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Wind energy a win for wildlife, economy

In the central New Mexico piñon pine forests, home to the numerous iconic wildlife species like the gray-blue pinyon jay, Pattern Development, a wind energy company, is planning to build one of the largest wind facilities in the country – while ensuring the conservation of the unique wildlife that depend on this habitat. Our organizations, Defenders of Wildlife and Pattern, are working together to ensure that wind projects like this are built responsibly, with concern for the environment and wildlife.

The pinyon jay relies on the state tree of New Mexico, the piñon pine, and both species are experiencing declining populations due to the one-two punch of human development and a changing climate.

While wind projects like Pattern’s have a development footprint, the renewable energy they produce is essential to stemming the threat posed by climate change and preserving habitat for species like the pinyon jay. Renewable energy is key to mitigating the dire impacts of climate change at local, national and global levels.

Responsible wind energy development requires understanding our environment and carefully locating wind facilities and transmission lines on the landscape. We have partnered extensively to assess wind energy’s effects on the environment and determine how to avoid, minimize and mitigate them. For example, science-based conservation measures can help address bird and bat collisions with wind turbines and protect key habitat for prairie grouse.

New Mexico offers some of the best untapped wind in the west and is uniquely situated to be a leader in renewable energy development. By harnessing wind resources, the state can protect our wildlife by building projects smart from the start. This means avoiding important habitat for imperiled species and making sound conservation investments to protect and improve surrounding wildlife habitat.

Smart, renewable energy development is also good for New Mexico and its economy. New Mexico is hotter than it was a generation ago, and water is scarcer. We can see the impact of climate change on the piñon forests and the birds and other wildlife that rely upon them – 75% of avifauna have vanished within the last decade after drought, heat stress and beetles killed millions of pinyon trees in the Southwest.

Wind energy also has a transformative economic influence on rural communities, bringing tangible economic benefits to the rural areas where wind farms and power lines are located. In New Mexico, wind farms bring the promise of long-term stable revenue to counties and school districts, ranchers and farmers. Because constructing wind turbines are compatible with ranching and farming, they also provide some buffer against encroaching development on agricultural lands.

As Pattern Development’s projects move forward, New Mexico will continue to progress as a wind-energy leader, creating thousands of construction jobs and bringing billions in private capital to the state’s economy, all while adhering to responsible environmental principles. And across our nation, Defenders of Wildlife will continue working to protect native animals and plants in their natural communities, pursuing partnerships that prioritizes wildlife while fostering a sound energy future.

The future of New Mexico’s enchanted landscape depends on the success of organizations like Defenders of Wildlife and Pattern Development working together to advance wind energy and deliver it responsibly. Otherwise, our children could inherit a world where the pinyon jay and its piñon pine forests have vanished entirely.

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