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Avian protection plan

Nestlings ospreys relax at sunrise after being bandedWatching an osprey dive into the water, sometimes submerging completely before rising from the surface with a struggling fish, leaves a lasting impression. Ospreys are once again a common sight across most of Montana as their populations rebound from the negative effects of DDT, a widely used pesticide that was banned in the 1970s. However, with this wildlife management success story comes some conflict: Ospreys are relatively tolerant of human activity and frequently build nests on power poles. Nests can cause power outages and even fires, and their proximity to energized equipment puts the birds at risk of electrocution. NorthWestern Energy has installed hundreds of platforms to maintain service reliability and to provide a safe place for ospreys to raise their offspring.

NorthWestern Energy’s Avian Protection Plan (APP) incorporates industry best practices developed by the Avian Power Line Interaction Committee, which is a collaboration among the Edison Electric Institute, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and member utilities. The primary goal of an APP is to reduce bird injuries and mortalities from power line collisions and electrocutions. If one species epitomizes the potential for conflict between our electric system and birds it is the osprey.

Our APP reflects a commitment to environmental stewardship, and fulfilling its provisions to safeguard ospreys is just one example of responsible risk management. Osprey-power line interactions can be complicated, and solving conflicts by practical necessity must involve engineers, linemen and biologists. Implementing our APP includes designing avian-friendly power poles, training line crews, providing information on federal regulations protecting migratory birds and increasing public awareness. In fact, we cooperate with osprey research projects throughout the state and these partnerships have yielded mutually beneficial results. We learn quickly of new osprey nests discovered by citizen scientists participating on these projects, which gives us the opportunity to erect nest platforms in a timely manner. The researchers, in turn, receive donated support to access nestlings for banding.

Osprey Population

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