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Proact Demand Enquiry for Eagles

No wind turbines in Isle of Lewis SPA without a full and frank enquiry

Most readers will already have heard of the plan to erect wind turbines with the Isle of Lewis Peatlands SPA, a nominated Natura 2000 area, a Ramsar site and an important breeding area and home range for the Scottish Western Isles Golden Eagle population. The Western Isles council will consider the proposal next week. The latest date for objections is Saturday 28th August 2004. You can register your objection and send a mail to the individual members of the Western Isles Council, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, on the Proact site at http://www.proact-campaigns.net/windfarmsandbirds/id31.html The full details of the story are:Farm Energy Ltd has applied for planning permission to erect six wind turbines on Beinn Mholach inside the Lewis Peatlands Special Protection Area (SPA), Isle of Lewis, in close proximity to nesting Golden Eagles (site also designated under the RAMSAR Convention).

Farm Energy Ltd has applied for planning permission to erect six wind turbines on Beinn Mholach inside the Lewis Peatlands Special Protection Area (SPA), Isle of Lewis, in close proximity to nesting Golden Eagle (site also designated under the RAMSAR Convention).

Wind turbines do not have to be located in SPAs. The Golden Eagle is well known to be highly susceptible to turbine blade strike (more than 1000 eagles have been killed in Altamont, California, over the last 20 years).

This development sets an unacceptable precedent for the imminent planning application by AMEC Project Investments Ltd for 300 potentially lethal wind turbines inside the same Lewis Peatlands Special Protection Area. Farm Energy claims that the risk to Golden Eagle is insignificant but its environmental assessment is inadequate (see Key problems below). The impact on the Golden Eagle population can only be properly assessed by a thorough and open examination of the facts at a public inquiry.

Despite an appeal to the Scottish Executive they and Scottish National Heritage have washed their hands of all responsibility: While Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (the Western Isles Council) were minded to grant planning permission to the application they decided that it fell within the terms of the Direction and duly notified the application to the Scottish Executive. Following very careful consideration of all the evidence submitted, including representations received, the Scottish Ministers concluded that there were no planning issues that warranted their further involvement in the application. A decision was therefore taken on 13 July to clear the application back to the Council for them to deal with the application in the manner they think fit.The Comhairle nan Eilean Siar will reconsider the application on 2nd September. We urge all birders and conservationists to register their objection to the development of a wind farm on this site.

Key problems with Farm Energy`s Golden Eagle assessment: * the assessment predicts one eagle death every 46 years using a model provided by the wind industry`s trade lobby (British Wind Energy Association), despite the fact that the Scottish Executive has advised that this model is unfit for the purpose;

* the blade strike estimate is reduced by claiming that golden eagles avoid wind turbines. In fact research demonstrates that golden eagles are attracted to wind turbines, spending seven times more time flying in close proximity (within 50m) to wind turbines than would be expected by chance. * observations to determine range use took place in May and June only, an atypical period when breeding eagles are expected to remain close to their nest and an abundance of prey readily available close to the nest. Range use in May and June does not extrapolate to range use for the rest of the year.

* the assessment notes the Golden Eagles preference for land more than 150m above sea level, but uses an arbitrary distance from the nest to just exclude the wind farm site from the definition of the eagles core range. Land over 150m above sea level is limited in the locality and this wind farm is in the eagles core range. Citations for the Lewis Peatlands Special Protection Area:
58,984 hectares. Designated under EC Birds Directive 79/409/EC site UK9001571 and RAMSAR Convention site 1046. A near-continuous mantle of deep blanket peat liberally dotted with small pools and lochs, the second-largest expanse of this habitat in the UK, and one of the largest in Europe. Similar in character to the peatlands of Caithness and Sutherland which were extensively damaged by coniferous afforestation in the 1980s. To the south, the peatland is more broken, with outcrops of rock and larger lochs forming a distinctive knock and lochan landscape. The hyper-oceanic, extremely humid upper boreal bioclimatic zone predominates here to an extent found nowhere else in Europe.

This vast expanse of relatively undisturbed peatland supports a diverse range of associated flora and fauna, and is internationally important for migratory birds and for breeding waders, divers and raptors, including: * Dunlin 33.2% Baltic/UK/Ireland breeding population
* Golden Plover 8.8% UK breeding population
* Black-throated Diver 6.9% UK breeding population
* Red-throated Diver 6.4% UK breeding population
* Golden Eagle 1.5% UK breeding population
* Merlin 1.5% UK breeding population
* Greenshank 10.0% UK breeding population

David Conlin - Proact International

4th July 2014