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Grousing at windmills

In Wyoming, economic development and renewable energy are at odds with a bird’s survival

As lawmakers and business leaders continue to push for innovation in renewable energy, a rare dispute has broken out between conservationists and sustainability advocates. In Wyoming, the development of wind energy has endangered the fragile habitat of the sage grouse, a candidate for the endangered species list. The state has had to engage in a difficult balancing act, trying to save the sage grouse and its sagebrush habitat while still promoting economic growth and renewable resources.

Need to Know traveled to Wyoming to learn more about how the plight of the sage grouse could play a pivotal role in energy policy there, as the state debates a major investment in wind power and aims to set an example for the rest of the country.

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  • Randy Otto

    On the Wind turbine vs. Grouse… the map on Grouse distribution had the states of North and South Dakota reversed. How can that be? In a Western cartographer’s world the top of the map is “North.”

  • Kathleen Beranek

    Maybe I missed the explaination ………But exactly how does putting up windmills destroy the environment for the sage grouse?

  • Steven Wells

    The environmental group (Western Watersheds) interviewed is more of an obstructionist group than an environmental group if you look at their history. They have an agenda and protecting sage grouse isn’t their priorty. This report “Grousing at windmills” would been very interesting and much more validating with the perspective of a real environmental group for example The Nature Conservancy.

  • Sarah Lagomarsino

    The landowner who wants the American people to pay him to “raise” sage grouse instead of leasing his land to the windmill corporations is a good example of the bottom line opportunists who think that they own nature and that development of whatever kind, as long as they receive income, is good and natural resources and the environment are bad.

  • Annie O’Connor

    Excellent piece on the Sage Grouse vs windmills. But come on, people. What was that bit at the end of the program all about??? “Palenese???” That was so bad that it was embarrassing. This seems to be a quality news program but that drivel brings it way down.

  • Vickie Gardener

    After watching this episode I was reminded of an episode I watched recently on P. Allen Smith’s show. In order to stop wasps and hornets from building nests under the eave’s of a house you paint them sky blue, the little critters think eave is the sky and leave. Why, when the Sage Grouse believe that anything tall is a great hiding spot for brids of prey could not the base’s of the windmills be painted the color of the surrounding area and the tops be painted the same as the sky? It seems I heard someone on the show say the brids were not very bright couldn’t this easy fix maybe solve the problem?

  • Kelly Pierce

    Great story. I thought nobody nationally would give the grouse any play, even though how we produce our energy in Wyoming will define energy in the West and America going forward. Also, great images and interviews. Not sure why I liked how it looked, but it stood apart from the rest of the show.

  • Frank Rodiger

    @ Vickie Gardener. I think the point of the story was less about sage grouse and more about American energy creation going forward. The grouse is just an example of the decisions we face when choosing between green energy and coal/oil.

    Did anybody take notice of who is going to be profiting off of wind energy, too?! It’s not hippies. And, I don’t think they’re voting liberal either.

    I think that’s the next story. What happens when we find out our green energy makers are the same as the oil/coal industry?

  • james gyun

    @frank. As long as it’s renewable energy, who cares where the profits are going. I don’t think a liberal has made a profit since the first candle store was opened… anyways, I think it’s interesting that the obama admin is no different from Ws when it comes to looking out for animals. And that has to be tough for the grouse, it does not have looks going for it.

  • kate

    Green energy makers are the same as coal and oil. I don’t think it matters to them. But, what about these so called green jobs in america. You have this story, great. But now I want to see the real deal about that. How many people in wyoming are developing technology for wind energy? I don’t think too many. Maybe americans can maintain the equipment, but they can’t make it. Who is thinking about how grouse and wind energy can live together?

  • Steve

    Has anyone in Wyoming heard of a Flettner wind turbine? Nowhere for a hawk to sit. But, honestly, what are we doing sending electrons 900 miles? Our first choice should be nearest to the consumption. Solar & batteries.

  • karen

    This story made me think the same thing. Wyoming is more of a resource than a state. And what benefit do its residents see. Sure, people in california will get clean energy… but at the expense of another state. The sage grouse should be made the state bird; maybe it will slow wind development enough to give the state time to create a better gameplan, so wind energy can be sustainable for them too.

  • John Shaplin

    Obama is quoted at the beginning of the show saying that wind could supply 20% of our energy needs in about a decade. Considering the experience of Germany and Denmark this seems wildly optimistic; their conclusion is that at best it is a 3% solution and the cost is about two and one-half times more than gas or nuclear, although initially subsidies and distortions of market forces through legislation may conceal this from the public. Storage of the energy is a problem and so is transmission, as the show suggested. And long-term costs of maintaining wind-farms is also a question that needs answers, along with the actual “carbon” costs of their manufacture. In “Revenge of the Gaia”, James Lovelock suggests oceanic tidal and wave energy might be a better option and less damaging to the natural environment. We might not want to “write-off” the grouse for unsustainable ‘economic gains” or an ineffective remedy to excessive reliance on burning fossil fuels.

  • Jane Ward

    Is this the first time the West has been on this show? About time. Thanks for remembering us.


    let me see 9 state has this miraculous bird and is in danger to be extinct .if you take 10 % from each state and livid for the bird you can construct the wind turbine.or you construct the wind turbine and the bird will adapt

  • Shelley Lewis

    Jane–this is not the first time we’ve reported from the West. We’ve been in southern California (twice), and Texas (twice), and you’ll see more Western based stories in the next few weeks. We’re reporting from all over the country–the Gulf, of course, the Midwest, Florida, Atlanta, and Maine, just in the next few weeks.

  • Eric at COR-creative

    About the transmission line/distance problem… here is a plan to use existing infrastructure to create clean energy. The transmission lines also serve as energy creation points.

  • Mike

    Yes, save the bird, but build the windmills too. There must be a way.

    People just don’t want to work with each other. Those who are so opposed because of the bird, should live without electricity, gas, oil, etc. They would change their minds I’m sure.

  • Dan

    Oh, we don’t need to save the bird, we can use up all the resources on the planet and kill all the wildlife, when us use up the earth we can just find another planet to live on.

  • Grousing at windmills « The Wildlife News

    [...] Grousing at windmills | Need to Know | PBS Posted in Climate change, Western Watersheds Project, Wildlife Habitat, Wind, conservation, energy, public lands, sage grouse. Leave a Comment » [...]

  • Matt

    You exercised excessive discretion by choosing not to draw attention to the fact that the federal judge who signed the order to revisit the FWS ESA evaluation is named “Winmill”.

    The repetitive closeups of grouse courtship behavior didn’t really represent the birds very thoroughly.

    Nor did you explore the briefly mentioned fact that it is classified as a gamebird, and hunted, albeit during relatively brief seasons in most of the states mentioned (the ND-SD map mixup was pretty pathetic.)

    You aren’t the first to mistake a body of laws for the geographical boundaries within which they apply, but birds are unaware of states. They certainly don’t inhabit them. By definition they inhabit…habitat.

  • Richard Bradus

    This story was touted as “green vs. green” – it should have been called GREED vs. green.

    As we learn the particulars it turns out that, in fact, none of the environmentalists has any problem with designation of protected Sage Grouse habitat. The only opposition is from the rancher and speculators seeking to profit from heedlessly cramming the landscape with windmills. Indeed, even the people of Wyoming (among the most conservative in the country) have been able to hash out the issues and support a reasonable management and mitigation plan.

    It has become typical for the popular press to push these stories of supposed conflict amidst the green movement. It is very disappointing to see PBS resorting to such hyperbole. It turns out that in almost every case, when the facts are examined these issues can be responsibly managed without rancor.

    It would be a lot more informative for Need To Know to examine how, since the Reagan administration, so-called Conservatives have abandoned the heartland American value of Conservation. No doubt we’ll find that it has little to do with fundamental values and almost everything to do with money.

  • Davitt is a bitch who should

    fuck them birds

    eat them all!!!!!!!

  • Grousing at windmills | The Wildlife News

    [...] id=Video.4103606&w=512&h=328&fv=video%3D1550347813%26amp%3Bplayer%3Dviral] Grousing at windmills | Need to Know | PBS This entry was posted in Climate change, Western Watersheds Project, Wildlife Habitat, Wind, [...]

  • Bcorp

    The talk about fossil fuels and toxic elements.  In todays enviorment rules, we are not able to trash a TV, Radio, even a cell phone due to the toxic substances that could enter the enviornment.  Well wind turbines have similar elements and solar panels also.  Have those disposal costs or potential enviornmental damage been even considered.  Very doubtful since the agenda has been against the know resources and for the pie in the sky green energy that so far is not only a scam, it’s a hoax.