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MURDOCK: Team Obama’s war on bald eagles

Rare birds are protected, except from White House-favored windmills

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When bald eagles confront danger, most normal Americans would leap to preserve, protect and defend America's national symbol. But Team Obama's response is different: It wants to give wind-power companies long-term permits to butcher bald eagles on the altar of green energy.

The dirty secret about "clean" wind power is that its turbines are giant whirling machetes. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), "With more than 100,000 turbines expected to be in operation in the United States by 2030, annual bird mortality rates alone (now estimated by the service at 440,000 per year) are expected to exceed 1 million."

Like other birds, eagles sometimes do not detect blades that often revolve at 200 mph. Such birds of prey focus on finding smaller creatures to devour and then fatally smack into windmills.

Bald eagles and golden eagles are among the victims. This is the first significant bad news for bald eagles since they have returned from near-extinction. According to the Audubon Society, just 417 nesting pairs of bald eagles inhabited the continental United States in 1963. The bald eagle joined the Endangered Species List on July 4, 1976. Public and private protection helped secure its June 2007 delisting. At least 7,066 nesting pairs now populate the lower 48 states, among some 330,000 total.

And now this.

Most Americans would expect Washington to shield these beautiful, majestic and soaring creatures. Instead, they are being sacrificed in the name of environmental correctness.

"We anticipate issuing programmatic permits for wind, solar and other energy projects," says an April 12 FWS fact sheet. It also states: "Permits may authorize lethal take that is incidental to an otherwise lawful activity, such as mortalities caused by collisions with rotating wind turbines."

"Lethal take" is Washington-speak for "federally approved eagle slaughter." Precise eagle-kill numbers are tough to determine, in part because "other animals gobble the carcasses almost immediately," the Competitive Enterprise Institute's R.J. Smith explains. About 67 golden eagles are estimated to be killed annually just at Northern California's Altamont Pass wind farm.

First-time violators of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act can receive $5,000 fines and one-year prison sentences. Second offenses double those punishments. Felony convictions can trigger $250,000 fines.

However, as the LosAngelesTimes reports, "federal authorities have not prosecuted any wind farm operators" for slicing eagles in two, along with condors, bats, red-tail hawks and other birds that encounter these giant rotors.

The evil oil companies that Team Obama despises are not so lucky.

Last August, after helicopter-borne federal officials spent 45 days crisscrossing North Dakota for evidence, Obama-appointed U.S. Attorney Timothy Purdon prosecuted seven petroleum producers for the 28 dead birds in or near their open waste pits. Mallard ducks, gadwalls, a solitary sandpiper and others fatally mistook them for ponds. Facing maximum fines of $15,000 per bird and six months behind bars under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, these oilmen pleaded guilty and agreed to pay $1,000 per bird. On Jan. 18, federal Judge Daniel L. Hovland dismissed Mr. Purdon's case as excessively broad.

Last July, FWS threatened to fine the mother of an 11-year-old Virginia girl $535 for illegally possessing a woodpecker that her daughter had saved from a hungry cat and soon released. Public disgust with such power lust finally made FWS back off.

Three years ago, after FWS investigated, a Wyoming utility called PacificCorp paid $10.5 million in fines after 232 golden eagles and other protected birds were electrocuted on its power lines between January 2007 and July 2009.

Team Obama mocks the solemn words chiseled above the columns of the U.S. Supreme Court: "Equal justice under law."

If bald eagles dropped dead beside oil derricks, Washington would pound the petroleum industry flatter than a pancake. Instead, wind turbines chop bald eagles in half. Team Obama lets wind companies eradicate even more of this republic's innocent national bird.

This is not the behavior of normal Americans.

Deroy Murdock is a columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with Stanford University's Hoover Institution.

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