Anne Brande is a fourth-generation Wyomingite and the founder of the Laramie-based Albany County Conservancy, a non-profit which is opposing several proposed wind projects including Rail Tie, Two Rivers, and Rock Creek. Brande explains why her group may sue the federal government for possible violations of the National Environmental Policy Act and Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, why “we need biodiversity” and why in her words, “I’m not going cower” despite the prospect of costly litigation.
Robert Bryce 0:04
Hi, everyone, welcome to the power hungry Podcast. I’m Robert Bryce. On this podcast we talk about energy, power, innovation and politics and I’m pleased to welcome Ian brand. She is the founder of the Albany County Conservancy, which is based in Laramie, Wyoming and welcome to the power hungry podcast.
Anne Brande 0:21
Thank you, Robert.
Robert Bryce 0:23
So and I was acquainted with or I got acquainted with the Albany County conservancy after I published a piece on substack about the dangers that wind projects, proposed wind projects in and around your area pose to Golden Eagles and bald eagles. So if you don’t mind, that’s a brief introduction. But I don’t know if you listen to this podcast, but guests introduce themselves. I’ve given you a brief bio. But imagine you’ve arrived somewhere you don’t know anyone you have about a minute to introduce yourself. You might want to explain why that big cameras behind you. But you have a minute, please tell us who you are. Thank you.
Anne Brande 0:58
Yeah. So I’m a fourth generation Wyoming Knight. My great grandfather was Kaiser Wilhelm, the Second Court photographer in Germany. And he went to the unveiling of the Eiffel Tower, and he got hired on the spot. And he went to Fifth Avenue in New York City. And he worked there for a year and he read go west young man. And so he bought a one way train ticket being the romantic and artists he was and he headed west. And he fell in love with Laramie, Wyoming after having spent the night before getting back on the train. So he came back to Laramie, he borrowed $10, from the mayor of Laramie, which back then in 1904, was a lot of money. He opened up a charge account with Kodak and he started his first studio. And he had three daughters. The youngest was my grandmother, and he trained them all to be photographers, and that has passed through the women in my family. So I run a portrait studio. But as you might guess, in Wyoming in Laramie, in particular, I’m not inside very much. Although I have a great studio, I’m outside. Laramie, is very unique. It’s surrounded on all four sides with mountain ranges. It’s part of the Rocky Mountain ecosystem. And so my family over the years because photographers are preservers, we preserve memories. So my family became really interested in history. And my grandfather bought a homestead in Albany County, which is where I live. And I’m also in the unique position where I’m an only child. So COVID-19 gave me time to really feel guilt kicking in because I’m noticing institutional memory, the public understanding wildlife and ecosystems and ecology and history, that’s all going to the wayside. And so I decided to set up a conservancy devoted to preserving protecting and promoting habitat history and wildlife. Because that’s
Robert Bryce 3:11
in Albany County, and I’m just looking at the map here. So Albany County is a very big county by looks in Wyoming is a big state. But it includes Laramie and Laramie is toward the southern part of the county. But so I’m sorry to interrupt, but we have a strict one minute. You don’t have a strict one minute rule. But I want to turn the conversation now. And I think that’s great. And by the way, so you need to tell us about the camera. If you’re listening and not watching on YouTube, the two ends right behind her is in big four large, very large format camera. What’s the story behind that camera? You’re a photographer. Tell us about that?
Anne Brande 3:45
Well, it’s my great grandfather’s camera. And he actually would take that eight by 10 camera out in the field, to photograph the indigenous cultures in the Laramie valley to photograph cowboys, which that that was not easy to do.
Robert Bryce 4:02
So you still have some of those photos that I’m assuming is a very big, big format camera. Okay. Well, good. So let’s talk about why I wanted to the issue at hand, which is I had the I wrote the sub stack a couple of days ago about the the threat that wind projects, proposed wind projects in southern Wyoming pose to both the bold and Golden Eagle and cited the work or one of the comments by Mike Lockwood, who’s a biologist who said that these wind projects pose a profoundly dangerous that’s those are his words, though, they pose a profoundly dangerous threat to Golden Eagles. But I note that the Albany County Conservancy has filed comments as Lockwood did with the Bureau of Land Management on the environmental assessment for the Two Rivers wind project. But there are other wind projects that are now proposed for Central and South Eastern Wyoming. I guess briefly and one of the first questions I have here is why do you oppose Who’s these wind projects? This is Wyoming’s a very sparsely populated state. There are a lot of open spaces. Why are you why are you so staunchly opposed to these projects.
Anne Brande 5:10
So that’s a typical attitude that Wyoming politicians have had since before Wyoming was a state. The Union Pacific needed us to be a state. And so we’ve always known that we can have wildlife and we can do energy development. And we’re a global energy developer. When you look back at our days of coal, we are a coal oil gas. Now we’re nuclear gates is building an atrium facility in Wyoming. And we’re also wind and we’re now looking into solar. But even Wyoming, if you were to develop our energy capacity, in the wind arena alone, we would exceed our borders to produce the amount of energy that we’re producing currently. And it’s caught up with everybody. We’re also the least we have the lowest regulations of any of the 50 states, we’re pretty much a bring business to us and we can accommodate you. So we’re very ill prepared to base to deal with cute cumulative impacts. We’re not used to that
Robert Bryce 6:20
being our cumulative impacts from the in from from wind projects because that seems to be the I mean, if I’m reading there your your your comments with with the Bureau of Land Management or nine pages, if I would summarize what the messaging here you’re the you’re threatening to to file lawsuits against federal government because of the these that what you’re saying they’re violating the National Environmental Policy Act and potentially violating the bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. But the punch line here if I’m going to paraphrase what I how I’m reading this, as you’re saying, the federal agencies are ignoring the cumulative impact of these different wind projects and I’m looking at the if I calculate them here you have the two rivers wind project rail tie, the choke cherry and CR Sierra Madre, we’re talking on the order of what 800 wind turbines that all would be within or near Albany County. Is that roughly the right number? Yeah. Joke Jerry and Sierra.
Anne Brande 7:22
You’re gonna have 800 more.
Robert Bryce 7:24
So cutting Albany and carbon counties, which is carbon adjacent to forgive.
Anne Brande 7:30
And some of these wind projects you just named right to rivers, Rock Creek, sit between both counties.
Robert Bryce 7:40
And Rock Creek. So rail tie is oh is being pushed by connect Jen, which is part of a quantum energy out of Houston. And then Rock River is Invenergy. Is that right?
Anne Brande 7:51
Correct. Rock Creek, Rock Creek, I’m sorry, but it’s in Rock River.
Robert Bryce 7:55
Okay. And so I forgot about the Rock Creek project. So that’s another 100 or so. So we’re talking 900 or 1000, wind turbines between Albany and count and Cara carbon county that could be built. But all of this, if I’m going to kind of want to focus on the on the on the small picture, but the big picture as well. A lot of this depends on the construction of the TransWest Express transmission project, right, which is the other big unknown here waiting for final approval from the Bureau of Land Management. Do I have this right?
Anne Brande 8:27
So there have been power purchase agreements, and I can’t even keep up with all the projects. So I’d like to slow down and explain that when I set up the conservancy, my number one goal was to put a migration museum on highway 287. That is an alternate route from northern Colorado up through the state that people take to Yellowstone National Park, among many other things. And when we look further north along that route, you have wind devastation in the surely basin. But I hadn’t really become educated to that I wanted to put a museum focused on indigenous cultures, passing through that migration area of the Rockies that go back to pre history. My family has a pre history collection that’s very extensive that we found on our homestead. And then with the photographs, my family’s photographic collections, the only kind one of a kind in the world. It’s very special. And I wanted to put the two together. And it was my hope to build wings on to the museum just like the Buffalo Bill Cody Museum that over time, would then feature the Sioux in that area. Take it to a more recent time of the Plains Indian times. And, you know, that was treaty land that was never honored. But that’s a bigger conversation because, as we all know, the sovereign nation has a very pained relationship with As the Bureau of Land Management with our federal government, because of history, so I figured that would happen naturally, even after my time on this planet. All I needed to do was build my museum to start the conversation. But I couldn’t do that. Knowing that rail tie wind would negatively impact over 162 nationally significant historic sites, just that one project. Wyoming is extremely rich in wildlife habitat. Big Game, migratory birds, were the least populated state. We have been the haven of biodiversity for a North America that is urbanizing and building out. And we’ve been that haven for a long time. And that gets to Mike the way I’m at Mike, I went to a Albany County Commissioner meeting. And he was brought in by a commissioner who’s sympathetic but basically has no regulations to empower them.
Robert Bryce 11:05
So just just I’m sorry to interrupt. You’re talking about Mike Lockwood, who’s the biologist I briefly mentioned earlier, who’s an expert on Eagle populations in the west and has done work for the USGS and I want to read what he said he’s the source of that line, that profoundly dangerous threat. So I just wanted to interject. So you’re backtracking to the meeting and carbon county you met Mike Lockwood to talk about these other wildlife impacts. I just wanted to interject that, please.
Anne Brande 11:31
Yeah. Well, and it was a Albany County meeting, but not sure. Okay. So I reached out to him and I chatted with him. And that’s to the very serious reality that he hadn’t even paused because he’s busy out in the field, geotagging birds, and he has done so for 12 years because of a wrongly cited wind project that was awarded a $1 million payout that pays for his research. And he tracks Golden Eagles along the front range. So he’s tracking them from Mexico, New Mexico, all the way up to Canada. And they overwinter in the Laramie Valley. This is their safe place. This is where they build nests and have babies.
Robert Bryce 12:21
So you’re talking about both golden and you’re talking about both golden eagles and bald eagles here, is that right? Correct. So one of the things that stuck that jumped off the page when I read the the Albany Well, let me ask this question first. So Albany County Conservancy. Who Where does your funding come from?
Anne Brande 12:43
Your your love looking at the my run fourth generation studio. So when I started the conservancy, I was very upset about the one project I had received a letter from the Federal Energy Commission just because of where my homestead sits, I thought how am I going to build my museum? This is right where the overland and Cherokee Trail sit in the Laramie Valley. And that’s where I want to put my museum. And I want to build a historic trail between Sherman and tie siding. So what is that that’s the highest point on the transcontinental railroad. Railroad historians from all over the world Western history buffs come to Albany County to see the Eames monument, which is iconic granite pyramid built in tribute to the AMS brothers, which when you look at the credit Mobilia a, I mean, that was just as corrupt as what we’re dealing with today, you know, with this, this kind of development. So but I just, I couldn’t be quiet. I went to the public scoping meeting like many people who put their toe in this because they know something is just settling. And the more I educated, the more I realized that natural resources in the Laramie Valley are going to leave. When I talked to Mike, it became an extreme concern of mine, because he said to me, you’re looking at devastation because he paused he became quite depressed when he realized how many wind projects were going to build out in my county. Because you’re always jumping from one public comment period to the other you don’t really there’s no place you can go on the internet and say how many wind projects and Albany County? I mean, you have to look
Robert Bryce 14:34
Sure. So I’m gonna just I’m gonna press you here. So Albany County Conservancy is a 501 C three nonprofit. So my question was, just so where does the funding come from? Well, you’re the founder.
Anne Brande 14:46
And I built the conservancy. I was just going to public meetings to educate. I wasn’t really making any comments and like many people, it was just settling to me because my low Local community wasn’t reading the newspaper. Right? And it was COVID-19. So I’m a photographer. So I went out with a drone and a friend of mine and I took pictures from the air. That’s what gave me the perspective of a Eagles flight. Because I thought if people could understand where this sits, without knowing biology, just to see it, right, they would realize, so I posed a rhetorical question, I put up a billboard, in my community just right outside my studios doorway, on highway 287, because that goes through the heart of downtown Laramie. And it had a photograph I’d taken with my friend, Dana Gage, and Edie had a tagline because I wanted to pose a rhetorical question. And it just simply said, why when tear?
Robert Bryce 15:56
Okay, so I’m gonna ask you
Anne Brande 15:59
to come to my studio and started leaving me grocery money. I’m in a very small community of 30,000. I’m home of the University of Wyoming. Right. They’re retired professors. But the other thing that’s key,
Robert Bryce 16:15
so just to be so just to be clear, so the Alberni county Conservancy, you’re depending on donations from people in Laramie, and Albany County, that’s who’s funding the nonprofit and you’re the founder. And when was when did you when did you create this entity?
Anne Brande 16:31
I, I incorporated with the Secretary of State in 2019. And then I got nonprofit status in 2020.
Robert Bryce 16:39
Okay, got it. So I just wanted to be clear about that. Because, you know, one of the things that the charges the claims that are made by the pro renewable crowd, are these all these groups, they’re putting up things on Facebook, and they’re funded by, you know, the usual claims are the Exxon Exxon Koch brothers, are you getting any money from the oil and gas? No,
Anne Brande 16:59
mine come from retired ecology professors who are in their 80s. And then I serve as the executive director completely for free, which is really drained my personal resources, because I run a full time portrait studio. Sure. So and it’s through my love of this area that I keep doing this. It’s not acceptable to kill 28.2%, according to US Fish and Wildlife, which I think the numbers are much larger
Robert Bryce 17:32
to make sure that okay, I’m, I’m sorry to keep interrupting. But I know, I’ve done a lot of reporting. And I’ve talked to many people like you, and we talked on the phone a few days ago. Many of them are women who look and sound like you. And I’m not saying this in any way that it’s direct, that are doing these things and taking on these these fights to protect their neighborhoods. And I’m gonna interrupt you, I told you before, I know you want to tell us everything. But I want to make sure I’m guiding you to explain exactly what you’re talking about. So let’s jump back to the issue of equal kills because this is the other. You mentioned the 28.2%. I want to go back to what your references here because you know all about this, but the people who are listening don’t so that’s why I’m just trying to slow you down a bit. Here’s where in your your your attorneys comments to the Bureau of Land Management. They point out with respect to the phase 123 permits regarding I believe you’re talking about here, either the Two Rivers project that issuance of the permit would mean that Fish and Wildlife Service has authorized 28.2% of the local area population that is 14.8 Bald Eagles per year to be killed, which does not include many sources of unpermitted Eagle take, well, this is a massive, massive impact on the local population of bald eagles. We’ll talk about Golden Eagles in in a minute because that, to me is even more protection potentially more dire, because the golden eagle population is what about 1/7 or 1/8 of the size of the bald eagle population. So golden eagles are far rarer than bald eagles. And you’d mentioned the golden eagles. But you’re bringing up the eagle issue because this is one of the other areas where you may the Albany County conservancy may sue the federal government including the Fish and Wildlife Service over these permits, because of the potential violation of the bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act of I read. Am I reading this back to you correctly?
Anne Brande 19:34
Well, so it’s very upsetting to members of my Conservancy, that the federal government isn’t doing their homework correctly. It it started with it’s very upsetting that these developers don’t do their homework correctly. And that’s because they hire consulting firms to go out and count Anna Mauls to fill in the blanks of say an environmental impact statement, or an environmental assessment. What? They don’t use the most recent data. In particular, when you look at railed high wind, they filled in the blanks with data that actually wasn’t done by quantum. When connect, Jen hired an environmental consultant that exists right in Laramie, Wyoming, as you might expect, an environmental consultant in the Rockies would exist in Laramie, they were using data from 2006 from the original shell wind project that would sit in that area. So, and they were using bat and bird studies, and, or, again, to talk about elk that they saw when they were counting ballots. I mean, that’s not a good source of data, when you’re filling in an environmental impact statement talking about, you know, rail tie wind in 2018 2019, when when they were collecting that data 20.
Robert Bryce 21:14
But but so just to get back to the focus here, which and I understand that background, and that’s important. But the way, the way I read your comments, the Conservancy’s comments to the Bureau of Land Management is, in fact, you say right at the top of the agencies refused to cure the violations identified below the current service, he will seriously consider litigation to ensure that this project proceeds if at all, only once the agencies have complied with all applicable laws. And what you’re saying here is your your lawyer, William Eubanks out of Washington is saying that the federal agencies involved the Bureau of Land Management and Fish and Wildlife Service have not complied with federal law more particularly, and in particular, than the National Environmental Policy Act, and the golden Golden Eagle Protection Act, and that you’re you are saying they need to do an entire environmental impact statement for all of these, the collective impact of all of these wind projects is that am I reading this back right correctly to you?
Anne Brande 22:14
Well, the impact of all the projects, it’s a much more basic task, then you got it right at the beginning, you when my kids go to public school, and they don’t do their assignment, correct, their teacher uses red pen, and she marks up their assignment or highlights it in, you know, electronically and says you need to go back and do this correctly. So you cannot do 1000 Page environmental assessment. Anybody can go to the internet and look up how, how long should an environmental assessment be? An environmental assessment is defined as being 200 pages max. And the environmental assessment for two rivers is 990 pages. That’s not okay.
Robert Bryce 23:11
So why is it longer better here, you’ve lost me
Anne Brande 23:16
they need to go to correct longer is better, but then they need to go to an environmental impact statement process and handle the whole process correctly. When we passed the National Environmental act, Protection Act that was in the 70s, right, right. And we tasked it with three different tiers of environmental assessment. And an EA is not it’s not the correct level of environmental assessment or they wouldn’t be exceeding its length. They need to go back and do an environmental impact statement to follow the NEPA in the best spirit of the NEPA show.
Robert Bryce 23:59
And if they did that, and I’m just assuming here if they if that is in fact required. And so let’s zoom forward here for just a minute and and I have a quick station break. My guest is an brand she is based in Laramie, Wyoming. She is the founder of the Albany County Conservancy. And is I think it would be fair to say an ardent opponent of several wind projects that are proposed for southern and south central and southeastern Wyoming including the Two Rivers project to the chokecherries Sierra Madre project, Rock Creek and rail tie, which together would add something on the order of over 1000 wind turbines in in southern Wyoming. Is that,
Anne Brande 24:38
why I’m opposed to it? It’s just like Altamont Pass, but we will be 10 times the size of ultimate pass. And why is that key to identify? Ultimate paths has no bird population anymore. It also is high desert ecosystem. And it’s been there for 30 years. So can California has watched their wildlife be eradicated in that zone. Right. And it’s the same thing where you have one wind project, others will come
Robert Bryce 25:13
and make money building
Anne Brande 25:15
infrastructure others tag on. And so because of the situation we’re in with increased infrastructure, the infrastructure bill, and the possibility of credits, there’s all this empowerment for all these all these projects or different developers. But when you’re talking about cumulative impact, you’re looking specifically at projects that all are on the same timeline.
Robert Bryce 25:44
Right? That they would get built that they would get built roughly in the next three years but or do they all hinge on? Because I wrote about this in my piece and substack about the published a few days ago, a lot of this hinges on the on the the the construction of the TransWest Express transmission line, right that that is the key offtake for these projects, including chokecherries and Sierra Madre.
Anne Brande 26:08
Well, chokecherries Sierra Madre, definitely, they are running their power to that. But when you look at rail tie, wind, its power won’t come from that. That’s why it’s in that wrongly cited area. The reason it exists is not because it’s the most ideal area to exist. It’s because it’s inexpensive to the developer because it sits on a western area power, power line that used to service the Craig All coal fed power plant in northern Colorado. Now, it’s been there since my grandfather,
Robert Bryce 26:42
right? No, show but this is the key, though, right to was Malik Cordner. My friend has been on the podcast before he says there are three things you have to resolve when you’re building any kind of energy infrastructure, where are you going to put it? How are you going to connect it? And how are you going to pay for it? So rail tie would be built, I guess, south of Laramie, then is that what you’re saying? And then if I’m looking at the map here trying to orient myself, so when we look
Anne Brande 27:05
at it, you’re seeing that it builds right off a tear of mountains that are part of the 14 mountain peaks of the never summer mountain range. Gotcha. When you sit on highway 287, they’re just eight miles east you would have the I 80 corridor. Why is that important? Because it sits by Medicine Bow National Forest, it sits between Medicine Bow National Forest, and Roosevelt National Forest and in Colorado, so you have a large amount of wildlife that passed multiple times a year through that area. That’s, that’s why it never really completed Environmental Impact Statement, which shell is they knew it was an environmental disaster. So it gets to now it’s being dusted off and re introduced with an new developer. It’s still a terrible place to put it. And sit far from hunting national bird refuge. When you look at Two Rivers wind, which you’ve been discussing, it sits it doesn’t sit very far Rock Creek actually sits closer. It’s Rock Creek sits five miles from Bamforth National Wildlife Refuge. I mean, these are areas that where turbines will sit or less than one mile from Golden Eagle nesting. Right.
Robert Bryce 28:42
So I hear you, let me ask this question directly. And and I you know, and I know, I can tell you’re passionate about this. And I appreciate that. I’m also trying to make sure on my list our listeners come along with you as we’re going along. So let me just ask you this. One question. I think you’ve answered it already. But I want to put it to you because what I hear in you is in the tone of your voice is outrage, right and anger. And I think identifying there are those are the right words, but let me just ask, let me ask him, let me ask him directly. What Why do you care so much?
Anne Brande 29:18
I watched last week’s 60 minutes and why I care so much is that biodiversity? We have killed off 60% of global biodiversity. So what am I talking about? I’m talking about wild animals. I’m not talking about a cow or your dog. I am talking about eagles and elk. Moose wolves. That’s, that is part of Wyoming that’s part of this section of the Rockies. Now, you know as we continue to develop, we have more people on the planet than we ever have. That is also threatening these populations. So The last thing you want to do is go into these pristine wilderness areas and build out next to them. And the last thing you want to hear is, you know that the BLM is decided to do a 200 page instead of, you know, a 1500 page assessment, the last thing you want to hear is that US Fish and Wildlife don’t know how to deal with the fact that they are there at Eagle threshold, they’re changing the outline, if you read that document, they’re changing the parameters of projects, so that they can then you know, move the figures around and they’re not prepared, they need to reevaluate Eagle tape discussing
Robert Bryce 30:47
right, so So you’re saying, and I’m gonna paraphrase back to you what you’re seeing, or what I think you’re saying is that these federal agencies are putting their thumb on the scale in favor of the wind projects, instead of actually, properly assessing the threat to wildlife is that I mean, am I putting words in your mouth and
Anne Brande 31:06
I think I want to encourage as many people as possible to voice their concerns in this process. I don’t think intentionally when employees of the BLM go to work, that they’re intentionally doing this, but I do think this system needs to be people need to be in the room. That’s what the Conservancy is doing. I have eyes I have IRS members of my conservancy due to it’s not okay not to do your homework correctly, just because, you know, a company is bearing down on you because they have a deadline.
Robert Bryce 31:48
So that’s so Okay, well, so fair enough. So if I were going to summarize, I liked what you just said that they haven’t you’re talking about the federal government, they haven’t done their homework correctly, that that’s that that’s the issue that they’re going to have to be more punctilious to use a long multisyllabic.
Anne Brande 32:06
Olive Branch and give them the opportunity to do it correctly.
Robert Bryce 32:10
And if they don’t, you’re going to sue.
Anne Brande 32:14
You can’t bend the rules just to get it off your desk.
Robert Bryce 32:19
So but what would that cost? I mean, let’s let’s talk about that for a minute. Because litigation is expensive. And I’ve followed some other cases like this where you’re you are a David against a Goliath, both in the federal government and against some of these big corporate interests. Invenergy is a very large company very owned by Michael Polsky. He’s a billionaire. Two Rivers is owned by or the project is being pushed by Blue Earth renewables a company based in Calgary. These are deep pocketed interests on the other side. So if you go to court, you’re going to it’s going to be expensive. No, how, how would you make How would you make that work?
Anne Brande 32:56
Well, so that is something to that. Many people have said the same thing. And so that keeps them quiet.
Robert Bryce 33:05
That they’re intimidated.
Anne Brande 33:07
I think they check out they don’t. They don’t invest the attention span that they they should. And it’s because it is a David and Goliath, but it’s not. It’s not. So for one thing, I’m a nonprofit. I’m not an individual, right. And I’m not a corporation, and I don’t have corporate sponsors. For another, my legal representation is a nonprofit law firm that specializes in this. And they’re focused on wildlife and historic sites. So it’s a different situation. It requires a lot of my time, I have now had to become familiar with federal processes. And I have some very smart people because I’m in a university town who are retired, who are passionate about the NEPA who’ve been able to explain to me, for example, what section 106 laws are that historic sites, cultural sites, and that’s dear to my heart, because of my museum, but I just read crazyhorse by Marie Santos. It’s a phenomenal book. Um, she was able to interview he dog that was crazy horses, brother, not by, you know, family lineage just by friendship. And she writes as close to a native language as she can when she’s writing that history. And in that book, it says that history is like wind on buffalograss and that a society has to know where they’ve come from to know where they’re going. I’m I am. I can’t prevent development. I use energy just like everyone else. But it is not right just because one company is making money from a piece of the pie that then I get 20 in the same area. We need biodiversity. We need wildlife. We need to manage this. We need to have a conversation and I’m not going to cower, because somebody has decided, oh, it’s bigger than us. It’s not bigger than us. We are bigger than that. I want my children to know what a mule deer looks like. Mule Deer in Wyoming have the longest migration routes in the world? Why were arid? They travel hundreds of miles to eat. I don’t want them to travel hundreds of miles and wind turbines. There’s a study out from Central Wyoming that was completed in 2018. That states, a mule deer will not bring her young through an area of wind development. Well, you know, I can agree with that. I don’t think I would do that either. But once that has occurred, that migration route has been lost. Doesn’t matter if in 30 years, they decommission that project.
Robert Bryce 36:24
So let me let me interrupt you here. So I’m going to remind that people are listening if you want to follow up on this in the the Albany County conservancies comments to the Bureau of Land Management, you can find it online e planning.blm.gov/e. Planning hyphen UI project, slash two double o 3881. Slash 570. I know that I’ll put it in the show notes on YouTube because Mike Mike Lockwood’s called Mike Lockwood’s comments are there as well. I want to read that of this, though. And and, and when it asked about, you know, I asked you about what motivates you, but I want to read what Mike Lockwood, the wildlife biologist we’ve mentioned before, and I cited his work in my piece on substack about this. He’s talking about Golden Eagles here and I’ll just read this. Wind turbines are a profoundly dangerous additive human threat to golden eagles on Wyoming landscapes for unknown reasons, Golden Eagles are especially vulnerable to turbine collisions. And until somewhat recently, large scale wind projects were not part of Wyoming’s energy infrastructure. Existing wind development is undoubtedly now killing significant numbers of golden eagles in Wyoming. But the rapid expansion and Potat massive footprint of proposed new projects will exponentially impact golden eagles. It seems like you know, the way that’s a powerfully written paragraph, and the key here is we in your in your comments. The Albany County conservancies comments to the BLM to the BLM is pointing out the potential Eagle take here, which would have to be permitted by the federal government. And your your lawyer writes, given that the developer cannot avoid committing repeated violations of federal law. In the absence of golden Golden Eagle Protection Act permits, we would argue that is likely indeed virtually certain that the developer would not proceed with constructing a project that will be routinely mired in enforcement proceedings and subjected to millions of dollars in civil or criminal penalties. I bring this up because it was just last year as last April that NextEra Energy was prosecuted by the Department of Justice after they knowingly purposely put their wind project in the middle of known Golden Eagle habitat. And I would argue that that company did so because they thought, well, if we get penalized, the fines are going to be less than the tax credits that we’re getting. And, you know, I’m as cynical as the next person. I believe in literally Tomlins line, no matter how cynical I get, I can’t keep up. But it just seems like in this case, again, the wind developers and even the federal government that appears are willing to say, well, you know, we’ll sacrifice a few Eagles because climate change because we want more renewables is that isn’t that stark of a trade off here that we’re the idea of renewable energy is so popular that wildlife was going to be sacrificed as necessarily as part of this trade off.
Anne Brande 39:17
So it’s extremely alarming to my members, that that mindset prevails. Because making money is making money. We know that wind and solar are only a portion of energy. We know that we also need other sources. We know the wind doesn’t blow 24 hours a day, we know the sun isn’t up 24 hours a day. You’re gonna have to have other sources of energy to you have to have a table with legs. You can’t just have one leg. It won’t stand firmly. Bad development is bad development, you place a power line in the wrong place, you build industrially in the wrong location. And it’s just bad, bad for everyone. We’ve seen that in other instances when this is not new to the table with that, and these, these companies aren’t just focused on renewable. Many of them are just energy companies that have decided to then have a renewable focus as part of an investment group. They’re not solely renewable. Right? Some of them are and some of them aren’t.
Robert Bryce 40:42
Well, so this is the other part of the the letter to the BLM that I think are the comments. It’s one of your concluding statements in the comments here. And it says for all of these reasons, the Fish and Wildlife Services, evaluation of issuing to bald and golden eagles Protection Act permits for this project is arbitrary capricious, and in violation of the Golden golden, Golden Eagle, bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and they’re implementing regulations. So if you’re going to go to court, this seems like those are going to be the federal laws that you’re litigating around. But I want to ask you this, because we talked on the phone the other day, and it was something I mentioned that I’ve and I’m sympathetic to what you’re what you’re doing. But the question I put to you was, why is it always women, it’s not always women, but usually the it is women who are leading the charge against theirs. I’ve seen it. And I’ve done dozens of these interviews with people in Madison County, Iowa, in New Hampshire and Vermont, and you know, across the country, it’s usually women who are about your age, who are leading the charge on this. Why is that?
Anne Brande 41:50
You know, in my profession, and that’s all I can go back to pay I love people. So I’m not cynical yet. I’m a portrait photographer. Yes, I photograph nature because I love it. But that’s not how I learn, earn my living. I love people. I love photographing them where they’re happiest. And that happens to be in nature. Where I am. When I asked them, Where do you want me to take your family portrait? They’re taking me to medicine, bone, National Forest, it’s their space. So I looked at this and why you have women, my clients are women. I get occasionally a man who’s usually asked by a woman, you know, a wife will ask a husband, women. We are passionate about protecting our young, having them have quality of life. Now men are great fathers. Single parents, don’t get me wrong. But when you look at wrongful death lawsuit and travesty in a family when you look at advocacy, how many times is it a woman that’s pushing even out of pain, that everything for a purpose? You know, I’m going to make sure that fentanyl doesn’t ruin your family? Well, I’m going to make sure that we don’t lose biodiversity because what happens when we do on the 60 minute show, we learned right? You have scientists from Stanford from all sorts of different universities that have been publishing books since the 70s, saying, you know, when we lose biodiversity, that cyclically is you we will cease to exist as a civilization. There’ll be a renewal period, just like the Ice Age. That was the last time this happened. We can’t just keep developing open space. And where this started is, in 2019, as the world started to shut down, because of COVID, everybody was discovering, you know, I watched planet Earth. I watched the gentleman who has been doing that his whole life, the journalist and he had come out with a movie called my last will and testament. And David Attenborough and he talked about, you know, in the 70s, we were at about 50% green space left on the planet and it’s been diminishing. Right? And I think it was 70% I’d have to go back. But that resonated with me because I was sitting there because I live in one of those green spaces and that’s by choice. I choose to live. My homestead sits right across from pretty much Rocky Mountain National Park if you could fly like an eagle. If you didn’t have to take highways to get there. There are 14 mountain peaks that I look at steamboat, Colorado is really only about eight to 10 miles west of the area that I sit in, which gets to the ecosystem. Well, if I build out with eight or nine wind projects, that’s their wildlife population to.
Robert Bryce 45:22
So Well, I appreciate how you talked about that. What would you say then? Okay, one of the questions I’ve written down here, what do you say to people who live in cities? And because, you know, when you look at polling data, right, that wind energy and solar is very popular, you know, 70 80%, solar in particular, very popular when In a Gallup polls, you live in a small, relatively small city, right? Laramie, you said 30,002 hours
Anne Brande 45:49
from Denver, Colorado, that’s what people need to understand. And that’s why I’m important. You know, I go to Denver to go shopping, I travel, my husband is from Oslo, Norway, I met him at the University of Wyoming. I just happen to be one of those folks that like to go to the city for a week max. And then I like to come back to my, my mountains. But you know, those people in the city, did you take your children to Yellowstone? Do you want to drive through industrial development and know for a fact that you saw one bird, and the entire 14 days that you were in Wyoming? Do you want to know that the because when you get rid of biodiversity, you’re also altering the landscape? You know, how are you going to propagate the soil? How are you going to fertilize the soil, I mean, you’re, you’re messing with the balance of seasons, many things are being altered. And as our planet keeps heating up, when development is not going to solve that, if you don’t have any biodiversity law, if you don’t have any green space, it’s, it’s all a hole. It’s not just pieces of the pie. So I would like to have a quick magic bullet for society. And I think that’s the comfort of wind or comfort of solar, right? It’s going to solve everything. But it doesn’t, you know, I’m the mom who brings cloth shopping bags to the store. And every bottle I bought with plastic had to have a triangle on it. And what’s the irony of that we know that triangle was marketing, from the plastics industry to make me think it would be recycled. But not all of it was recycled, was it. But I meticulously saved all of it till I read an article. Right. But you don’t put wrongly cited industrial development up, you need to keep green space, you need to keep habitat intact. And not just rapid decline. Do we really want to do this in this area?
Robert Bryce 47:59
So what would you say to them? So what’s your I’m adamantly pro nuclear? I’ll put my cards on the table. So if you if you were, if you were the energy czar? What would you say is the way forward then if it if you’re obviously critical of these wind projects in these locations? what’s the way forward if you had an ad to pick what what how we’re going to provide the energy and power we need for the modern economy?
Anne Brande 48:23
Well, Wyoming’s having that conversation right now, you know, we wish that we could put the natrium nuclear plant up as soon as possible. But now you have the problem of, of getting the the structure builds, and also getting the uranium that you need, which is ironic, because Wyoming has uranium, but not the uranium that they use. I’m not against energy. I’m, I’m using zoom with you today. I am against, we keep consuming more and more and more. Now we’re growing. Humanity is growing. So of course, we’re going to consume more, but that’s a whole nother conversation. We’re consuming vast quantities of everything, and we need to slow down. Just because I drive an electric car doesn’t mean I can, you know, consume more I can. Or if I have a hybrid, it doesn’t mean that I need to travel more or drive more. I mean, we continue to exceed limits. Okay, right.
Robert Bryce 49:28
So let’s, let’s shift here. And I think we’ve covered this pretty well. And we’re coming not quite to an hour yet, but I think you’ve stated your case pretty well. And I want to direct people to the Albany County Conservancy, and I’ll give that information in just a minute. But I want to wrap up because I think you know, you’ve you’ve presented a compelling case and major arguments for why you’re opposing these many different wind projects in southern Wyoming. So I’ll ask you the questions I ask all of my guests who come on the podcast where rereading what is it? What books are at the top of your mentioned Crazy Horse? What books are at the top of your book pile these days?
Anne Brande 50:07
So when I heard about rail tie when I went back and finally slow down, and I read green grass of Wyoming, and I read my friend Flicka, why my friend Flicka is what opened up Wyoming tourism.
Robert Bryce 50:23
I mean that I don’t know that book. What is that book? I’m sorry,
Anne Brande 50:26
my friend, Flicka. It’s about a boy and a horse. It was written in the late 30s, early 40s. Okay. It’s been made in the four Hollywood movies. Oh, wow. Okay. And it’s right where rail tie will sit.
Robert Bryce 50:44
And real tie would be north of Laramie. I’m looking at the map here, just south, close to straight south of Laramie, close to the buttes then or on top of 287. Yeah, it
Anne Brande 50:55
would sit between the buttes and, you know, 12 Miles most from the northern Colorado State Line. I gotcha. Okay. And that, by the way, is the oldest section of Wyoming territory, the oldest ranch in Wyoming, sits right in the middle of that project. It’s called the double axe.
Robert Bryce 51:19
Anne Brande 51:22
work made me realize that, you know, back in the 30s, and 40s, society did grasp wildlife. I mean, the number one read that books been translated into six languages. I used to have Japanese tourists stand outside my historic portrait studio and take pictures because they had read my friend Flicka in Japanese. Well, so I went back and slowed down and read it. You know, but it gets to how people understood wildlife migration in the Rockies at that time, but now, we think the deer in our front yard lives in our front yard. That’s not the case. Got it that deer travels up to, you know, 500 volts or more?
Robert Bryce 52:08
Should my last question and what gives you hope?
Anne Brande 52:12
Oh, my gosh, my children, my beautiful sunrises and sunsets. The fact that with all the snow we’ve gotten this winter, in the Laramie Valley, we sit at 100% of our snowpack, which means we aren’t in drought. We were supposed to not be existing. We were supposed to have no biodiversity by now. I mean, they were predicting some of the books that were mentioned in that 60 minutes show that we would be hitting this point in the mid 70s. Well, we didn’t Did we were humans, we’re resilient. We can adapt, which is why it’s not okay to just turn over this conversation to companies who have intent of a bottom line. You know, I would like to see more innovation, you know, design, a wind turbine that doesn’t kill, don’t just make them bigger and taller. Part of the concern about wind development and in this area with there’s eight or nine projects is their maritime, we’re looking at turbines the height of the Eiffel Tower. When you look at Rock Creek, you bet that’s going to strike eagles. I don’t know how you wouldn’t strike an eagle with that. I would like to see more innovation. I would like to see people have a conversation with anyone that they can to educate, you know, they’re in a small community. There are so many people in my community there are ranchers who are fearful. They may have been contacted to be a LISI until told all their neighbors had signed on Wyoming’s a checkerboard. So honestly, if you look at these projects, very few ranchers were li C’s because a portion of the project would sit on county, state and federal land that’s what’s empowering that right. The more we talk about it, the stronger we become. Well, I love that developments, bad development, good developments, good development, how are we going to know one from the other if we just sign off our destiny to someone else?
Robert Bryce 54:29
Well, I liked that. The more we talk about it, the stronger we become and I think that’s a good place to to draw this to an end and my guest has been an brand she is the founder of the Albany County Conservancy. That’s all many Wyoming County, not New York. She is based in Laramie, Wyoming and she is a photographer and a passionate advocate for biodiversity as we have just learned over the past 55 minutes or so. You can find out more about her at the Albany County conservancy.org online And thank you for coming on the power hungry podcast been a pleasure.
Anne Brande 55:03
Thank you very much.
Robert Bryce 55:05
And all you in podcast land. Thanks for tuning in to this episode of the power hungry podcast. If you’re so inclined to leave us a positive review on your local podcast outlet or follow us on YouTube, Robert bryce.tv is on YouTube. You can find all the podcasts there as well. So until the next episode of the power hungry podcast see you