Many potential sites conflict with waterfowl, shorebirds, and lesser prairie chickens

The Playa Lakes Joint Venture (PLJV) region encompasses some of the highest rated areas for wind energy development in the nation, including the western two-thirds of Kansas. As of Jan. 2008, approximately 50 wind farms producing in excess of 4,000 megawatts of energy were in operation throughout the six-state PLJV region. Where wind farms are placed may have an impact on birds, so the PLJV has conducted an analysis of key wildlife habitats in the region and produced maps detailing where birds that may be sensitive to wind development may be found.

The lesser prairie chicken is a species unique to the region, and its population has been declining for decades. The birds currently exist in only one-tenth of their historic range although numbers in Kansas have expanded in recent years. This range overlaps areas with some of the greatest wind resources. Lesser prairie chickens thrive in large contiguous patches of grassland with little disturbance. Research shows that the birds will avoid areas and abandon nesting sites near roads, buildings, wellheads, towers, and power lines.

Wetlands throughout the region also attract high concentrations of waterfowl and shorebirds. Water is often scarce in this region, and wetlands such as playas are primary gathering areas for birds. This is especially true during migration, when thousands of birds flock to a single wetland to feed and roost. Development of wind turbines, power lines, and associated structures near wetlands may pose a risk of birds (including endangered species such as the whooping crane) colliding with these structures.

To help industry professionals minimize collisions and other potential impacts of wind development on wetland birds and lesser prairie chickens, the PLJV has identified areas of high wetland density and prairie chicken use throughout the region. Detailed information, including maps identifying these areas, have been posted on the internet.

To obtain digital maps, phone Megan McLachlan at 308-382-6468, ext. 38.