Taking a stand that supports Ontario Nature’s long-held position, Environmental Commissioner, Gord Miller, says that wind turbines should not be built in Important Bird Areas. His recently released annual report focuses on the delicate balance between the inclusion of wind power as an important source of green energy and the conservation of biodiversity, especially sensitive habitats that support important species. Wind power in general has become a hot-bed of controversy. Ontario Nature fully endorses the Province’s commitment to creating a clean and reliable green-energy future. But we also believe that we should not ignore the impacts of inappropriately sited wind turbines. As an organization, we continue to repeat the same mantra: Keep the green in green energy.
Currently, Ontario Nature is actively working to keep new turbine developments out of Important Bird Areas. These areas are internationally recognized by independent scientists as essential habitat for Ontario’s bird populations.
We’ve been monitoring a proposal for nine new turbines at Ostrander Point, in the heart of the Prince Edward County South Shore Important Bird Area (IBA). In partnership with the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists and Nature Canada, we are urging the provincial government to reject this application.
Ostrander Point is a candidate Area of Natural and Scientific Interest that supports more than 200 different species of birds, including 14 conservation priority birds such as whip-poor-wills. Having observed the mortality rates of bats and birds at nearby Wolfe Island, where an 86 turbine wind farm was erected, we fear the toll will be even higher at Ostrander Point. A 2010 study found that on average 16 birds and 43 bats were killed per turbine on Wolfe Island, one of the highest recorded rates in North America.
While the application at Ostrander Point is still awaiting a decision from the Ministry of the Environment, the entire northeast shore of Lake Ontario is now slated for wind farm development. This would include more construction in the Prince Edward County South Shore IBA and in the neighbouring Amherst Island IBA.
Ontario Nature is not just concerned about the impacts of discrete wind farms on wildlife. We also need to be aware of the cumulative impacts of all wind turbines on bird life, bats, other rare plants and animals, as well as sensitive ecosystems.
We need to think in terms of solutions. There are lots of places the wind blows. Industry, local communities and conservationists can work together to figure out the best places to put wind farms so that we can truly keep the green in green energy.
Wind Wars, Last Word article in ON Nature magazine