Choosing where to build a wind energy facility is a complex process that can have important implications for impacts to wildlife. In 2012, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) released the Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines to help wind developers avoid and minimize impacts of land-based wind projects on wildlife and their habitats. Informed by discussions among the wind industry, conservation organizations, regulators, and others, these voluntary guidelines are based on a tiered approach to help developers assess and reduce risk to wildlife from construction and operation of a wind energy facility.
Tier 1 of the Guidelines guides preliminary assessment of a site being considered for development. In Tier 1, developers use existing research, databases, maps, and other information to identify potential wildlife issues at prospective sites. Tier 1 studies can also identify potential wildlife conflicts to be assessed by professional biologists on-the-ground in Tier 2. For information on the rest of the decision framework from the Guidelines, see decision-tree below.
In order to conduct preliminary ecological evaluations of a potential site as outlined in Tier 1, developers need access to high-quality wildlife data for the landscape being considered for development. The list below provides examples of several national, regional, and state-level resources for wildlife data that could inform Tier 1 studies.
To learn more about the history and implementation of the Guidelines, please see AWWI’s Wind-Wildlife Success Story “Wind Energy Guidelines: Science and Collaboration at Work, Every Day,” or review the training materials available on the USFWS website.
National Tools and Resources*
- Critical Habitat for Threatened & Endangered Species (USFWS)
- Data Basin (Conservation Biology Institute)
- eBird (Cornell Lab of Ornithology)
- Google Earth
- Information for Planning and Consultation (USFWS)
- National Wetlands Inventory (USFWS)
- National Gap Analysis Project (U.S. Geological Survey)
- NEPAssist (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)
- TNC Interactive Conservation Maps
- Tribal Directory Assessment Tool
- U.S. Wind Industry Map (AWEA)
Region-Specific Tools and Resources*
State-Specific Tools and Resources*
- Environmental Resource Mapper (New York State)
- Kansas Natural Resource Planner
- Kansas Threatened & Endangered Species by County
- Michigan Natural Features Inventory
- Natural Heritage New Mexico
- Nebraska NRCS Species By County
- North Dakota GIS Hub Data Portal (link)
- Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program (link)
- Rare, Threatened, and Endangered Species of Texas by County (Texas Parks & Wildlife)
- State Wildlife Action Plans
- Virginia Natural Heritage Data Explorer
*Note: these tools and resources are provided as examples, and these lists are not intended to be comprehensive. If you have suggestions for other examples, please contact email@example.com.