Farm Press Blog

Like agriculture, bats need better PR


Much like the American farmer, bats seem to suffer from the same amount of disrespect from Washington and state capitols, while a tiny bait fish grabs up all the spotlight.

It is utterly amazing how underwater turbines that move water to millions of acres of productive farmland can be immediately shut down because of a small bait fish present in nearby waters, but wind turbines that kill millions of flying creatures are somehow exempt from similar consideration.

The Fort Collins Science Center of the U.S. Geological Survey is studying why bats are killed by wind turbines. More on the ridiculousness of this in a moment.

In his “Bless the bats of agriculture” blog, my colleague Chris Bennett highlights studies pointing to the importance of the bat population to agriculture. In short, these tiny winged mammals consume millions of crop-destroying pests during their mealtime flights, providing a valuable service to the ecosystem and reducing the amount of chemical pesticides needed for pest control.

According to the USGS, “dead bats are turning up beneath wind turbines all over the world.” A separate article suggests that German wind turbines are responsible for countless thousands of bird deaths annually, including an estimated 250,000 bats per year.

The ironic comedy continues. Scientists actually asked the following: “Why are so many bats colliding with turbines compared to their infrequent crashes with other tall, human-made structures?”

One could ask the very same question of the delta smelt. “Why are so many delta smelt colliding with turbines compared to their infrequent crashes with other under water structures?” Where’s the multi-million dollar study on this?

What makes the delta smelt, a tiny fish found in the San Joaquin River Delta so valuable to nature, yet the bat is all but ignored? Countless thousands of acres of productive farmland that would otherwise be used to feed human beings around the world sits fallow because of a fish that has no arguable purpose but filling the bellies of bass in the San Joaquin River Delta.

Yet, because these tiny aquatic wildlife sometimes wind up in the pumps that move water to San Joaquin Valley farms, politicians order the pumps shut down. Maybe California agriculture needs to join the environmental bat lobby and combine forces to reverse this travesty.

Following the premise that wind turbines serve a larger, utilitarian purpose that benefits mankind, shouldn’t it then follow that the pumps responsible for moving water along to the farms that feed the world likewise serve a greater, utilitarian purpose for mankind?

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