Wind Farms, Land Owners and Hunters Must Learn to Co-Exist

Growing up in Texas does not mean that you frequent every part of the state on a regular basis, or even in your lifetime.  I, for one, have not really seen much of West Texas - except from the window of a commercial jet.  But even from that vantage point 30,000 feet in the air, it is amazing to see all of the pad sites with well-heads and pump-jacks dotting the landscape below. I have not researched it, but I am sure there was some opposition to the incursion of the oil and gas industry's equipment upon the ranch lands there.  Questions almost surely arose about the effects on the cattle industry and the degradation of the vast vistas the area is known for.  All of that must have quickly subsided when the first checks came in the mail box.  And, I am sure it will again when the next century of energy production covers this land in the form of wind turbines. According to the American Wind Energy Association, Texas is is ranked #1 in the the USA by existing capacity and #2 for potential capacity.  This should come as no surprise since Texas has large land areas and coast lines which are perfect for the construction of wind farms. But, like most fledgling industries, there will be growing pains and conflict.  A recently planned wind farm in the hill country was met with strong opposition.  An article online in the San Antonio Express-News reported that many residents were shocked that an energy company obtained leases to build here with very little oversight from governmental agencies.  The group later found out that there is little or no state or federal oversight governing wind farms.  And many observe that you don't even need wind to make them profitable due to the tax breaks and write-offs earned just by building them. Hunters are not immune either.  There is concern that the income from wind farms will provide more incentives to land owners than the dollars earned from hunting leases.  This, in turn, will limit access.  Some wind energy contracts signed by land owners limit the use of hunting with rifles and hunters are beginning to loose their leases.  Although no one is successfully arguing that these 100 meter monstrosities will harm wild game populations, hunters have reason to be concerned.  In the meantime, the US Fish & Wildlife Service has also issued a press release naming 22 individuals to serve on an advisory committee who will advise on measures to avoid or minimize the impacts to wildlife and their habitats from land-based wind energy facilities. On the other hand, industry officials say that they are not anti-hunting and that most leases have full hunting privileges.  And, for land owners who have low incomes from their land operations, this is a way to increase income and hopefully retain larger ranches within the family by not having to sell.  As the energy capital of the world, Texas will need to be a leader in taking the world's demand for energy in a different direction.  Open ranges and the wind that blows over them are two things we have plenty of and are arguably endless resources as compared to fossil fuels.  Hopefully, the two learning to live together will fight off the biggest threat to hunting in general - population growth and urban encroachment.


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