Mitigation and Compensation

Science Center Objects

USGS supports the U.S. goal to increase energy production from clean, renewable sources by conducting research into minimizing or mitigating potential negative effects of an expanding renewable energy infrastructure. USGS scientists collect data and develop tools and techniques to minimize potential negative effects of new energy development. Monitoring protocols and habitat-use models are providing the basis for understanding how wildlife can be affected by energy development, supporting permitting and siting of new facilities, and guiding strategies for mitigation.

Each project below is associated with a type of energy production or transmission. Types of energy production or transmission are represented by the following icons:

Oil and gas, solar energy, and wind energy icons

Oil and gas, solar energy, and wind energy icons. (Public domain.)

Abbreviations used in project descriptions are defined on the Energy and Wildife Abbrevations page.

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wind and solar icons

Advances in Estimating Fatalities From Collisions With Energy Infrastructure

Science Center: Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center

Accurate estimates of bird and bat fatalities from collisions with energy infrastructure can be difficult because carcasses may not be detected or may be scavenged. These estimates, however, are critical to understanding the effects of collisions with energy infrastructure on species populations and devising effective methods to mitigate or minimize fatalities. Accurate estimation is complicated because carcasses may fall outside the search area, be removed by scavengers, or be missed by searchers during surveys. USGS and USFWS are working to develop new tools and improve existing tools to estimate actual bird and bat fatalities based on carcass searches near energy infrastructure. Scientists are also investigating whether accurate and precise estimates of fatalities can be derived from carcass searches conducted at easily accessed areas, such as roads and pads beneath turbines.

 

Oil and gas extraction icon

Aeolian Dust Associated With Oil and Gas Infrastructure in Sagebrush Ecosystems

Science Center: Fort Collins Science Center

The rapid expansion of energy development on Federal lands in southwestern Wyoming began in the early 2000s. Partners with the WLCI expressed the need to better understand whether dust generated from energy development could be affecting wildlife and their habitats. USGS is conducting a long-term study of road dust and soil movement associated with a large energy development in south-central Wyoming. USGS scientists deployed dust samplers and collected vegetation samples to estimate dust flux and soil movement across a gradient of development to evaluate dust generation and distribution patterns. This study can be used by resource managers in Wyoming and elsewhere in the sagebrush steppe region to inform potential strategies to mitigate impacts attributed to dust.

 

Wind power icon

Estimating Displacement Rates of Grassland Birds and Waterfowl From Wind Energy Development

Science Center: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

Indirect impacts of wind energy development can include the displacement of some species of breeding grassland birds. USGS scientists have partnered with USFWS to develop a method for quantifying displacement rates of grassland birds and waterfowls from wind energy development to provide an option for industry to mitigate for land-use changes associated with development. Using results from previous studies that established displacement behavior in several species of grassland birds and waterfowl, USGS and USFWS scientists can estimate the amount of grasslands and wetlands needed to support displaced pairs of birds. This tool can be applied in situations where compensatory mitigation for impacted habitat is desirable or required.

 

Oil and gas extraction icon

Measuring the Impacts of Industrial Activities on Polar Bears

Science Center: Alaska Science Center

USGS scientists are characterizing change in the abundance, distribution, and health of polar bears relative to human activities in the Arctic. These studies emphasize the identification of critical habitats potentially at risk of disturbance from industrial activities along Alaska’s arctic coast. This work has informed efforts of DOI agencies and industry when considering the consequences of oil spills and exposures to pollutants and actions to mitigate such occurrences. USGS continues to work closely with DOI and industry partners to identify circumstances in which industrial activities likely adversely affect polar bears. Future work is expected to focus on the potential for resource development activities on land and offshore to directly and indirectly benefit polar bear behavior and health.

 

Oil and gas extraction icon

Mitigating the Impacts of Energy Development on Polar Bears

Science Center: Alaska Science Center

USGS works closely with other DOI agencies to identify science needed to inform actions that mitigate the impacts of energy development on polar bears. Information generated by USGS scientists is used by USFWS to guide regulations regarding the incidental take of polar bears by industry, BOEM to guide decisions regarding permitting of offshore oil and gas exploration and extraction, and BLM to mitigate the effects of energy development on polar bears that den within NPR–A. USGS work is focusing on improving decision-making tools for these agencies to assess the relative importance of environmental and anthropogenic stressors to polar bears.

 

Wind power icon

Review of Bird and Bat Risk From Wind Development

Science Center: Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center

Attempts to measure and mitigate the effects of wind turbines on wildlife have been an integral part of wind energy development. Collision mortality, displacement, and habitat loss can cause population level effects, especially for rare or endangered species. A team of international researchers, including those from the USGS, reviewed studies from Spain, Norway, Canada, the United States, and southern Africa that document the impact of wind energy development on raptors. The researchers gave an overview of raptor species affected by wind farms, discussed monitoring and mitigation strategies, and addressed how studying raptor behavior can inform turbine siting to minimize collision risks. USGS scientists also summarized current pre-construction assessment risks to wildlife from wind turbines, described the number of species and individuals affected by blade-strikes, and discussed how and why pre-construction monitoring is conducted. Several shortcomings were noted in the methods used to assess the risk of fatality at turbines, including the lack of studies to offer evidence for a link between pre-construction surveys and post-construction fatalities.

 

Wind power icon

Spatial Patterns in Golden Eagle Occupancy and Reproduction

Science Center: Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center

USGS scientists and partners investigated spatial patterns in occupancy and breeding success of golden eagles in the Diablo Range, California, from 2014 to 2016, a period of exceptional drought. This approach to mapping and quantifying site quality may offset the impacts of increasing human land use and development by helping managers prioritize compensation measures for golden eagles.

 

Oil and gas extraction icon

Status of Seabirds and Forage Fish in Cook Inlet, Alaska

Science Center: Alaska Science Center

Seabird densities in lower Cook Inlet are among the highest in Alaska, and populations were decimated by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. Large resident and migratory seabird populations are sustained by local stocks of key forage fish species. Monitoring of seabird populations and forage fish stocks in potential oil and gas lease areas is a BOEM priority, both to mitigate the impacts of development and to assess the impact of potential oil spills. In 2016, USGS initiated new studies to update knowledge gained from seabird and forage fish studies in lower Cook Inlet from 1995 to 2000, in advance of potential lease sales and associated activities in Cook Inlet during 2017 and beyond. These studies are also assessing change in seabird and fish populations following anomalous high temperatures in 2014–16.

Image: Polar Bears along Arctic Sea Ice

Polar bears along sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. (Credit: Jessica K Robertson, U.S. Geological Survey. Public domain.)