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A Truly Green Proposal
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A Truly Green Proposal

[caption id="attachment_26918" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Blair Scott Blair Scott,
Guest Blogger[/caption] This blog is written by Guest Blogger, Blair Scott.  Prince Edward County has been described as Ontario’s go-to ecotourism destination. Its distinctive soils give life to renowned and award-winning wines! Its high proportion of globally-rare alvar habitat supports an abundance of specially-adapted plants and wildflowers, such as the endangered Four-leaved Milkweed. It is home to a globally-recognized Important Bird Area (IBA), and its Prince Edward Point site has seen a recorded 298 bird species over the years! Furthermore, the south shore contains at least 30 of Ontario’s listed species-at-risk. In sum, it is an excellent candidate for protective environmental status! Located about two hours east from Toronto, ON, Prince Edward County’s south shore is one of few Lake Ontario patches to remain free from disturbance – and this freedom has been the pivotal factor keeping its flourishing biodiversity in-tact. Nestled within its 279.31 square kilometre territory are several sites of integral ecological value:

Click here for a full gallery of critical species-at-risk on Prince Edward County’s south shore!Image of species at risk near PRince Edward County Nature Canada is looking to initiate either a National Wildlife Area (NWA) or a National Marine Conservation Area (NMCA) on the south shore of Prince Edward County. It is understood that the region’s current IBA-designation does not serve as sufficient protection against industrial developments. Prince Edward County residents were expressly concerned about the detrimental impacts wind turbine development would have on the county’s ecosystem. Specifically, they cited the risks it would pose to the threatened Blanding’s Turtle and the thousands of migratory birds that pass through the area. Their environmentally-conscious determination gave rise to Save the South Shore – a local movement against wind turbine construction on the south shore. Luckily, the concerted efforts of the Board of the Prince Edward County South Shore Conservancy, along with the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists, led to a halt on the project in the spring of 2015. After learning about the Save the South Shore movement, I was left with the content feeling of knowing that there are people out there who care more about preserving what’s left than furthering human development. These residents were not opposed to renewable energy; they simply saw biodiversity and conservation as a more important and necessary priority. Ultimately, they felt that Prince Edward County – with all of its tourist attractions and treasures – was the wrong place for this scale of a project. Nature Canada is adamant that a more official conservation status be made to protect the south shore of Prince Edward County. In doing so, it is hoped that industries will not look to places of high ecological significance to construct their projects – even if alternative, more sustainable endeavours, like green energy, are on their agendas. In the arena of strategic interpretation, vague environmental statuses, like “Important Bird Area,” afford too much wiggle-room. Therefore, it is imperative that Canada ensures land designations match the real value at stake.
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Victorious and Glorious:  Ostrander is saved!
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Victorious and Glorious:  Ostrander is saved!

[caption id="attachment_21694" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Ted Cheskey Ted Cheskey
Senior Conservation Manager – Bird Conservation, Education & Networks[/caption] Nature Canada’s moto with regard to wind energy projects is that they should be about “good ideas in good places.” We recognize that many, perhaps most of the existing projects on the land could be considered in this way. However, for the past 7 years we have opposed a project proposed on the Ostrander Point Crown Land Block in Prince Edward County, considering it as the worst example of project siting that we have seen. Nature Canada staff appeared before the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) in 2013 and before the Ontario Appeal Court in 2015 in support of the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists and in opposition to this egregious project. [caption id="attachment_27995" align="alignright" width="238"]Image of Myrna Wood and Ted Cheskey Figure 1: PECFN President Myrna Wood and Nature Canada's Ted Cheskey stroll through the habitats of Ostrander Point[/caption] From our perspective, the location of this project crossed all of the lines. It was proposed: in the centre of a globally significant Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas, within a candidate Life Sciences Area of Natural and Scientific Interest, on globally imperilled alvar habitat, within the habitat for several species at risk including Blanding’s Turtle and Eastern Whippoorwill, and within one of the most significant migration corridors for birds of prey including Golden Eagle (a record of 64 reporting on one day alone), landbirds, and migrating bats in Eastern Canada. Heck, the MNR even sponsored a plan to restore habitat for the endangered Henslow’s Sparrow on the property around 2000. Most significant is the fact these lands are owned by the Province of Ontario as a Crown Land Block. We used to consider Crown land blocks as secured conservation land and relatively easy additions to address our huge deficit in protected areas in the south of Ontario. With all of these virtues, any sort of development or industrialization seemed absurd to us and our close partners, the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists and Ontario Nature. Yet the proponent and the Ontario Government fought the ERT’s original decision to reject the project from the Tribunal through the Divisional Court and the Ontario Court of Appeal, before it landed back in the lap of the ERT for sober second thought. Well, after three years of circulating through the court system we can breathe a collective sigh of relief and recognize that there is justice in this world in reading the great news from the Tribunal on their Ostrander Point ERT hearing decision. The Tribunal found that “the remedies proposed by Ostrander [Gilead] and the Director are not appropriate in the unique circumstances of this case.  The Tribunal finds that the appropriate remedy . . . is to revoke the Director’s decision to issue the REA [Renewable energy Approval]”.   [caption id="attachment_27996" align="alignleft" width="107"]Image of Hairy Beard's Tongue Figure 2: Hairy Beard's Tongue in Ostrander Alvar[/caption] There were many significant and unequivocal statements in the decision that send clear messages to everyone involved in these hearings. For example, the Tribunal noted the inconsistency with which the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Fisheries (MNRF) has treated these lands – recognizing them as a “candidate” Area of Natural and Scientific Interest” on one hand, while entering into an agreement with the proponent to allow over five kilometres of private roads in prime habitat on the other hand. The Tribunal also noted the relevance in determining “the appropriate remedy that the candidate ANSI has not been evaluated by MNRF to determine if it merits qualification, and any additional protections that would entail; instead, roads will be introduced on this area of Crown land that, in addition to being a candidate Life Sciences ANSI is known critical habitat for species at risk” (many others in addition to Blanding’s Turtle, including a significant population of Eastern Whippoorwill). Most importantly, the decision noted that “although the promotion of renewable energy and its related benefits, and streamlining approvals are important factors in consideration of the public interest, the Tribunal finds that not proceeding with this nine wind turbine Project in this location best serves the general and renewable energy approval purposes in sections 3(1) and 47.2 (1) of the EPA, the public interest under 47.5 and the precautionary principle and ecosystem approach.” Wind energy producers and the Ontario Government need to take notice that there are areas where renewable energy projects are clearly not in the public interest. We call on the provincial government to recognize finally that renewable energy projects are not welcome in critical habitat of species at risk or Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs). [caption id="attachment_27999" align="aligncenter" width="567"]Image of a Blandings Turtle Figure 3 Blanding's Turtle at Ostrander Point[/caption]

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White Pines Wind Project Decision Harmful to Birds and Bats
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White Pines Wind Project Decision Harmful to Birds and Bats

July 22, 2015 (Ottawa) - Nature Canada, Ontario Nature and American Bird Conservancy are extremely disappointed by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment’s decision last week to approve the White Pines Prince Edward County Wind Energy Project in an internationally designated Important Bird Area (IBA). “There are so many things wrong about this decision and the only reasonable conclusion is – that it is bad for nature” said Ted Cheskey, Senior Conservation Manager at Nature Canada. “More populations of species at risk will be put at risk and more critical habitat will be destroyed. Nature Canada is not opposed to the Project as a whole, but several specific turbines should not have been approved. We are also at a loss to understand why the Ministry would approve this project without waiting for the decision of the Environmental Review Tribunal in the Ostrander case.” “We are deeply concerned about the cumulative impacts of the projects proposed along the south shore of Prince Edward County, a significant migratory corridor for birds and bats, and habitat for species at risk like the Blanding’s Turtle.” said Joshua Wise, Ontario Nature’s Greenway Program Manager. “Their local population will struggle to survive the impacts of the proposed network of service roads required for this project. We are all for green energy, but not at the expense of nature. “These are not just Ontario’s birds” said Michael Hutchins, Director of the American Bird Conservancy’s Bird-Smart Wind Energy Campaign. “There is growing concern in the United States that the government of Ontario and Canada’s wind industry is failing to address the serious harm that poorly sited wind energy projects such as this one are causing or will cause to our already stressed shared bird and bat populations.”   -30- About Nature Canada Nature Canada is the oldest national nature organization in Canada with 45,000 members and supporters. Nature Canada’s mission is to protect and conserve Canada’s wildlife by working with people and advocating for nature. In partnership with Bird Studies Canada, Nature Canada is the Canadian partner of BirdLife International. About Ontario Nature Ontario Nature protects Ontario’s wild species and wild spaces through conservation, education and public engagement. Established in 1931, we are a charitable, membership-based conservation organization with over 150 member groups and 30,000 individual members and supporters. About American Bird Conservancy Established in 1994, American Bird Conservancy is a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit membership organization whose mission is to conserve native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. ABC acts by safeguarding the rarest species, conserving and restoring habitats, and reducing threats, while building capacity in the bird conservation movement. ABC’s work has resulted in the establishment of 65 international bird reserves, with over 990,000 acres protected, and 3.5 million trees and shrubs planted to enhance bird habitat. Media Contacts Ted Cheskey Senior Conservation Manager Nature Canada Tel: 613-323-3331 tcheskey@naturecanada.ca Joshua Wise Greenway Program Manager Ontario Nature Tel: 416-444-8419 joshuaw@ontarionature.org Michael Hutchins Director of the Bird-Smart Wind Energy Campaign American Bird Conservancy Tel: 202-888-7485 MHutchins@abcbirds.org

Keep White Pines wind turbines out of Important Bird and Biodiversity Area, says Nature Canada
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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. [separator headline="h2" title="About Nature Canada and Ontario Nature"] Nature Canada is the oldest national 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. [separator headline="h2" title="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

Deadline to comment on White Pines Wind Farm approaches
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Deadline to comment on White Pines Wind Farm approaches

This Saturday, May 10th, is the deadline for public comment on the proposed White Pines Wind Farm in southern Prince Edward County, Ontario. This expansive wind energy project anticipates 29 turbines, many of which are located in the Prince Edward County South Shore Important Bird Area and directly adjacent to Ostrander Point. The proponent has thousands of pages of documents on their website as part of their government application for a Renewable Energy Permit. Nature Canada opposes wind turbines in the IBA. These turbines will damage wetlands and globally rare alvar habitat, and threaten many species including migrating swallows, Purple Martins and raptors, and the at-risk Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark, Whippoorwill and Blanding’s Turtle. Other elements of the project—those outside the IBA and significant habitat—are more likely to have a minimal impact on wildlife. There are also many other areas in Prince Edward County where turbines could operate without posing a serious risk. We strongly believe that turbines should be kept out of Ontario’s wildlife hotspots. If this is something you feel strongly about, you can voice your opinions using the Ontario government’s Environmental Registry. The Registry is key tool for democratizing the environmental review process. It gives Canadians a unique opportunity to share their views about development projects with the Ministry of the Environment. You can submit your comments to the Ministry here. The deadline to comment on the White Pines project is May 10, 2014. Going forward, we will see the effects of the Ontario government’s recent amendments to the Ontario’s environmental regulations, and how public participation in environmental review will be compromised. Proponents of wind projects no longer require species at risk permits, and without the public permitting process, species at risk reports are now off the public record. For us at Nature Canada, this raises serious concerns about accountability and the public right to participate in decisions that could very well transform our landscapes. With an Ontario election on the horizen, we encourage Ontarians who care about nature to press their candidates on the issue of weakened environmental protections. Together, we can push for environmental standards that will make renewable energy projects like White Pines truly green.

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