald and golden eagles and other protected birds and the sale of their feathers and parts. The agency is conducting the investigation with the help and cooperation of state, federal and tribal law enforcement agencies. There are more but the bottom line is the Federal government will pursue, arrest, and convict anyone who has deliberately killed an eagle. In the case of wind farms, the killing of eagles is a deliberate action since they have been aware of it for three decades. Thus, the U.S. Federal Government is obligated to enforce the laws concerning eagle killings. In this case, the Feds must arrest those responsible, and in most instances with wind farms, this means entire companies. If they do not act on this and enforce the law on those responsible for killing eagles.

 

We have yet another law on the books where the Federal government chooses to ignore violations in some cases and throw the book in others. We cannot have a double standard when it comes to enforcing our laws. We must punish those responsible for breaking the law or take the law off the books. The wind farms who have had admitted killings of eagles must be prosecuted for killing endangered species.

 

Legal Disclaimer: This editorial reflects the views and opinions of the author pursuant to 'freedom of expression' laws, and not necessarily the views of The Canadian or its agents.

 




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