Winds of change for Oklahoma's prairie chicken
The state's alternative energy initiatives are the latest obstacle in the species' survival.
The Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. is giving another $4.9 million to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation for building a wind farm through prime prairie chicken country.
The money is for the Keenan Phase II Wind Farm in Woodward County. State wildlife officials plan to use $3.9 million of the OG&E pledge to help buy 6,100 acres in Beaver County as a sanctuary for the threatened birds.
Last year, the utility company pledged $3.75 million to the Wildlife Department for building the OU Spirit Wind Farm in Woodward County.
Most of OG&E's first donation was used by the Wildlife Department to buy 4,200 acres for prairie chickens near the Packsaddle Wildlife Management area in western Oklahoma.
Don't get me wrong. The donations are commendable. OG&E doesn't have to give away any money in compensation for pushing prairie chickens off their homes.
No other energy company has stepped up to the plate with a similar gesture.
But will it really save the birds? Can the Wildlife Department just buy more land to replace prairie chicken country that is lost by the development of wind power?
Unfortunately, the best place to harvest wind energy in Oklahoma is in the last remaining places where prairie chickens can survive.
The two can't co-exist on the same ground. Prairie chickens see wind turbines as raptor roosts. The birds instinctively scatter from the ominous shadows of wind turbines.
Even Alan Peoples, head of the wildlife division for the state Wildlife Department, admitted to wildlife commissioners at Tuesday's meeting of the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission that it might be a losing battle.