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Saskatchewan Takes Major Steps to Protect Wildlife and Promote Renewable Energy
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Saskatchewan Takes Major Steps to Protect Wildlife and Promote Renewable Energy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (OTTAWA—Sept 20, 2016)— Yesterday was a momentous day in Saskatchewan for wildlife protection and renewable energy. On the same day the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment rejected the controversial Chaplin Lake wind energy project, they introduced new Provincial wind energy siting guidelines. American Bird Conservancy, Nature Canada, and Nature Saskatchewan applaud the Government of Saskatchewan for their progressive leadership on wind energy development and wildlife protection. “Nature Canada supports appropriately sited wind energy development, and these guidelines establish a new standard in Canada for protecting wildlife while providing the industry much needed clear direction on how to avoid costly conflicts and delays,” says Ted Cheskey, Senior Manager for Nature Canada. The guidelines set out clear “no-go” zones for wind developers that, for the first time in Canada, include Important Bird Areas with five-kilometre buffers around them, as well as many other natural features of high significance. The guidelines also include clear language that directs developers to avoid siting projects on native prairie. “We are thrilled about the Government of Saskatchewan’s decision and the new guidelines,” says Jordan Ignatiuk of Nature Saskatchewan. “Bird conservation has made a big leap forward, thanks to these new provincial guidelines.” “When it comes to wind energy, placement is everything. Large, commercial wind energy facilities should not be built in major migratory routes, breeding areas, or other sensitive habitats for wildlife, such as wetlands,” says Dr. Michael Hutchins, Director of American Bird Conservancy’s Bird-Smart Wind Energy Campaign “There are plenty of other places wind turbines can go that will result in fewer birds killed. ABC recognizes that Canada and the United States share billion of migratory birds, and that we need to work more closely together for their conservation,” adds Hutchins. Grassland birds and shorebirds, species for which the Chaplin Lake area is of great importance, are in serious trouble, based on recent reports such as the State of North American Birds and the Partners in Flight 2016 Report. “This is exactly the type of action that is needed to meaningfully start helping the species in trouble,” says Cheskey. -30- For more information please contact: Nature Canada Ted Cheskey, tcheskey@naturecanada.ca, Senior Conservation Manager, (613) 323-3331 American Bird Conservancy Michael Hutchins, Ph.D. Director, Bird-Smart Wind Energy Campaign, (202) 888-7485, mhutchins@abcbirds.org Nature Saskatchewan Jordan Ignatiuk, Executive Director, (306)780-9293 office, (306) 551-0152 cell For further media assistance, please contact: Janet Weichel McKenzie 613-808-4642 jweichelmckenze@gmail.com About Nature Canada Nature Canada is the oldest national nature conservation charity in Canada. Over the past 75 years, we’ve 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 & supporters and more than 350 nature organizations in every province across Canada. About American Bird Conservancy American Bird Conservancy is the Western Hemisphere's bird conservation specialist—the only organization with a single and steadfast commitment to achieving conservation results for native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With a focus on efficiency and working in partnership, we take on the toughest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on sound science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation.

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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A partial victory for Nature and the Prince Edward County South Shore IBA
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A partial victory for Nature and the Prince Edward County South Shore IBA

[caption id="attachment_21694" align="alignleft" width="150"]Ted Cheskey Senior Conservation Manager – Bird Conservation, Education & Networks Ted Cheskey
Senior Conservation Manager – Bird Conservation, Education & Networks[/caption] On February 26, the Environmental Review Tribunal ruled on the challenge of the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County (APPEC) to the Renewable Energy Permit issued to White Pines Wind Inc. The Tribunal accepted APPEC’s arguments that the project, with its 27 industrial wind turbines along Lake Ontario, would cause serious and irreversible harm to Blanding’s Turtle and Little Brown Bat populations. The Tribunal also recognized that the project “presents a significant risk of serious harm to migrating birds” and that “clearly the Project site is poorly chosen from a migratory bird perspective.” However, the Tribunal determined that the project would not cause serious and irreversible harm to bird populations. Nature Canada applauds APPEC, and the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists in particular, for leading the charge to protect the shores and offshore waters of the globally significant Prince Edward County South Shore Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA). The IBA is of great significance to many different groups of species including waterfowl offshore, migratory birds that use the entire south shore as stopover habitat and species at risk including Whippoorwill, Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark and Golden Eagle. [caption id="attachment_26704" align="alignright" width="300"]Image of wind turbines Wind Turbines on Wolfe Island. Photo by Ted Cheskey[/caption] However, the Tribunal ruled in favour of the Permit Holder in deciding that the impact on these species would likely be insignificant and could easily be offset by compensatory habitat and mitigation. With regard to Whippoorwill, a nocturnal aerial insectivore that has lost over 75% of its population in Canada since 1970, it is most unfortunate that the Tribunal did not take a precautionary approach in its decision, as the Tribunal did recognize that there is an evidence gap as to whether the compensatory habitat would be of any value for Whippoorwill. Instead, the Tribunal seemed to base its decision on the fact that Whippoorwill has not been reported as a collision casualty with wind turbines ever in Canada. The Tribunal appears to have put less weight on the fact that the industrialization of the area could render it unsuitable for the species. The area of the undertaking for this project has a strong breeding population of Whippoorwill, which is isolated from other regional breeding populations on the Canadian Shield north of Belleville. The Tribunal also accepted the argument of the Permit Holder’s experts that risk to migratory birds could be mitigated and did not pose a serious threat, despite its acknowledgement, as previously noted, that “the Project site is poorly chosen from a migratory bird perspective.” The Tribunal decision and its earlier decision on the Ostrander project now stand as regrettable precedents for the proposition that wind projects do not cause serious and irreversible harm to migratory bird populations or avian species at risk. Countering the professional consultants engaged by the wind energy industry is clearly a challenge to the local groups such as APPEC who lack the proponent’s financial resources. This makes it all the more impressive that the APPEC did convince the Tribunal that the project would cause serious and irreversible impacts to the Blanding’s Turtle and Little Brown Bat.

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Ontario Environment Ministry turns its back on birds . . . again . . . says Environment Commissioner
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Ontario Environment Ministry turns its back on birds . . . again . . . says Environment Commissioner

[caption id="attachment_21694" align="alignleft" width="150"]Ted Cheskey  Senior Conservation Manager – Bird Conservation, Education & Networks Ted Cheskey
Senior Conservation Manager – Bird Conservation, Education & Networks[/caption] In 2013, then Ontario Environment Commissioner Gord Miller stated that industrial-scale wind energy projects should be excluded from Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA). Since then, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) approved two major projects in extremely well-known and highly significant eastern Ontario IBAs – one on Amherst Island and a second on the south shore of Prince Edward County. Another wind energy project at Ostrander Point, also located within an IBA with globally rare alvar habitat and rich in threatened species such as Blanding’s Turtle and Whippoorwill, may also be approved soon. The MOECC has done it again with its shoddy treatment of another serious bird conservation issue, attracting the ire of the interim Environment Commissioner Ellen Schwartzel. The issue this time is birds colliding with windows in Toronto. Environment Canada studies estimate that 25 million birds die annually from collisions with windows in Canada. The Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP) has documented the toll of migrating birds by buildings in Toronto for decades.toronto-412354_1920 This issue is the MOECC handling of a March 2014 request by two applicants under the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993 (EBR), to investigate their allegation that bird collisions caused by reflected light at two Toronto buildings was a contravention of the Environmental Protection Act (EPA). In making their case, the applicants pointed to a February 2013 decision by the Ontario Court of Justice which found that the reflected light from buildings is responsible for bird deaths and is considered a “contaminant” under the EPA. The Commissioner’s Report called Small Things Matter – By the Numbers, includes a section “Fatal Attraction: When Birds Hit Buildings,” in which the Commissioner is highly critical of the MOECC’s handling of the EBR request. The Commissioner has “several major concerns” with the MOECC’s handling of case, calling the MOECC’s disregard for EBR guidelines (a five-month delay for no apparent reason) “inexcusable.” The Commissioner took exception to the MOECC’s reasons for denying the request. “This implies that the Ministry does not consider the adverse effects caused by reflected light (both in general and in the specific alleged contravention) to be serious enough to warrant an EBR investigation. The Commissioner disagreed with such a position; the death and injury of thousands of birds, particularly endangered and threatened species, is a serious issue. The significance of this threat was established in the Ontario court’s 2013 judgement in the bird death case: “to be clear, I do not view the death and injury of hundreds if not thousands of migrating birds as a matter of merely ‘trivial or minimal’ import.” Another concern raised by the Commissioner was with the MOECC’s underlying message in its decision to deny this application that the MOECC will not actively regulate the impacts of reflective buildings on birds. Instead, it appears that the MOECC’s preferred approach is to ignore its regulatory responsibility and leave it up to property owners and managers to voluntarily follow guidelines and suggested strategies. In other words the MOECC seems to be saying that the fact that there are voluntary guidelines available is enough. Whether anyone is using them or not doesn’t matter. [caption id="attachment_23355" align="alignleft" width="300"]Artuso_Canada Warbler_8027_imm Photo of a Canada Warbler by Christian Artuso[/caption] The Commissioner goes on to say that “the bigger, underlying problem . . . is that the Ontario court decision created a regulatory gap that the MOECC has failed to address. . . . If the MOECC had undertaken an investigation, it could have thoughtfully worked through the most appropriate and effective means . . . to address any adverse effects caused by reflections from the buildings named in the application.  . . . . Given the scale of bird mortalities caused by building collisions, the MOECC unequivocally has a role to play in addressing this serious problem.” The Commissioner concludes with this recommendation: "The ECO recommends that the MOECC publicly clarify how it will regulate reflected light from buildings to protect birds, now that an Ontario court has ruled that it is a contaminant under the Environmental Protection Act.” The Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change should be standing up for nature and defending the public interest. In this most recent case, as well as the industrial wind projects on Prince Edward County’s south shore and Amherst Island, the MOECC is sitting down. The victims of their decision are the threatened species of birds, and the people of Ontario whose interests they should be defending. To read more on the Environment Commissioner's thoughts, click here. Email Signup

Amherst Island Wind Project Decision should be overturned
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Amherst Island Wind Project Decision should be overturned

September 1, 2015 - Owls and eagles, swallows and bats will soon run a deadly gauntlet of wind turbines along eastern Lake Ontario if the Amherst Island, White Pines and Ostrander projects go ahead as proposed say Nature Canada, Ontario Nature, the Kingston Field Naturalists, and American Bird Conservancy. "Ontario’s decision last week to approve Windlectric’s 26-turbine project on Amherst Island—one of the province’s crown jewels of nature—is another in a string of ‘tough on nature’ decisions to build wind energy projects in Important Bird Areas in the region" said Stephen Hazell, Nature Canada’s Director of Conservation. "Given Ontario’s failure to consider the cumulative effects of these projects on nature, the Environmental Review Tribunal should overturn the approval of the Amherst Island Project as well as that of White Pines. And given the clear breaches of the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act, the federal government should in future apply its environmental assessment process to wind energy projects." “We fear that that the construction of 35 kilometres of roads on Amherst Island will destroy habitat for species at risk like the Blanding’s Turtle,” said Joshua Wise, Ontario Nature’s Greenway Program Manager. “Amherst has the largest breeding population of the at-risk Short-eared Owl in southern Ontario. During the winter, Amherst supports the largest concentration of owl species of anywhere in eastern North America as far as we know. . We are all for green energy, but not at the expense of nature.” “We cannot ignore this decision” said Michael Hutchins, Director of the American Bird Conservancy’s Bird-Smart Wind Energy Campaign. “The birds and bats that will be killed would be migrating to or from the United States and are a shared resource. They contribute millions of dollars of tourism revenue and ecological services to the U.S., Canada and other countries that may be their winter destinations. There is no regard in this decision for its international implications. We will take a very close look at the spectrum of tools that are available to oppose and overturn this very bad decision.” “The Kingston Field Naturalists (KFN) have been opposing the construction of an industrial wind facility on Amherst Island, in part because the number of birds killed per turbine on nearby Wolfe Island is one of the highest in North America. Ospreys, Red-tailed Hawks, Purple Martins and Wilson Snipe have experienced very high mortality rates. The KFN believe that there will be the same or higher levels of mortality on Amherst that will result in the local extinction of these four species and have irreversible impacts on Eastern Meadowlarks and Bobolinks. Our requests for a radar study of bird and bat migration was ignored and the environmental impact of the project was grossly minimized in their EBR,” said Kurt Hennige president of the Kingston Field Naturalists. -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. Nature Canada is Canadian co-partner of BirdLife International. About Ontario Nature Ontario Nature protects wild species and wild spaces through conservation, education and public engagement. Ontario Nature is a charitable organization representing more than 30,000 members and supporters, and 150 member groups across Ontario. 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. About Kingston Field Naturalists The Kingston Field Naturalists (KFN) is a well-established nature club and charitable organization with about 450 members. Its objectives are the preservation of wildlife, natural habitats and the stimulation of people's interest in nature. Media Contacts Stephen Hazell Director of Conservation Nature Canada Tel: 613 562 3447 ext. 240 shazell@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 Kurt Hennige President Kingston Field Naturalists Tel: 613-876-1804 khennige@xplornet.com

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

Nature Canada and its partners raise their voices in opposition to industrial wind energy projects in fragile IBAs in the eastern end of Lake Ontario.
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Nature Canada and its partners raise their voices in opposition to industrial wind energy projects in fragile IBAs in the eastern end of Lake Ontario.

[caption id="attachment_21694" align="alignleft" width="150"]Ted Cheskey  Senior Conservation Manager – Bird Conservation, Education & Networks Ted Cheskey
Senior Conservation Manager – Bird Conservation, Education & Networks[/caption] In an unprecedented partnership, Nature Canada has been joined by Ontario Nature, the Kingston Field Naturalists and the American Bird Conservancy in opposition to a recently approved industrial wind energy project that threatens birds and other wildlife on Amherst Island. "Ontario’s decision to approve Windlectric’s 26-turbine project on Amherst Island—one of the province’s crown jewels of nature—is another in a string of ‘tough on nature’ decisions to build wind energy projects in Important Bird Areas in the region" said Stephen Hazell, Nature Canada’s Director of Conservation. "Given Ontario’s failure to consider the cumulative effects of these projects on nature, the Environmental Review Tribunal should overturn the approval of the Amherst Island Project as well as that of White Pines. And given the clear breaches of the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act, the federal government should in future apply its environmental assessment process to wind energy projects." [caption id="attachment_22410" align="alignright" width="300"]Purple Martins, one of the species threatened by these projects. Photo Ted Cheskey Purple Martins, one of the species threatened by these projects. Photo Ted Cheskey[/caption] Amherst Island, Wolfe Island and the Prince Edward County South Shore Important Bird Areas, all within a few kilometres of each other, are on a bird superhighway during spring and fall migration. They also provide prime breeding habitat for the rapidly declining Purple Martin and several species at risk including Eastern Whip-poor-will, Bobolink, and the long-lived Blanding’s Turtle. 86 turbines were constructed on Wolfe Island in 2009. Three years of monitoring this project confirmed its reputation as one of the most deadly wind energy projects in North America for birds and bats. The recent approval of the Amherst and White Pines projects are very bad news for birds, bats, and turtles, and represent the significant industrialization of these ecological treasures. The “new” industrial landscapes will no doubt shock tourists used to the bucolic vistas of the region.   We are all awaiting the final decision on the Ostrander Point project proposal by the Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal. Valiantly defended by the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists, Ostrander Point is Crown land with habitat for rare species of animals and plants on the south shore of Prince Edward County. A proposal to build twelve 150 metre high wind turbines on it was approved, and then successfully appealed by the Naturalists, before passing through all levels of the Ontario judicial system. Now it is back in the hands of the Environmental Review Tribunal for a final decision.   For more information visit http://www.saveostranderpoint.org/.   Email Signup

Victory for Nature at Ontario Court of Appeal
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Victory for Nature at Ontario Court of Appeal

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE April 20, 2015 (Ottawa, ON) – The Ontario Court of Appeal has ruled decisively in favour of nature in upholding an Environmental Review Tribunal decision that the proposed Ostrander wind project will cause serious and irreversible harm to the endangered Blanding’s Turtle. “This is a huge win for nature” said Stephen Hazell, Director of Conservation and General Counsel at Nature Canada. “The Tribunal’s approach to determining ‘serious and irreversible harm’ was upheld, which means that other proposed wind projects will need to consider impacts on birds and bats as well as turtles much more seriously than they have done previously, especially where proposed wind project road networks fragment habitat for species at risk.” “Nature Canada was pleased to be an intervener at the Court of Appeal hearings in support of the appellants, the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists (PECFN). Congratulations to PECFN for carrying forward this appeal on nature’s behalf” said Hazell. PECFN appealed a decision of a lower court reversing the Tribunal’s decision denying approval of the Ostrander Project, which would have included nine wind turbine generators and supporting facilities on 324 hectares of provincial Crown land in a globally recognized Important Bird Area. The 135 metre high turbine towers would require concrete platforms, 5.4 kilometres of on-site access roads (in addition to the existing roads), underground cabling and overhead distribution lines, and a parking/maintenance yard at the north end, adjacent to a 25 mega-volt-ampere transformer substation for connection to the Hydro One grid. “Wind farms simply should not be built in Important Bird Areas, which are designated internationally for their significance to migratory bird species” said Ted Cheskey, Senior Conservation Manager at Nature Canada. “Nature Canada strongly supports appropriately sited renewable energy projects, but important habitats for migratory birds and species at risk are not appropriate sites.” -30- About Nature Canada 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 countless species that depend on this habitat. Today, Nature Canada represents a network of more than 45,000 members and supporters and more than 350 nature organizations across the country, with affiliates in every province. Nature Canada focuses on effecting change on issues of national significance including bird conservation,  citizen science initiatives, urban nature initiatives, building a national network of conservation organizations, building a network of volunteers to care for critical natural habitat sites across Canada and being a voice for nature at the federal level. Media contact Stephen Hazell Director of Conservation and General Counsel 613-724-1908 shazell@naturecanada.ca

Wind Turbines vs. Turtles
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Wind Turbines vs. Turtles

Stephen 242x242 with title This is a guest post from Stephen Hazell, Director of C onservation & General Counsel       Was the Environmental Review Tribunal’s decision to reject the nine-turbine Ostrander wind development project in eastern Ontario based on the evidence of harm to the threatened Blanding’s turtle reasonable? This is a key issue that the Ontario Court of Appeal addressed in hearings on December 8 and 9 reviewing a Divisional Court decision that overturned the Tribunal’s decision. Nature Canada decided to intervene in this appeal because this project would be located in a key wetland complex along the shores of eastern Lake Ontario that is home to numerous species at risk, including the threatened Blanding’s Turtle. Ostrander Point is also part of a globally significant Important Bird Area and directly in one of the most important migratory routes for birds in North America (370 bird species!). Nature Canada also intervened because of the terrible (for nature) precedent that the lower court’s decision would set for species at risk across the country. The Prince Edward County Field Naturalists (PECFN) have been waging this battle against the Ostrander Project for many years, and nature lovers packed the Toronto court room to hear the lawyers argue. I was one of those lawyers representing Nature Canada. The Tribunal had decided that the Ostrander project will cause “serious and irreversible effects” on the Blanding’s Turtle, but not on birds. The Divisional Court held that the Tribunal had not explained how the evidence dealt with the key legal test of irreversibility, and thus that the Tribunal’s decision was not reasonable. PECFN, which was the appellant before the Court of Appeal, argued that the Tribunal’s decision was reasonable and based on the evidence and that Divisional Court should have deferred to the Tribunal on its determinations of fact. On behalf of Nature Canada, I argued that the Tribunal had based its decision as to the irreversibility of the effects on the Blanding’s Turtle on the alteration to its habitat caused by the 5.2 km network of roads to be built through the various wetlands used by the turtles. Once constructed, the roads would result in increased turtle mortality due to vehicle collisions, poaching and predation by racoons and skunks. Experts at the Tribunal hearings had testified that Blanding’s turtles range widely (up to 6 km) through these wetlands and nest on the gravel road sides, increasing their vulnerability to these road-related impacts. The Tribunal had determined that the existence of the road network “directly in the habitat” of the turtles created irreversible effects that could not be mitigated. The Court of Appeal reserved its decision, which means a wait of several months at least before its decision and reasons are released. Several decisions are possible. Rejection of PECFN’s appeal would mean that the Ostrander project would go forward. Alternatively, the Court of Appeal could allow PECFN’s appeal and either deny the permit for the project, or send the matter back to the Environmental Review Tribunal for reconsideration.

Decision Time in the Appeal Court of Ontario – Nature Canada Intervenes to Save Ostrander Point
Photo by Cris Navarro, photographer for Bioblitz
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Decision Time in the Appeal Court of Ontario – Nature Canada Intervenes to Save Ostrander Point

Our very own Stephen Hazell, MSc LLB., donned his court robes and intervened on behalf of Nature Canada, in support of the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists at a hearing in the highest court in Ontario on December 8. This hearing is the third in a battle between a small group of retired old ladies that are the driving force of the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists, backed by most of the county and Canada’s naturalist community, versus Gilead Corporation, a wind energy developer and the Ontario government’s Ministry of the Environment.
The nine turbine project is proposed on Crown land in the centre of the globally significant Prince Edward County South Shore Important Bird Area. The area on which the turbines are proposed is also a candidate provincial Area of Natural and Scientific Interest largely due to the presence of globally rare alvar habitat (a type of naturally occurring limestone pavement with its own communities of rare plants and insects), home to many provincial and federal species at risk including the Blanding’s Turtle and Eastern Whip-poor-will, a significant migratory route for 10,000 raptors each fall, including dozens of at-risk Golden Eagles, and within about 10 kilometres of the only Federal Government National Wildlife Area (NWA) designated for its role as a migratory landbird stop-over (Prince Edward Point NWA). The south shore of Prince Edward County is largely an intact natural area used for passive recreation, and the last significant vestige of this type of natural habitat on the entire north shore of Lake Ontario.
In addition to its role as a stop-over for hundreds of thousands of migratory birds, the area is also an important stop-over for the threatened Monarch butterfly. For decades, local groups have been attempting to conserve the south shore through land securement. Public lands, such as the Ostrander Crown Land Block, which was, as recently as the year 2000, subject to a restoration plan by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources to establish habitat for the endangered Henslow’s Sparrow, were assumed safe from industrial projects. [caption id="attachment_18635" align="alignnone" width="960"]Blandings Turtle Blanding`s Turtle photo by Ted Cheskey[/caption] With all of these attributes and after months of expert testimony and a decision of its own Environmental Tribunal in support of protecting the area, why are the Province and the developer so determined to push this project through the courts and destroy the functional value of this area for wildlife for a few turbines? Could it be that Ostrander Point, if successful, would be a gateway to many more turbines and much larger projects on the peninsula and offshore?
This project puts Nature Canada in a very uncomfortable position, but one that we have no choice to take. We are strong supporters of renewable energy, and we recognize and support dozens of wind energy projects across the country that pose minimal risk to birds and other wildlife. We also recognize that almost everything that we do in our lives has an impact on nature, and some things much more than others. As I write this, I note that Nature Canada is embarking on a major campaign, supported by Environment Canada, to reduce the impact of free-roaming cats – the most significant direct human cause of bird mortality in Canada, as well as collisions with windows and other structures. Wind turbines kill some birds and perhaps more bats, but the numbers are relatively minor compared to many other human-related activities. However, in places that have particularly important ecological functions, such as a migration corridor or habitat for species at risk, or stopover habitat for migrating birds, the negative impacts of industrial wind energy projects far outweigh any benefits. They have no place in these areas and are not in the public interest. Ostrander Point is one of these places that should be protected from industrialization, including any wind energy project.
Our opposition to Gilead’s project began many years ago through our role in BirdLife International’s Important Bird Area program as the national conservation advocate for Canada’s 600 Important Bird Areas. BirdLife International, the global authority on bird conservation, has spoken out against this project, putting the Prince Edward County South Shore IBA on its list of the top 350 most threatened IBAs in the world. Over the past several years, we have come to recognize that Ostrander Point has many other virtues beyond its importance for birds. It really is in the public interest and our responsibility as global citizens to protect places like Ostrander Point from industrial threats and ensure that renewable energy projects are about ‘good ideas in good places.’ I salute those members of the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists who clearly do represent the public interest both locally and globally and have demonstrated incredible sacrifice and tenacity in fighting this project. Visit their Save Ostrander Point website to learn more.
Ted Cheskey Senior Manager, Bird Conservation Programs

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