The Prince Edward County Field Naturalists (PECFN) appealed the Ostrander Point Crown Land wind project at the highest Court in Ontario on Dec 8-9, 2014. Ostrander Point Crown Land is situated in an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) - a refuge for migrating birds, bats and butterflies - it contains provincially significant wetlands, globally imperilled Alvar habitat and is the home and breeding ground of several avian, reptilian and amphibian species at risk, such as the Blanding’s turtle.
PECFN was defending the Environmental Review Tribunal ruling that overturned the Ministry of the Environment’s approval of the Gilead wind turbine project, which was later overturned at Divisional Court. At present the Divisional Court’s ruling on Ostrander Point undercuts the ability of the Environmental Review Tribunal to make decisions based on the evidence before it. PECFN’s appeal of the Divisional Court ruling is a precedent setting case that impacts the validity of the Environmental Review Tribunal, the Endangered Species Act and the Environmental Protection Act. As such it will affect environmental law across Ontario.
As Justice Blair, who granted a stay against any construction on the site said, “the issues raised on the proposed appeal are issues of broad public implication in the field of environmental law”.
The Evening Grosbeaks appearing at bird feeders this fall are one of Canada’s declining species. It has declined 78% in the last 40 years. Other examples of species decline: our iconic Canada Warbler: 80%; Rusty Blackbird: 90%; Olive-sided Flycatcher 79%; Bay-breasted Warbler 70%. All these species migrate through Prince Edward Point. And in September the World Wildlife Fund reported that animal populations have fallen on average by 52 percent since 1970. The findings pertain mostly to vertebrate species, including mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles.
The root cause of these decimations is simple - loss of habitat. This loss of habitat and the species they support is a crisis for our planet superseded only by the projections of even worse decimations caused by climate change. Not only do we humans urgently need to stop the use of fossil fuels, we also need to urgently move to conserve the habitats of our remaining wildlife.
In order to stop fossil fuel use we must implement conservation by investing in retrofitting all 19th-20th century technology in our buildings and vehicles and begin to build alternative sources of power. It is imperative that these new developments be sited in places that we humans have already removed from nature in order to preserve the scarce wildlife lands that remain. New developments should not be sited in land that functions as significant habitat for wild species.
Our undeveloped wild places play a vital role in mitigating the effects of climate change. Forests and wetlands sequester carbon keeping it out of the atmosphere, while tall grass prairies actually remove carbon from it. Wetlands prevent flooding and erosion and replenish our aquifers. Alvars and other seasonal wetland habitats filter contaminants, keeping them out of our streams and lakes. What allows these invaluable habitats to mitigate climate change are the wild species they support. Without these wild species, they will no longer function. Eventually they will cease to exist at all.
Prince Edward County’s South Shore is the last undeveloped land along the northern shore of Lake Ontario. If this industrial development is allowed to proceed it will be surrounded by another 29 turbines in the centre of the IBA and pave the way for hundreds of more turbines along Lake Ontario shorelines, including at Amherst Island which is world-renown for the owl populations that overwinter there. They will join TransAlta’s turbine project on Wolfe Island which has caused the highest mortality rate of birds and bats in North America (except Altamont pass in California) and displaced the indigenous and wintering Red Tail Hawk and Short Eared Owl populations. A concentration of hundreds of industrial turbines along this intersection of two major migration corridors will form an impenetrable barrier, causing mounting declines for our migrating species and substantial degradation to the habitats along the migration routes that they stage in.
The 50 members of PECFN have raised almost $200,000 to pay the legal costs of these appeals against Gilead Power, the Ministry of Environment and the 291 corporations of the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWea). This small organization needs the support of Field Naturalist clubs and concerned citizens from all parts of Ontario because the work we are doing will affect environmental law for the Province and the County. Nature Canada will be an intervenor in the Appeal. Donations may be made online at www.saveostranderpoint.org or by cheque to Ostrander Point Appeal Fund, 2-59 King St, Picton K0K 2T0.