NEW YORK – The National Audubon Society released a report today that addresses the importance of rapidly expanding electric transmission to meet climate goals while also protecting wildlife habitat. The report, Birds and Transmission: Building the Grid Birds Need, outlines the urgent need for additional transmission capacity, as well as the current scientific understanding of solutions to minimize risks to birds.
By broadly identifying high priority areas where transmission development and bird impacts overlap, the report suggests how collaborative planning efforts can responsibly upgrade the clean energy transmission grid to help protect birds and people from climate threats.
“We risk losing billions of birds if we don’t lower emissions, and a responsibly expanded transmission grid that will deliver clean energy is critical to slowing the rate of global temperature rise,” said Marshall Johnson, Chief Conservation Officer for the National Audubon Society. “Clean energy should benefit climate, communities, and conservation. This report will help identify how clean energy developers, conservation organizations, and other stakeholders can work together to build the kind of grid that both birds and people need for a cleaner future.”
Birds and Transmission: Building the Grid Birds Need builds on Audubon's 2019 Survival by Degrees report, which found that two-thirds of North American bird species will be vulnerable to extinction if global temperatures continue to rise at the current rate. To achieve a clean energy future where birds and people can thrive, the U.S. will need to effectively double or even triple transmission capacity to connect the volume of renewable energy facilities needed to reach emission goals. Because current processes for developing transmission lines take too long and do not always provide adequate environmental and cultural protections, collaborative efforts are needed to speed up the build-out of transmission while also minimizing risks to biodiversity.
“Audubon understands the urgency of making the critical investments that will prepare the transmission grid to handle a clean energy future. We also understand how important it is to do it in the right way,” said Johnson. “By proactively implementing bird-friendly solutions before breaking ground and taking reactive measures once transmission is established, we can meet our emission goals and protect wildlife at the same time.”
In the report, Audubon highlights some of the ways to reduce transmission risks to birds based on a well-established and robust scientific knowledge base. These include proactive solutions, which should be implemented during the planning process, and reactive solutions, which are implemented after construction is complete. In a map that overlays important bird areas with areas that are important for energy transmission, Audubon found that 33% of existing and planned transmission and 27% of planned and potential transmission coincide with priority areas for birds. Most of these planned and potential priority areas are likely to occur within existing rights of way, which means that many of these areas can support projects that will not lead to new habitat degradation, although some disturbances may still occur.
The Birds and Transmission report will be a resource for Audubon staff and chapter leaders to identify priority areas where they can work to influence clean energy transmission sited with bird-friendly solutions. Staff work closely with clean energy developers, government agencies, tribal nations, communities, partner organizations, and the Audubon Network to support, expedite, and expand the responsible development of clean energy projects, planning, and policies. More about Audubon’s position on transmission policy can be found here.
The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Learn more at www.audubon.org and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @audubonsociety.
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