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Notice

Agency Information Collection Activities; Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines

This document has a comment period that ends in 32 days. (02/22/2021) Submit a formal comment

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Start Preamble

AGENCY:

Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION:

Notice of information collection; request for comment.

SUMMARY:

In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, we, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), are proposing to renew an information collection.

DATES:

Interested persons are invited to submit comments on or before February 22, 2021.

ADDRESSES:

Send your comments on the information collection request (ICR) by mail to the Service Information Collection Clearance Officer, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: PRB (JAO/3W), 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803 (mail); or by email to Info_Coll@fws.gov. Please reference Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Control Number 1018-0148 in the subject line of your comments.

Start Further Info

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

To request additional information about this ICR, contact Madonna L. Baucum, Service Information Collection Clearance Officer, by email at Info_Coll@fws.gov, or by telephone at (703) 358-2503. Individuals who are hearing or speech impaired may call the Federal Relay Service at 1-800-877-8339 for TTY assistance.

End Further Info End Preamble Start Supplemental Information

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA, 44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.) and its implementing regulations Start Printed Page 83608at 5 CFR 1320.8(d)(1), all information collections require approval under the PRA. We may not conduct or sponsor and you are not required to respond to a collection of information unless it displays a currently valid OMB control number.

As part of our continuing effort to reduce paperwork and respondent burdens, we invite the public and other Federal agencies to comment on new, proposed, revised, and continuing collections of information. This helps us assess the impact of our information collection requirements and minimize the public's reporting burden. It also helps the public understand our information collection requirements and provide the requested data in the desired format.

We are especially interested in public comment addressing the following:

(1) Whether or not the collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, including whether or not the information will have practical utility;

(2) The accuracy of our estimate of the burden for this collection of information, including the validity of the methodology and assumptions used;

(3) Ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and

(4) How might the agency minimize the burden of the collection of information on those who are to respond, including through the use of appropriate automated, electronic, mechanical, or other technological collection techniques or other forms of information technology, e.g., permitting electronic submission of response.

Comments that you submit in response to this notice are a matter of public record. We will include or summarize each comment in our request to OMB to approve this ICR. Before including your address, phone number, email address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment—including your personal identifying information—may be made publicly available at any time. While you can ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.

Abstract: As wind energy production increased, both developers and wildlife agencies recognized the need for a system to evaluate and address the potential negative impacts of wind energy projects on species of concern. As a result, the Service worked with the wind energy industry, conservation nongovernmental organizations, Federal and State agencies, Tribes, and academia to develop the voluntary Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines (Guidelines; http://www.fws.gov/​windenergy) to provide a structured, scientific process for addressing wildlife conservation concerns at all stages of land-based wind energy development. Released in 2012, the Guidelines promote effective communication among wind energy developers and Federal, State, Tribal, and local conservation agencies. When used in concert with appropriate regulatory tools, the Guidelines are the best practical approach for conserving species of concern.

The Guidelines discuss various risks to species of concern from wind energy projects, including collisions with wind turbines and associated infrastructure; loss and degradation of habitat from turbines and infrastructure; fragmentation of large habitat blocks into smaller segments that may not support sensitive species; displacement and behavioral changes; and indirect effects such as increased predator populations or introduction of invasive plants. The Guidelines assist developers in identifying species of concern that may potentially be affected by proposed projects, including but not limited to:

  • Migratory birds;
  • Bats;
  • Bald and golden eagles, and other birds of prey;
  • Prairie chickens and sage grouse; and
  • Species that have been identified as candidates, or proposed or listed under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

The Guidelines follow a tiered approach. The wind energy developer begins at Tier 1 or Tier 2, which entails gathering of existing data to help identify any potential risks to wildlife and their habitats at proposed wind energy project sites. The developer then proceeds through subsequent tiers, as appropriate, to collect information in increasing detail until the level of risk is adequately ascertained to inform the developer's decision on whether or not to develop the site. Many projects may not proceed beyond Tier 1 or 2, when developers become aware of potential barriers, including high risks to wildlife. Developers would only have an interest in adhering to the Guidelines for those projects that proceed beyond Tier 1 or 2.

At each tier, wind energy developers and operators should retain documentation to provide to the Service. Such documentation may include copies of correspondence with the Service, results of pre- and post-construction studies conducted at project sites, bird and bat conservation strategies, or any other record that supports a developer's adherence to the Guidelines. The extent of the documentation will depend on the conditions of the site being developed. Sites with greater risk of impacts to wildlife and habitats will likely involve more extensive communication with the Service and longer durations of pre- and post-construction studies than sites with little risk.

Distributed or community-scale wind energy projects are unlikely to have significant adverse impacts to wildlife and their habitats. The Guidelines recommend that developers of these small-scale projects conduct the desktop analysis described in Tier 1 or Tier 2 using publicly available information to determine whether they should communicate with the Service. Since such project designs usually include a single turbine associated with existing development, conducting a Tier 1 or Tier 2 analysis for distributed or community-scale wind energy projects should incur limited non-hour burden costs. For such projects, if there is no potential risk identified, a developer will have no need to communicate with the Service regarding the project or to conduct studies described in Tiers 3, 4, and 5.

Adherence to the Guidelines is voluntary. Following the Guidelines does not relieve any individual, company, or agency of the responsibility to comply with applicable laws and regulations (i.e., species protected by the Endangered Species Act and/or Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (16 U.S.C. 668-668c)).

This information collection was first approved by OMB in 2012 and subsequently renewed twice, in 2015 and 2018.

Title of Collection: Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines.

OMB Control Number: 1018-0148.

Form Number: None.

Type of Review: Extension of a currently approved collection.

Respondents/Affected Public: Developers and operators of wind energy facilities.

Respondent's Obligation: Voluntary.

Frequency of Collection: On occasion.

Total Estimated Annual Nonhour Burden Cost: $36,870,000. Costs will depend on the size and complexity of issues associated with each project. These expenses may include, but are not limited to: Travel expenses for site visits, studies conducted, and meetings with the Service and other Federal and State agencies; training in survey methodologies; data management; Start Printed Page 83609special transportation, such as all-terrain vehicles or helicopters; equipment needed for acoustic, telemetry, or radar monitoring; and carcass storage.

RequirementAnnual number of respondentsNumber of responses eachTotal annual responsesCompletion time per response (hours)Total annual burden hours
Tier 1 (Desktop Analysis):
Reporting40140251,000
Recordkeeping140
Tier 2 (Site characterization):
Reporting351351555,425
Recordkeeping3105
Tier 3 (Pre-construction studies):
Reporting301303,10093,000
Recordkeeping5150
Tier 4 (Post-construction fatality monitoring and habitat studies):
Reporting451453,600162,000
Recordkeeping5225
Tier 5 (Other post-construction studies):
Reporting101102,10021,000
Recordkeeping550
Totals160160282,995

An agency may not conduct or sponsor and a person is not required to respond to a collection of information unless it displays a currently valid OMB control number.

The authority for this action is the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.).

Start Signature

Dated: December 17, 2020.

Madonna Baucum,

Information Collection Clearance Officer, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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[FR Doc. 2020-28259 Filed 12-21-20; 8:45 am]

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