The benefits of wind power are clear in Wyoming. A similar Idaho project deserves a fair shake.

Wind power has been a good thing for our community, and I hope local elected leaders in the Magic Valley don’t cave into fear-mongering, writes guest columnist Mark Eisele.

October 10, 2022 4:15 am
Power County Idaho wind farm

Idaho’s wind production grew from 207,000 MWh at the end of 2008 to a total of more than 2,655,000 MWh in 2018 (or 1,000 MW), according to the Governor’s Office of Energy and Mineral Resources. Wind power generated about 15% of Idaho’s net electricity in 2018, provided by nearly 550 wind turbines at utility-scale wind facilities, including this wind farm in Power County, according to the office. (Courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy)

As a rancher with cattle on private and public lands in southeast Wyoming, I’d like to caution those in the Magic Valley who may be listening to the loudest and often misinformed voices who are opposed to the Lava Ridge wind project. Energy options, including wind, have greatly benefited where I live and work, in Laramie County.

My experience with wind projects near and on my ranch has been positive since 2007, when the first turbines went in. It took four years of negotiations, but since then, it has expanded, and again, with no negative impacts. One concern was with water use, and the wind farm uses none. Another was detrimental effects on livestock health, again — there were none.

Wind has been great for my ranch and had minimal effect on my public lands grazing. Hunting remains excellent and accessible, if not better because of the power company’s mitigation and restoration efforts, including carefully building roads we can access and use to check cattle. We’ve seen more wildlife than ever before in my lifetime over the past 15 years now that wind power has been a part of the landscape. The wind company reclamation, when done, had established new grass and drainage control even with the drought. I know that may sound shocking, but it’s true, and I hope it gives people in Idaho some sense of security.

Welcoming wind energy provided my ranch with more water resources, stock troughs, fencing and a whole lot of other improvements to keep us safer from rangeland fire and improve the environment around us. We’ve even brought two of our adult children back home to our ranch to work alongside me, and because of the additional income, we’ve expanded the ranch, maintaining more open space.

As the new infrastructure goes in, there are some minor inconveniences during construction but ultimately, the power company didn’t abuse grazing land nor did they create any unnecessary new roads or trails that harmed wildlife, sage or native grasses. If offset mitigation for livestock grazing is agreed upon by the developer, BLM, and permittees this can work.  My wife serves as the county treasurer in Laramie County, and she’s seen huge improvements to the public coffers, allowing them to invest more in schools, roads and parks.

Our city even started its own ranch with support from wind power revenues. It’s a publicly owned ranch that now has preserved open space, and it means the city won’t face pressure to develop it. If everyone comes to the table for honest and open minded discussion, then a good outcome is possible. Wind power has been a good thing for our community, and I hope local elected leaders in the Magic Valley will give it a fair shake and not cave into fear-mongering.

Lava Ridge Wind Project map
The Lava Ridge Wind Project is proposed for southcentral Idaho, just northeast from Twin Falls. (Courtesy of the Bureau of Land Managment)

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Mark Eisele
Mark Eisele

Mark Eisele is the vice president of National Cattlemen's Beef Association. He lives in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where his family runs the historic King Ranch with Red and Black Angus cow-calf pairs, retained yearlings that sell into branded programs, and a custom haying operation. Only five miles from Cheyenne's city limits, the ranch deals with municipalities, population growth, energy development and business park pressures. Mark has been married to his wife, Trudy, for 39 years, and has three adult children - Colton, Kendall, and Kaycee. Together they enjoy working the family operation, as well as outdoor recreation, hunting, volunteering for organizations, and cruising in their classic cars.