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Wind project appeal turned down by Environmental Review Tribunal
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Wind project appeal turned down by Environmental Review Tribunal

[caption id="attachment_21694" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Ted Cheskey Ted Cheskey
Senior Conservation Manager – Bird Conservation, Education & Networks[/caption] Amherst Island is known in the world of birders as the place where owls gather in great numbers and densities most winters. People are thrilled to see owls in the wild and a trip to Amherst Island, located on the extreme east end of Lake Ontario, is as good as it gets. In mid-winter with a bit of luck, one can observe many of Canada’s owl species including Snowy, Short-eared, Long-eared, Saw Whet, Great Gray, Barred and others. The island is sparsely populated with people – the main land use being cattle farming, growing hay and keeping pasture. These habitats in the summer are home to large numbers of Bobolinks and other open-country birds, such as Eastern Meadowlark and Upland Sandpiper. The island swarms with swallows in the mid to late summer. [caption id="attachment_29008" align="aligncenter" width="560"]Image of map of Amherst Island Map of Amherst Island and surrounding area[/caption] When the Association for the Protection of Amherst Island (APAI) learned that Windlectric Inc. was approved for a permit to build 26 towering wind turbines on the island, there was profound despair. They quickly organized to officially appeal the decision to the Environmental Review Tribunal of Ontario. Kingston Field Naturalists also participated in the Appeal, seeking to overturn the Ministry of Environment Approval at the Ontario Environmental Tribunal Board level. The feisty Prince Edward County Field Naturalists were successful in appealing a similar project proposed on the Ostrander Point Crown Land Block on the south shore of Prince Edward County, as well as achieving a partial victory in an Appeal of the White Pines Wind Energy project on the south shore of Prince Edward County earlier this year. [caption id="attachment_29012" align="alignright" width="300"]Image of a Bobolink Photo of a Bobolink by Ted Cheskey[/caption] On August 3rd, the Tribunal rendered its decision after hearing evidence and arguments made by both sides between December 2015 and June 2016.  The decision to reject the Appeal is a major blow to the naturalist community and particularly, the APAI. The Tribunal panel rejected all elements of the Appeal, including human health arguments (that have never been successful) and the wildlife arguments that were premised on the assertion that the project would cause serious and irreversible harm to populations of Bobolink, raptors (owls in particular), bats, and Blanding’s Turtle. In these hearings, the onus is on the Appellant to convince the Tribunal Panel that serious and irreversible harm is unavoidable as the project is presented.  Each side has its own expert witnesses and some of the same people who had presented at the Ostrander hearings presented at the Amherst Hearings as well. The Tribunal rejected the Appellant’s arguments one after the other, either because the Approval holder (Windlectric) presented more convincing evidence in the Panel’s view, or because the evidence of the Appellant’s witnesses did not meet the test of serious and irreversible harm. Of interest in the decision were several comparisons with the White Pines Wind Project. On February 26, the Tribunal accepted many of the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County (APPEC) 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.  In its decision on the Amherst Island project, the Tribunal Panel often contrasted the evidence and context for the White Pines project, where the test for serious and irreversible harm was met for bats and Blanding’s Turtle, with the evidence on Amherst, which was both weaker from the point of view of the Appellant, and more convincing and better prepared from the perspective of the Approval holder.  APAI have a very short timeframe to consider its options, and whether it can mount an appeal of the decision. The Amherst decision is a reminder that we are missing adequate government policy that both promotes renewables in the right places while recognizing and protecting our key biodiversity areas including Canada’s nearly 600 Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBAs) such as Amherst Island and the South Shore of Prince Edward County.

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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

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

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