I was hoping maybe my recent post, “VTDigger is Biased Against Wind Energy,” would at least make the folks on the second floor stop and think.
I guess not. Because they’ve got another doozy today, entitled “Bird Advocates Concerned About Stiles Brook Proposal.”
The gist of the article is that an organization called the American Bird Conservancy has weighed in on the proposed Grafton/Windham wind farm with dire warnings about rising piles of bird and bat corpses.
“ABC questions whether the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of our shared ecologically important birds and bats justifies building any large, commercial wind energy facility in areas with seasonally high concentrations of birds and bats, like (Stiles Brook),” wrote Michael Hutchins, director of the conservancy’s “Bird Smart Wind Energy Campaign.”
Okay, hmm. “Hundreds of thousands, if not millions” from a single wind farm? Sounds awful.
Too bad it’s completely false.
According to actual scientific research, all the wind turbines, combined, kill roughly 300,000 birds a year.
Still. Sounds bad, right?
Well, house cats kill three billion birds a year.
For every bird killed by a turbine, ten thousand birds are killed by cats. So, let’s ban house cats, right?
Okay, so who exactly is the American Bird Conservancy?
If you Google the outfit, you find barely a trace — except for a bunch of press releases attacking wind farms for allegedly murdering birds by the truckload.
There’s minimal information about ABC on websites that track charitable organizations. I found a link to ABC’s most recent IRS 990 form, the required annual filing for nonprofits. Turns out, ABC is a little tiny thing. It’s headquartered in the home of its founder, George Fenwick. Its 2014 revenues and expenditures were barely in five figures — between $10,000 and $11,000.
Update: I got the financials wrong, as noted naturalist Bryan Pfeiffer pointed out in the comments. The IRS 990 form omits a set of zeroes, so ABC is much larger than I gave them credit for being. I think the rest of my argument stands; I appreciate Bryan’s agreement with my side. Means a lot. My apologies for understating ABC’s resources.
Digger reporter Mike Faher seems to have not done even that minimal amount of homework, because he buys ABC’s credentials without question.
And how did ABC become aware of Stiles Brook? We don’t find that out until the 14th paragraph, when ABC’s Michael Hutchins says he
learned of Stiles Brook when “I was contacted by opposition groups in the area and asked to get involved.”
So, opponents of Stiles Brook went fishing for validation and finally found some. Perhaps they also contacted, oh, maybe the Audubon Society or the Nature Conservancy or the World Wildlife Fund or some other organization you’ve actually heard of*, and ended up settling for a pocket-sized group with a track record of opposing wind power.
*All of which, need I add, actually support wind energy.
Faher allots ABC plenty of space for its scare tactics. It’s not until the twenty-second paragraph that he provides a tiny bit of space to a VPIRG fact sheet that says fossil fuels are “responsible for a far higher number of bird fatalities than wind turbines” and notes that “the biggest enemies of birds continue to be cats and buildings.”
Total paragraph allotment: 14 for ABC and opponents of Stiles Brook, seven for the VPIRG fact sheet and the response from wind farm developer Iberdrola.
Oh, one other thing. ABC’s Hutchins cites specific potential impacts from Stiles Brook in terms of migratory patterns and potentially endangered species. But at the very end of the article, Faher lets us in on a little secret.
Hutchins cites reports and studies for his general conclusions and concerns about turbine development and bird habitat. But he acknowledged on Friday that he has not specifically studied or visited Stiles Brook.
Again, thanks, Mike. And thank YOU, VTDigger.