SVN is a strong proponent of reducing our region’s reliance on fossil fuels. We support small, appropriate-scale wind energy projects on private lands through our participation in the development of county wind ordinances. Therefore it is with careful consideration that we oppose wind energy development on the George Washington National Forest at this time.
Executive Director Kate Wofford filed comments January 29, 2009 with the U.S. Forest Service, as part of the revision of the George Washington National Forest management plan, calling for a ban on industrial wind energy projects until the following concerns can be addressed:
- The potential wildlife consequences of construction and operation of large-scale wind power projects go beyond the threat to the Indiana bat acknowledged by the forest planning team. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has stated that wind turbines on sites in George Washington National Forest would likely impact the Indiana bat, as well Virginia big-eared bat, bald eagles and migratory songbirds. Furthermore, according to the USFWS, clearing the forest for roads to construct and access turbines could cause “direct loss of deep forest habitat; an increase in edge habitat; increased nest parasitism and predation; a decrease in abundance and diversity of area-sensitive species with a concurrent increase in habitat suitability for edge and generalist species; and interruption of travel corridors, displacement, and other behavioral effects.”
- Current technology for wind energy development, which requires huge towers, wide roads on ridgetops, and forest clearing, is inconsistent with the recreational experience on the George Washington National Forest.
- National Forest lands can only be used for energy development when other non-Federal lands cannot. According to the Southern Environmental Law Center, “private land ridge tops account for more than half of the class 3+ wind potential” in western Virginia, and wind energy applicants have yet to demonstrate that those lands are not suitable for industrial wind projects.
- View the letter from the USFWS recommending against the Shenandoah Mountain industrial wind proposal due to impacts on rare/sensitive habitat and natural features (PDF)
- Read SELC’s letter on industrial wind development in GWNF (PDF)
- Virginia Forest Watch’s letter to the USFS (PDF)