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Plan would fund over $500K to rear 6 California condors

March 1, 2021 GMT

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Federal wildlife authorities will take an unprecedented step in helping a wind energy company breed endangered California condors to replace the ones that have been killed by wind turbines.

The energy company Avangrid’s proposed mitigation project predicts that up to two adult condors and each of their two chicks or two eggs will die by a fatal injury over a 30-year period.

Scott Sobiech, field supervisor for the wildlife service’s Carlsbad and Palm Springs offices, said in a statement that a draft plan for Avangrid Renewables’ Manzana Wind Power Project includes “working with a captive breeding facility to fund the breeding of additional condors for release into the wild.”

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The plan calls for providing over $500,000 over three years to produce six condors at the Oregon Zoo’s Jonsson Center for Wildlife Conservation. That facility is one of four that raise captive-bred condors to increase the size of the free-flying population, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The funds would be used to pay for an additional zoo employee, who would earn about $90,000 a year and rear the six condors until they are 18 months old, the age at which scientists say condors can live by themselves in the wild, the newspaper reported.

The population of California condors is currently about 518, including 181 in captivity and 337 in the wild.

The plan would also provide about $10,000 a year for costs such as veterinary treatments and transportation of condors to release sites.

“We’re prepared to start this condor mitigation effort as early as this spring,” said Kelly Flaminio, who oversees the Oregon Zoo’s condor recovery efforts. “Our zoo already nurtures the second-largest breeding population of condors in the nation.”

If none of the captive-bred condors is killed at the wind farm over the 30-year period, Flaminio said, the project would increase the population of birds in the wild by six.

Critics like the Center for Biological Diversity have argued that the company’s plan falls short. The organization said in comments filed with the Fish and Wildlife Service that a more reasonable plan “should provide funding to raise a minimum of 30 condors to 1.5 years of age when they are released into the wild.”