U.S. Interior Department lets wind, electric industries off the hook for bird deaths

COURTNEY FLAT, NWPR/EARTHFIX - Blue Mountain Wildlife workers care for a hawk with injuries that point to electrocution by power lines.Lynn Tompkins peers down at a red-tailed hawk laid across a small exam table at Blue Mountain Wildlife's clinic in Pendleton.

The bird was electrocuted a week earlier near Boardman, likely the result of a run-in with a power line.

Electrocution is often less traumatic than getting struck by a wind turbine blade. When that happens, birds are usually dead before they hit the ground.

"I appreciate that need for renewable power development. That is a good thing, but consequences of it need to be looked at," Tompkins says.

Those consequences for birds had been the subject of scrutiny under a 100-year-old law called the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

But not anymore. In late December, the Department of Interior announced a major change to how the law is enforced.

It leaves hundreds of bird species vulnerable at a time when their numbers are already declining across the country.

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