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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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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

Court of Appeal to hear Prince Edward County turtle case
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Court of Appeal to hear Prince Edward County turtle case

The Ontario Court of Appeal has granted leave to hear the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists’ case for Blanding’s Turtles threatened by a wind energy project . This is the latest update from an ongoing legal battle over Prince Edward County’s south shore. The Court of Appeal will be deciding whether Ostrander Point GP can put a wind farm in endangered turtle habitat. This case will represent a landmark decision in Ontario environmental law. “It’s unfortunate that this even needs to be an issue,” says Stephen Hazell, the executive director of Nature Canada. “It is of course laudable that the Ontario government is pushing for renewable energy development. But the fact is, these projects simply cannot be green if companies are destroying sensitive habitat and threatening endangered species in the process.” Prince Edward County’s south shore is considered a “hot spot” for wildlife in the Eastern Lake Ontario Basin, and not just because of Blanding’s Turtle. The windy peninsula acts as a highway for migratory birds and bats. Naturalist groups are worried that wind development at this site will pose a major threat to migrating species, many of which are already at-risk. “Developers need to be sent a message about listening to communities and siting wind farms responsibly,” says Hazell. “We are very pleased to hear that the Court of Appeal will give this case its day in court.”

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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