Final Directives Issued for Wind Turbines in National Forests

They add a new "Wind Energy Uses" chapter to the Forest Service's Special Uses Handbook and a new "Monitoring at Wind Energy Sites" chapter to the Wildlife Monitoring Handbook.

New, final directives issued by the U.S. Forest Service for wind energy projects on National Forest System lands include a requirement to limit noise generated by the turbine blades. Section 73.4c, paragraph 2a, requires the authorized officer to ensure that, wherever possible, applicants restrict noise to 10 decibels above the background noise level at nearby residences and campsites, in or near wildlife habitats known to be sensitive to noise, or where habitat abandonment may be an issue. Paragraph 2b requires the authorized officer to ensure applicants provide for noise measurements of proposed equipment during wind turbine operation with the background noise level in the project area over a 24-hour period.

The directives spell out how applications for the necessary special use permits will be processed and issued. The Forest Service manages 193 million acres of NFS lands and has issued more than 74,000 special use authorizations for them.

The directives are for internal use to ensure consistency in handling applications; they took effect Aug. 4, 2011.

The service proposed them in September 2007 and received 5,630 comments in response, with about 5,500 of them being form letters. Several commenters recommended that the Forest Service prepare a programmatic environmental impact statement for wind energy development on NFS lands, but the service rejected this, saying because of the diversity of NFS lands and their uses, it will be more efficient and effective to evaluate each proposed wind site on its own.

Answering a comment that suggested other renewable energy sources have more potential than wind energy, the agency responded that it wind is one of several important potential source of renewable energy on NFS lands, and it is developing directives on hydrological, geothermal, and solar energy facilities for them.

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