From Mother Nature Network's Russell McLendon:

A proposed wind farm in southern Wyoming may soon become the largest of its kind anywhere in North America, according to U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who authorized the project Tuesday during a visit to Cheyenne.

The Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project would include up to 1,000 wind turbines that could generate an estimated 3,000 megawatts, or enough to power nearly 1 million homes, Salazar told a crowd at Laramie County Community College. Salazar's approval is needed because most of the 220,000-acre project is on federal land — and, combined with previously approved projects, it also fulfills a promise President Obama made in this year's State of the Union speech.

"Wyoming has some of the best wind energy resources in the world, and there's no doubt that this project has the potential to be a landmark example for the nation," Salazar said Tuesday. "President Obama challenged us in his State of the Union address to authorize 10,000 megawatts of renewable energy on our public lands by the end of the year — enough to meet the needs of more than 3 million homes — and today we are making good on that promise."

The wind farm is expected to create 1,000 temporary construction jobs, according to estimates from the Bureau of Land Management, as well as 114 permanent jobs in operations and maintenance. It will generate $300 million in property-tax revenue for Carbon County over its first 20 years, the BLM adds, as well as $232 million from sales taxes and $150 million from a state wind-electricity tax.

Tuesday's approval is just the beginning, though, since the project still must pass a series environmental reviews. The OK from Salazar authorizes the BLM to proceed with site-specific reviews for the Sierra Madre Wind Farm, the Chokecherry Wind Farm, an internal haul road linking the two sites, a 230-kilovolt transmission line, a rail distribution facility, and substations to feed the electrical grid. More environmental reviews will also be needed for specific turbine layout, the BLM notes.

chokecherry sierra madre wind project

A map of the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project. (Image: BLM)

Roadwork and other preliminary construction could begin next year, developers tell the Associated Press, followed by installation of some wind turbines in 2014. Rather than installing all 1,000 turbines at once, the project will likely unfold with 300 to 400 new turbines per year, according to Power Company of Wyoming CEO Bill Miller. "We can accelerate that to some degree, or we could slow it up to some degree, depending on what the requirements are at any given point," he tells the AP.

While the wind farm could boost the local economy and curb demand for fossil fuels, it has also ruffled some feathers among conservationists. Poorly designed or sited wind turbines can kill birds and bats, and in a joint statement released Wednesday, the American Bird Conservancy and the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance argued this project will threaten golden eagles. "This project should be sited elsewhere, such as the High Plains to the east of the Laramie Range," said BCA biologist Erik Molvar, "where it would have had minimal impacts on rare and sensitive wildlife."

But Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, insists his agency is working with the BLM to consider wildlife safety. "Wind energy is important for our nation's economic health and security, as well as the health of our environment," Ashe said in a statement. "We're working to evaluate these projects at a landscape-level, ensuring that species' needs are met along with renewable energy production goals."

For more information about the project, check out this fact sheet from the BLM.

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  • The blades of turbines on a wind farm catch the wind 10 August 2007 in front of Aegean Sea on Evia island, off the eastern coast of Greece. Under pressure from the European Union and the terms of the Kyoto Protocol to cut its current reliance on lignite (brown coal) for energy production, Greece has green-lighted several wind farm projects since January. The wind farms are expected to reduce a national energy deficit that currently forces Greece to import electricity from neighbouring countries, mainly Bulgaria and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, according to a recent report by the state Regulatory Authority for Energy (RAE). ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/GettyImages

  • WITTINGEN, GERMANY - APRIL 23: A modern, electricity-producing wind turbine (L) spins near an old and defunct windmill next to a country road on April 23, 2012 near Wittingen, Germany. Germany is investing heavily in renewable energy sources and has hundreds of wind farms across the country. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

  • View of a wind turbine near Kisielice in northern Poland, on June 23, 2011. In Poland's historic Gdansk Shipyard, the winds of change are blowing again. Now, the 1980 birthplace of the Solidarity freedom movement which peacefully toppled communism in Poland in 1989 is aiming to spin profits from Europe's green energy revolution by building on and offshore wind turbine towers. JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images

  • Wind turbines operate near a barley field in the town of Feldheim, Brandenburg, June 20, 2011. Energiequelle GmbH and the 145 residents of Feldheim, a so-called ' energy independent' community, have endeavored to break free from fossil fuel, with a mix of renewable resources--wind, biogas, and solar, and have created their own heat and electricity networks. JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images

  • SIEBENHAUSEN, GERMANY - AUGUST 20: Wind turbines spin to produce electricity on August 20, 2010 in Siebenhausen near Bitterfeld, Germany. Germany is investing heavily in renewable energy production, including wind power and solar, and is seeking to produce 30% of its electricity nationwide with renewables by 2020. (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)

  • SELBY, ENGLAND - AUGUST 24: Recently installed wind turbines generate electricty in the shadow of Drax, Europe's biggest coal fired power station, on August 24, 2010 in Selby, England. The Rusholme wind farm will create 24 Mega Watts when fully operational in comparison to Drax which creates 3,960 Mega Watts. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

  • SELBY, ENGLAND - AUGUST 24: Recently installed wind turbines generate electricty in the shadow of Drax, Europe's biggest coal fired power station, on August 24, 2010 in Selby, England. The Rusholme wind farm will create 24 Mega Watts when fully operational in comparison to Drax which creates 3,960 Mega Watts. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

  • This picture taken on August 25, 2010 shows a windfarm on the outskirts of Beijing. China has leapfrogged the United States to become the most attractive market for renewable investment this year, says global accounting firm Ernst & Young in a report published in September and is the most attractive market for investment in wind power after Beijing announced plans to launch 90,000 mega-watts of wind capacity by 2015, the report said. PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images

  • Wind turbines are pictured in the village of Patirnico, a village between Palermo and Trapani, on September 15, 2010. The seizure of a record 1.5 billion euros from a Sicilian businessman known as 'Lord of the Wind' on the same day has put the spotlight on Mafia money-laundering through renewable energy ventures. MARCELLO PATERNOSTRO/AFP/Getty Images

  • This photo taken on October 29, 2010 shows wind turbines in the Ngong hills, some 25 kms south-west of Nairobi, which are owned and run by Kenya's main power generating company KENGEN. The majority of Kenyans are unwilling to abandon their traditional energy sources in favour of cleaner or renewable ones unless their incomes rise significantly, a study has found. TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images

  • This photo taken on October 29, 2010 shows wind turbines in the Ngong hills, some 25 kms south-west of Nairobi, which are owned and run by Kenya's main power generating company KENGEN. The majority of Kenyans are unwilling to abandon their traditional energy sources in favour of cleaner or renewable ones unless their incomes rise significantly, a study has found. TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images

  • ROEDGEN, GERMANY - AUGUST 20: A combine harvester drives through a wheat field near a wind turbine at sunset on August 20, 2010 in Roedgen near Bitterfeld, Germany. Germany is investing heavily in renewable energy production, including wind power and solar, and is seeking to produce 30% of its electricity nationwide with renewables by 2020. (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)

  • PROESITZ, GERMANY - AUGUST 19: Wind turbines spin to produce electricity on August 19, 2010 near Proesitz, Germany. Germany is investing heavily in renewable energy production, including wind power and solar, and is seeking to produce 30% of its electricity nationwide with renewables by 2020. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

  • A picture taken on May 21, 2010 shows a windmill near Saint-Seine l'Abbaye, eastern France. JEFF PACHOUD/AFP/Getty Images

  • A picture taken on May 21, 2010 shows a windmill near Saint-Seine l'Abbaye, eastern France. JEFF PACHOUD/AFP/Getty Images

  • Sheep graze close to electricity generating wind turbines as a rainbow is seen in the background on July, 26 2010 near the northern German town of Husum. JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images

  • A man rides a horse next to wind generators in Cogealac, 250km east from Bucharest, on August 2, 2010. Romania's decision to open its wind-power market has triggered fierce competition among investors, several of whom target the Dobroudja region, described by experts as the second-best choice in Europe. DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP/Getty Images

  • A Moroccan flag flies next to a wind turbine on June 28, 2010 at a 250-million-euro (300 million US dollar) wind farm near Tangiers shortly after its inauguration by Moroccan King Mohammed VI. The farm in Melloussa, 34 kms (21 miles) from Tangiers in northern Morocco, has 165 turbines, with a production capacity of 140 megawatts. The project was part-financed by the European Bank, which invested 80 million euros, while Spanish and German banks put in a total of 150 million euros. ABDELHAK SENNA/AFP/Getty Images

  • A wind park can be seen as morning breaks in Copenhagen on December 13, 2009. The COP15 climate summit continues with rich countries being asked to raise their pledges on tackling climate change under a draft text of a possible final deal at the Copenhagen summit. AXEL SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images

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  • ROCHDALE, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 16: The turbine sails of the Scout Moor Wind Farm in the South Pennines dominate the skyline on November 16, 2009 in Rochdale, United Kingdom. As world leaders prepare to gather for the Copenhagen Climate Summit in December, the resolve of the industrial nations seems to be weakening with President Obama stating that it would be impossible to reach a binding deal at the summit. Climate campaigners are concerned that this disappointing announcement is a backward step ahead of the summit. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

  • A picture taken on November 5, 2009 shows cars and people passing near wind power turbines in Dali, in the China's southwestern Yunnan province. In energy-hungry China's southwestern Yunnan province, power is being produced at wind farms, dams and garbage dumps as the Asian giant adopts more 'green' technology thanks to carbon trading. LIU JIN/AFP/Getty Images

  • Westmill Wind Farm Co-op, the first onshore wind farm to be built in the south-east of England is pictured in Watchfield near Swindon, on December 5, 2008. The wind farm produces enough green electricity to power more than 2,500 homes whilst saving the emissions of carbon dioxide. ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images

  • PALM SPRINGS, CA - MAY 13: Giant wind turbines are powered by strong prevailing winds on May 13, 2008 near Palm Springs, California. A US government report released this week concludes that wind energy could generate 20 percent of the electricity produced in the US by 2030, as much as is currently provided by nuclear reactors. Although wind energy constitutes only about 1 percent of the electricity of the nation, wind energy is experiencing a growth spurt with an increase of 45 percent jump last year. The report envisions more than 75,000 new wind turbines, many of them bigger than those in use today, and many of them in offshore waters to increase production from the current 16,000 megawatts of power to 300,000 megawatts. The report does not predict that such growth will actually occur but rather that it is possible. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

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