The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources and Green Mountain Power (GMP) have agreed on a plan to protect bats in Vermont. Under the plan, GMP will minimize the incidental taking of endangered bats at the Kingdom Community Wind plant as well as provide $18,438 annually to bolster Vermont’s bat conservation efforts. These terms were part of a signed memorandum of understanding with the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources last month, which helped GMP procure an Endangered Species Permit to continue operating a 21-turbine wind energy facility in the town of Lowell.
GMP first received authorization to operate the Lowell wind facility in 2011, but it came with an order from the Agency of Natural Resources to monitor and reduce bat fatalities and instructions to avoid killing state endangered bats. Since that time, three additional species of bats – the little brown bat, northern long-eared bat, and the tri-colored bat – have been added to the state’s endangered species list.
Bat mortalities at wind farms are most often associated with migratory bat species. Vermont has three species of migratory bats and six species of cave-dwelling bats that hibernate each winter in local caves or mines. White-nose syndrome, the fungus that has caused up to 90 percent declines in some bat species in recent years, affects cave-dwelling bats and has not been found in migratory species.
In the memorandum of understanding, GMP agreed to provide primary funding for the Bat Maternity Colony Technical Assistance Program administered by the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. The program works to reduce bat mortality from other human causes by addressing homeowners’ concerns about bats in their houses. The increase in bats saved through this program is expected to far exceed the number taken by turbines at the Lowell facility. To date, no endangered bats have been found harmed during this year’s monitoring at the facility.
“Although we often hear questions about how to deal with bats in attics or barns, Vermonters regularly tell me that they are concerned about the fate of bats. They ask what can be done to help,” said Scott Darling, bat biologist for the Fish & Wildlife Department. “This program will support our efforts to safely remove unwanted bats and assist the public directly in conserving them.”
As a condition of the 2011 permit proceedings, GMP voluntarily agreed to curtail turbine activity during the summer to reduce collisions with migratory bats. This measure is expected to substantially reduce mortalities of all bat species.
“All forms of energy development impact wildlife,” said Darling. “This one measure that GMP is undertaking has the real possibility to lower the impact on endangered bats.”
“GMP is pleased to work cooperatively with the Agency of Natural Resources to help protect the bat population in Vermont,” said Dorothy Schnure, GMP spokesperson.
Media Contacts: Patrick Berry, 802-828-1000, Scott Darling, 802-786-3862