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Steens Mountain

Protecting Steens Mountain from irresponsible wind development

Sage Grouse - Scott Carpenter
Sage Grouse - Scott Carpenter

Steens Mountain is one of Oregon’s most iconic landscapes and is an internationally recognized Important Bird Area. Located in southeast Oregon, Steens Mountain is the largest fault block mountain in North America, rising more over a mile above the desert floor and stretching for more than 50 miles. It is home to Golden Eagles, Sage Grouse, pronghorn and myriad other species.

The Audubon Society of Portland and other conservation organizations successfully protected much of Steens Mountain, including the first livestock-free wilderness area in the United States, through passage of the Steens Act of 2000. In recent years, Audubon has teamed up with the Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA) to fight a new threat to this amazing mountain, a huge wind development that would have threatened Golden Eagles and Sage Grouse, and destroyed as much as 30,000 acres of wildlife habitat. Learn more:

Groups file petition to revoke Steens transmission line approval

March 7, 2013 — Audubon Society of Portland and Oregon Natural Desert Association have petitioned Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar to revoke the decision to allow industrial scale wind development on Steens Mountain.

The crumbling financial and regulatory framework for a proposed industrial wind facility on Steens Mountain has spurred on conservationists to petition the Secretary of the Interior to withdraw its approval of the project, which they contest is ill-sited and illegal. The December 2011 decision approved a plan allowing a developer, Columbia Energy Partners, LLC (CEP) to build a high-capacity transmission and dozens of wind turbines on the remote and iconic mountain, located in southeast Oregon. The decision was legally challenged by both groups based on the risk of serious harm to wildlife including Sage Grouse and Golden Eagles.

Read the petition | Read the press release | Read a Bend Bulletin article on the petition

Leading Scientists Blast Steens Mountain Wind Proposal For Devastating Wildlife Impacts

Oct. 4, 2012 — Sage Grouse and Golden Eagle populations on Steens Mountain would be greatly harmed by the proposed industrial wind energy development and high-voltage transmission line, according to leading wildlife experts in court filings today. 

Two Oregon conservation groups — Oregon Natural Desert Association and Audubon Society of Portland — are in federal court challenging BLM’s approval of the industrial Echanis Wind Project and a 49-mile transmission line which would cut through the heart of pristine wildlife habitat on Steens Mountain. Read the full press release. More information:

Steens wind brief - filed Oct. 5, 2012
Declaration of Dr. Clait Braun - filed Oct. 5, 2012
Declaration of Brent Fenty - filed Oct. 5, 2012
Declaration of Dr. Craig Miller - filed Oct. 5, 2012
Declaration of Dr. Shawn Smallwood - filed Oct. 5, 2012
Declaration of Robert Sallinger - filed Oct. 5, 2012

Steens Mountain Threatened by Massive Wind Development

April 5, 2012 — Plans to build an industrial-scale wind facility on Steens Mountain in southeastern Oregon’s high desert were challenged by the Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA) and Audubon Society of Portland today. The lawsuit seeks to block what the conservation groups claim is an illegal project by the Department of the Interior that would forever change an otherwise wild and beautiful landscape. 

In December, the Secretary of the Interior approved a plan allowing the developer to build up to 70 wind turbines and a high-capacity transmission line on the remote and iconic mountain, located in southeast Oregon. Electricity generated by the wind project will be sent to southern California as part of an agreement with Southern California Edison; approximately half of the project cost will be subsidized by taxpayers according to project financing documents. Critics argue that Oregonians should not be asked to sacrifice Steens Mountain to a Washington-based, New York-financed company in order to generate electricity for California. Read more.

USFWS Considering Golden Eagle Take Permits at Oregon Wind Farm

Jan. 3, 2012 — US Fish and Wildlife Service is considering issuing permits to allow the take of Golden Eagles at an Oregon wind facility. These would be the first permits ever issued for this purpose. The Audubon Society of Portland, California Audubon and National Audubon Society have joined together to comment on this proposal. Audubon has deep concerns about the potential impacts of this project and the data that is being used to support this decision. US Fish and Wildlife Eagle Permit Page | Read Audubon Comments

Audubon and ONDA Team Up to Fight Steens Mountain Wind Project

Sept. 4, 2008 — Both Audubon Society of Portland and Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA) are strong supporters of renewable energy development including wind power. It is critical that the United States wean itself from climate changing fossil fuels and the development of renewable energy sources in Oregon will drive our green economy. However not all renewable energy projects are green. There are energy speculators willing to game the system and take advantage of the state’s strong renewable energy mandates. In the coming years, the spread of wind farms will radically transform significant portions of terrestrial landscape -- often overlapping with our most sensitive wildlife areas. Although we must move quickly, we must also move carefully and thoughtfully. Read more.

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