‘Wind talks’ plannedWritten by Jennifer Womack
On July 30 in Casper the Office of State Lands and Investments will host a daylong meeting addressing several aspects of wind energy development on the properties it holds in trust for the benefit of the state’s schoolchildren. The meeting will begin at 8 a.m. at Casper College’s Sharon Nichols Auditorium with an opening address from OSLI Director Lynne Boomgaarden. Objectives of the meeting have been described by the OSLI as:
• Determine compatibility concerns of agricultural, oil & gas and mining operators.
• Determine whether concerns are currently being mitigated through OSLI land management or industry management practices.
• Determine if improvements to current processes and practices can be identified.
Agriculture will be represented on the panel discussion by rancher Doug Cooper and Scott Zimmerman, Wyoming Field Representative and Lobbyist for the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. Also speaking will be representatives of OSLI, oil and gas, mining and the wind energy development industry.
An RSVP is not required to attend the July 30 OSLI event in Casper. Those seeking additional information can call 307-777-8510 or visit the agency’s website at http://slf-web.state.wy.us.
Cooper says, “Our ranch is one of the first state grazing lessees to have a wind sublease placed over state land where we are not a participant in the larger wind development. The wind developer intends to access our state lease through another ranch operation.” He says he hopes to stimulate some thought on the conflicts between grazing and wind development and difficulties that exist surrounding compensation.
Cooper explains, “The current system of damage compensation developed for mineral extraction does not fit well with wind development. Some of the problems I would like to point out are that wind development interferes with aerial predator control, sagebrush spraying and the checking of livestock.” Cooper says it’s difficult to negotiate with wind developers given the proprietary nature of their businesses.
Aug. 13-14 at the University of Wyoming Union Ballroom in Laramie “Governor Freudenthal’s Wyoming Wind Symposium” will take place. This gathering will include discussions on topics ranging from the appropriate locations for developments to transmission lines.
On Aug. 26-27 members of the Wyoming Legislature’s Task Force on Wind Energy will gather in Casper. The meeting will take place at the Wyoming Contractors Association McMurry Training Center at 2220 Bryan Stock Trail. As of press time, an agenda had not been released.
In recent weeks the Governor’s office and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department have reaffirmed an Aug. 1, 2008 executive order addressing new developments in the state’s core sage grouse habitat areas as defined on a map prepared by the state.
In response to a letter from Wyoming Game and Fish Director Steve Ferrell, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Area Director Brian Kelly noted that wind energy development within core areas could prove to be a factor in his agency’s pending decision on whether or not to list the greater sage grouse as threatened or endangered in Wyoming. Kelly wrote: “…constructing wind farms in core areas, even for research purposes, prior to demonstration it can be done with no impact to sage-grouse, negates the usefulness of the core area strategy and brings into question whether adequate regulatory mechanisms are in place to protect the species.”
Some wind development companies received the news about wind energy development and core sage grouse areas amidst planning projects that are within the boundaries of the core areas. Landowners in some of these areas have signed leases and are now questioning the future of their agreements. Core areas are sure to be one aspect of the discussions at the above meetings.