New powergrid could help ravens, harm grouse

Sage Grouse photo
Video screen capture Alan K.

We've reported before that wind power development could be slowed by concerns over sage grouse habitat.

Now Conservation Magazine reports that the development of a more sophisticated powergrid in the intermountain west, while potentially empowering the use of more clean energy, may also cause harm to sage grouse populations. In this particular instance, unlike concerns over bird-killing wind turbines, the story is a little more complex.

It's not just that the power lines are killing grouse per se, but rather that their helping other birds that prey on their young:

Ravens prey on sage-grouse chicks and eggs, and they may be more likely to search for them near their own nests. Ravens preferentially nest on elevated structures, such as trees or cliffs, which are generally limited in open sagebrush habitat. Hypothetically, transmission lines built through sage-grouse breeding areas could increase raven nest site availability and abundance, resulting in a decrease in sage-grouse or other wildlife populations.

As the article says, this doesn't mean we shouldn't develop clean energy—but it does mean we ought to be careful about how we do it. We shouldn't have to choose between a livable climate and biodiverse ecosystems. Let's set our sites a little higher.

Tags: Biodiversity | Electricity | Renewable Energy

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