GREAT FALLS (AP)
A conservation group has released a study warning that construction of wind farms could pose a high risk to wildlife habitat on about 8 million acres across the state. The report by the Montana Nature Conservancy is the first analysis of where wildlife and the best winds intersect in Montana and is meant to help developers minimize risk to birds and animals and to guide policy makers, said Brian Martin, the group's director of science. "Wind farms have pretty big footprints, and we want to encourage wind developers to put those wind farms in Places with the least amount of impact," he said. The farms can fragment wildlife habitat because they have a large network of roads and transmission lines, according to the study, which comes as the Legislature considers bills encouraging more development on state land and private property. Last year, 126 megawatts worth of wind power were constructed, bringing the state's total to 271 megawatts. The study says the state has 17 million acres of public and private land with high potential for wind development. But wind farm development would be a "high risk" to wildlife on 7.7 million acres that provide "critical habitat" for 30 species. Martin encourages development on 9 million acres that have high wind potential but are already developed, primarily with crops. ___ Information from: Great Falls Tribune, http://www.greatfallstribune. com.