A new study of eagle mortality at a wind facility near Palm Springs may well prove frustrating to both supporters of wind energy and those concerned about the technology’s effect on wildlife. But if you look beneath the surface, the paper underscores a big problem with the issue of win energy and wildlife: we just don’t have the data we need to make smart decisions.
The paper by USGS research ecologist Jeffrey Lovich, to be published this month in the journal Western Birds, describes eagle mortalities at the Mesa Wind Project Site, which is part of the larger San Gorgonio Pass wind area near Palm Springs. Wind industry critics won’t find a smoking gun in the study, which documents just two eagle mortalities in the last 20 years, the most recent in 1997. And while wind partisans may try to find validation in Lovich’s study, that’s going to be difficult: Lovich carefully details a number of reasons why eagle deaths may be ongoing but undetected.
The big story here, though, is the existence of the paper itself. Why would a study that details two eagle deaths during the Clinton administration find its way into a peer-reviewed journal in 2015? The surprising answer emerges when you think about the way science is actually done.