First Wind Starting Maui Endangered Bird Protection Efforts


February 8, 2013

The Kaheawa Wind turbines can be seen from pretty much anywhere in Central Maui, as well as Upcountry. Positioned on the south side of the West Maui Mountains, they are visually prominent. Maui County’s goal is to get 70% of our energy from renewable sources by 2030, with other groups shooting for 95% by 2020.

Major efforts towards these goals have resulted in several large scale projects on the island, like Kaheawa Wind, but there are pros and cons to most technology, and wind turbines have been known to impact flying species like birds or sometimes bats. The good news is that First Wind, the owner of Kaheawa Wind, have begun acting on a plan to offset any possible impact they might be having by protecting threatened and endangered Hawaiian seabirds that live in West Maui.

According to First Wind officials, the company is constructing two fenced inclosures about ten miles west of Wailuku to protect the federally threatened Hawaiian petrel, as well as the endangered Newell’s shearwater. The enclosures will be about four or five acres in size, and they will be implementing features that help keep predators like mongoose and rats out. If their strategy is successful, they will be doing a great service to the community. Wind power already reduces pollution in the environment, and we do love our clean Maui air, but it will be especially good for the island if the Hawaiian petrel and Newell’s shearwater begin to show improvements in their numbers because of this company’s efforts.

This begs the question, “How successful will those efforts be?” Well it is very challenging to keep track of the members of any species, so this is a difficult question to answer. However, in developing their strategy, First Wind worked with New Zealand-based EcoWorks, Honolulu-based SWCA Environmental Consultants, the Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife, Hawaii Natural Areas Reserve System, and the New South Wales Department of Environmental and Climate Change. Add seabird expert David Ainley and Feral Animal Removal Experts LLC to that list, and you can see that they were very aggressive about finding these solutions.

In a statement, Dave Cowan, First Wind’s vice president for environmental affairs, said they are very hopeful that their program would help promote the recovery of the aforementioned species, and pointed out that this program stands alone in the wind industry. Hopefully, the nature enthusiasts who call West Maui home will be happy knowing that these efforts are underway, and that we are one step closer to healthy, sustainable, low-impact living here on Maui. Mahalo for reading, and have a great weekend!

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