January 2, 2014 (McCain Valley) -- While hiking in McCain Valley north of Sacatone Road on New Year's Day, Laurie Baker and her husband encountered these two Peninsular Bighorn rams.
"What a pleasant surprise!" Baker exclaimed of her New Year's discovery -- an important sighting, since the draft environmental impact statement for Iberdrola Renewables' planned Tule Wind project in McCain Valley concludes that wind turbines aren "located outside of critical habitat areas and will not have any detrimental impacts on sheep."
Finding proof of the endangered animals doesn't assure their protection, however. When Pattern Energy's Ocotillo Express Wind Facility was approved, the project's environmental report similarly concluded that the site was not bighorn habitat. When photos of a herd of bighorn on the project site were sent to then Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, he issued take permits allowing up to 10 bighorn ewes and lambs to be killed, allowing the project to proceed at the expense of this critically endangered species which is at risk of extinction, according to the Bighorn Institute.
The sheep don't have collars
Note: Some readers have emailed about the "collars" that appear to be on these sheep. These are not radio tracking collars, just shadows from the horns. The photographer has sent additional images to clarify this point:
As for revealing locations, if we don't show that the EIRs are questionable by proving these animals are there, we wouldn't be doing our job as media. If the government fails to protect these animals, then blame should be directed at the government.
To clarify, a take permit is NOT a predation permit. It does not allow the developer to intentionally kill or shoot the animals. But it does mean there will be no penalty if the animals are accidentally killed as a result of the project or its construction. So if the sheep die because habitat or water resources are destroyed, or one is hit by a construction truck for example, the developer gets off scott free.
I need someone to explain how a take permit can be issued on a critically endangered species, especially a non-predator. In light of this, people need to be extra cautious when revealing locations/photos of animals. It is very exciting to see them, but their death warrant may be being signed by publicizing it. Again, how was Salazar allowed to do this?