Biodiversity not important in wind debate
[Opinion article authored by Terry Sprague, the naturalist emeritus of Prince Edward County, published in the Picton Gazette on January 27, 2013.]
The unbelievable foibles of both the Ministries of Natural Resources and the Environment have been all too evident this past month in the province. As if the Ostrander Point decision by the very ministries that are charged with protecting our natural environment wasn’t bad enough, they somehow managed to top that decision by authorizing the removal of a bald eagle’s nest down in the Fisherville area where an American company is planning a wind turbine project there. The eagles made the tragic mistake of building their nest in the path of a planned access road to one of the turbines. Clearly, the nest had to go, along with the tree, under the pretext of protecting the eagles from harm. Isn’t this so-called pro-action synonymous with saying that there is, in fact, a problem with birds and turbines, by the same agency that claims through its Ostrander Point decision that there are no issues with migratory birds?
Frankly I think most of us are sick to death of hearing the pro wind people drone on monotonously about cats, cars and hydro wires killing more birds than wind turbines. This is not a contest. There will not be a stuffed toy awarded to the structure that wipes out the least birds and bats, or the most. It’s not about the criteria that made the South Shore an Important Bird Area; whether it was waterfowl that was the clincher or whether it was songbirds. Whether it was wigeons or whether it was warblers that created the IBA, doesn’t make the South Shore any less important. We have radar images, hard data, banding records and surveys that support our assertion that these nine wind turbines that proponents are jumping up and down claiming will save the earth, can, and likely will, result in high mortality in a staging area that hosts millions of migrants every year as they migrate to and from northern nesting grounds. We don’t need yet another killing field on top of those that we have already created, and we don’t need to hear more drivel about how, despite any mortality, the population is sustainable. It is not sustainable, and it hasn’t been for many decades as species numbers continue to plummet, some beyond recovery. Wood thrushes for example have declined over 80% in population. Does that sound sustainable?
And we don’t need to hear nonsense like I did a few weeks ago about how the birds in Europe are so used to wind turbines that they actually perch on the rotating blades and ride them around as though on a Ferris wheel! These are claims from the desperate – desperate to not let money slip through their fingers, claims from landowners, and even government, who had never before given one iota of concern about our environment, until the folding green was introduced. Suddenly green and clean energy, which wind power is not, has become fashionable. It’s all about money, pure and simple, and it is a very dirty game when legislation, rules and regulations can be bent, adjusted and altered without apology to accommodate those with power and money, despite overwhelming evidence that Ostrander Point, and a whole lot of other locations in eastern Ontario, are not appropriate areas to establish wind power.
However, bird and bat mortality is just scraping the surface in the fallout that this misdirected movement toward “doing the right thing” will create. The habitat in the entire project area at Ostrander Point will be unceremoniously destroyed, forever – habitat that took many decades to settle into a very delicate and specialized biodiversity. One cannot compensate as companies would have us believe, by constructing new habitat somewhere else. Wildlife is being portrayed as cartoon characters that will shed a tear, then be seen with suitcases in hand moving to their new synthetic homes. Biodiversity that takes centuries to evolve cannot be reinvented overnight, neither can the bald eagles that nested in a 100 year old cottonwood tree at Fisherville be expected to accept a Tupperware nest platform on a pole somewhere, when their instinct tells them they should be in a natural tree somewhere else. Legislation is purportedly in place to protect species at risk – that’s why it is there. Legislation that can be bought, and then twisted to serve the needs of development is not legislation. It smacks of a corrupt system of the worst possible kind perpetuated by money and greed, especially given the deliberate and offensively transparent timing of the announcement, only a few days before Christmas.
This column congratulates the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists (PECFN) and the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County (APPEC) in their efforts to appeal this decision of raping our South Shore under the guise of clean energy. There are currently two separate appeals that have been registered: The PECFN appeal is environmentally based, while that of APPEC is based on human health effects. This column also recognizes the challenge that environmental agencies likely have in trying to balance the development of renewable energy while mitigating any adverse effects to wildlife populations. The Ostrander Point decision, however, clearly leans in the direction of development, and the hell with anything or anybody that stands in the way.
Cheques toward PECFN’s efforts should be made payable to the Ostrander Point Appeal Fund and mailed to OPAF, 59 King St. unit 2, Picton K0K 2T0 or donate online at http://saveostranderpoint.org . Cheques toward the efforts of APPEC can be sent to APPEC Legal Fund, P.O. Box 173, Milford, Ontario K0K 2P0 or donate online at https://ccsage.wordpress.com .