Keep White Pines wind turbines out of Important Bird and Biodiversity Area, says Nature Canada

OTTAWA (May 14, 2014) - Ontario should refuse to authorize wind turbine development in the Important Bird and Biodiversity Area and other environmentally sensitive habitats in Prince Edward County, say Nature Canada and Ontario Nature in official comments to the Ontario Environmental Registry about the White Pines Wind Inc. project in Prince Edward County.

“While it is important that the renewable energy sector continues to expand in Canada, this must not be done at the expense of biodiversity,” says Nature Canada’s interim executive director Stephen Hazell. “The Ministry of the Environment needs to send wpd Canada Corporation, the proponent of the White Pines Wind Project, back to the drawing board. In its permit application, wpd failed to recognize that key species at risk such as golden eagles and whippoorwills are present on the project site, let alone address the project’s adverse impacts and propose mitigation measures. This is despite the fact that wpd’s own consultants found both of these species on site.”

The White Pines Wind Project is a 29-turbine wind farm proposed for southern Prince Edward County in the Eastern Lake Ontario Basin. Twelve turbines would be on Long Point, the easternmost peninsula of Prince Edward County, within an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area. Another six turbines are in and around an adjacent significant wetland feature. The area is famous for its wide variety of rare wildlife.

The Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) program is an international conservation initiative coordinated by BirdLife International. IBAs are discrete sites that support the world’s birds by providing habitat for threatened birds, large groups of birds, and birds that need special types of habitat to survive. There are 600 IBAs in Canada and more than 12,000 IBAs worldwide.

Both Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner and a Senate committee have concluded that wind projects should not be located in IBAs. In spite of this, about two thirds of Canada’s IBAs do not have legally protected status and are vulnerable to development projects like White Pines.

Normally, when proponents seek to develop an area, they hire surveyors to identify its natural features and wildlife. They use this information to anticipate how the project could harm wildlife—especially at-risk wildlife. Next, they develop a strategy to minimize that harm through mitigation. wpd’s consultants visited Prince Edward County and found numerous Golden Eagles, Whippoorwills, and two Peregrine Falcons—all species at risk in Ontario. However, upon review of wpd’s environmental report, this information is nowhere to be found.

“Frankly, we’re at a loss. How could wpd possibly fail to include golden eagles and whippoorwills in its Natural Heritage Assessment?” Says Ted Cheskey, Nature Canada’s Manager of Bird Conservation. “wpd must have known that the permit for the nearby proposed Ostrander Wind Project was overturned by the Environmental Review Tribunal on the basis of serious and irreversible harm to another species at risk, the Blanding’s Turtle.”

The project is currently being reviewed by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment.

About Nature Canada and Ontario Nature

Nature Canada is the oldest nature conservation charity in Canada. Over the past 75 years, Nature Canada has helped protect over 63 million acres of parks and wildlife areas in Canada and the countless species that depend on this habitat. Today, we represent a network of over 45,000 members and supporters and more than 350 nature organizations in every province across Canada.

Nature Canada supported the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists’ (PECFN) appeal to overturn a decision of the Ministry of the Environment to build a wind farm in a globally significant IBA at Ostrander Point.

Ontario Nature is a charitable organization representing more than 30,000 members and supporters and almost 150 member groups from across Ontario. Ontario Nature protects wild species and wild spaces through conservation, education and public engagement.

Media Contacts

Ted Cheskey, Manager of Bird Conservation Programs, Nature Canada, 613-562-3447 ext. 227 or 613-323-3331, tcheskey@naturecanada.ca

Monica Tanaka, Communications Coordinator, Nature Canada, 613-562-3447 ext 241, mtanaka@naturecanada.ca