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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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Purple Martins Reach Ontario!
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Purple Martins Reach Ontario!

[caption id="attachment_16451" align="alignleft" width="150"]Megan McIntosh Megan McIntosh, Purple Martin Project Coordinator[/caption] The first Purple Martins have reached Ontario. The return of these cheerful neighborhood birds from their wintering grounds in Brazil is always a wonderful sign of spring.  But with a winter storm warning in the works for much of Southern Ontario we wish they would wait just a little while longer.  This is because Purple Martins and other song birds are quite vulnerable to poor weather conditions, especially rain and cold. Nonetheless, we welcome their return! Did you know that it is the older Purple Martins that tend to return first? Most of the adult birds arrive in Ontario between mid-to-late-April, whereas younger first-time breeders return during May. You can follow the amazing spring migration of the Purple Martin through the Purple Martin Conservation Association’s Scout-Arrival Study. [caption id="attachment_26945" align="aligncenter" width="351"]Purple Martin Adult male Purple Martin in flight. Photo by Harold Silver[/caption] With the Purple Martins on their way, many Purple Martin ‘landlords’ (private landowners who provide apartment-like bird houses for the birds to nest in) are working hard to prepare for their arrival. Since Purple Martin populations are rapidly declining in Ontario and other northeastern provinces and states, Purple Martin landlords in these regions are taking extra precautions to improve their habitat and help recover the species. Here are some interesting examples of what Nature Canada and our partners are doing to prepare: Nature Canada will be putting up three new Purple Martin houses in the Kingston Area in partnership with the Kingston Field Naturalists. These new houses are locally sourced and provide the highest standards of breeding habitat for Purple Martin included starling resistant entrances and a winch system so that the house can be lowered for easy maintenance. [caption id="attachment_26944" align="aligncenter" width="351"]Purple Martin House Example of a locally constructed T-14 Purple Martin house. Three houses like this will be put up by Nature Canada in the Kingston area this spring.[/caption] Ed and Lyne Brake are dedicated Purple Martin landlords who live east of Ottawa. This year they are taking steps to make an important update to the habitat at their Purple Martin colony. Over the past several years, they have noticed a big increase in aerial predators such as hawks and owls preying on their Purple Martins. This was very upsetting for Ed and Lyne. At first they were unsure what to do because there are no commercially available predator guards for their style of Purple Martin house. Since they care so much about their birds, they have custom-made a cage to go around the birdhouse and protect the colony. We want to congratulate Ed and Lyne for their good work and thank the Ontario Purple Martin Association for providing this excellent advice! [caption id="attachment_26943" align="aligncenter" width="351"]Image of a Purple Martin house with landlords Ed Brake and a friend pose at Ottawa River with a newly installed predator guard for a Purple Martin house.[/caption] Finally, our Friends at The Friends of the Sanctuary in Cornwall have engaged a local secondary school to construct 10 new Purple Martin condos. Grade 11 students will construct T-14 style houses that will be installed in the meadows at the Upper Canada Migratory Bird Sanctuary near Ingleside, Ontario, next spring. We are looking forward to seeing the results!   [caption id="attachment_26942" align="aligncenter" width="350"]Image of members of Friends of the Sanctuary in front of a Purple Martin Members of Friends of the Sanctuary pose with T-14 Purple Martin house[/caption]

To learn more about Nature Canada's Purple Martin Project, check out our page here.
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