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Environmental review focus on endangered vs invasive plants

By Cheryl Anderson
Dr. Paul Catling was the first Environmental Review Tribunal witness, on Wednesday, March 6, for the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists.  His testimony showed that proper botanical studies had not been carried out as part of the Environment Impact Study of the site. His conclusion was that just 30 per cent of the species occurring on this globally imperilled alvar site has been identified.  Dr. Catling also identified several plant species at risk growing at Ostrander Point.

Paul Catling holds a Ph.D and is a Research Scientist for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. He specializes in a number of areas including plant taxonomy, native germplasm, berry crops, medicinal plants, and invading alien plants.

Dr. Catling has numerous affiliations including being on the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, the Board of Directors of the Nature Conservancy of Canada, the Chair of Biodiversity Publications Committee and Chair of the Ecology Canadian Botanical Association. He is also an Adjunct Professor at the University of Ottawa and has numerous scientific research publications.

Through a PowerPoint presentation, Dr. Catling reviewed his own investigation of Ostrander Point and contrasted it with other studies carries out since the late 1990s.  His conclusion was that development of a wind turbine project on the Ostrander Point Crown Land Block would cause serious and irreversible damage to the important natural alvar environment. The sensitive ecology would not withstand the construction of roads, turbine pads, crane pads and lay down areas.  All these activities would seriously impact the delicate and rare plant communities at Ostrander Point.  Combined with the damage caused by interference with hydrogeology, as much as 50 hectares of the site would be impacted.

Council for the Ministry of the Environment spent the afternoon trying to discredit Dr. Catling’s conclusions.  Ms. Davies tried to establish that Ostrander Point was already a seriously impacted ecosystem.  She spent a lot of time talking about the presence of European Buckthorn and other invasive species.  We heard a lot about studies that Dr. Catling had carried out on various alvar communities in Eastern Ontario.  Throughout it all, Dr. Catling remained cool and controlled, easily explaining his work and remaining committed to his original conclusion that Ostrander Point is no place for wind turbines.  Dr. Catling’s cross examination will continue on Monday, March 18 with Ms. Davies and finally Mr. Hamilton from Gilead Power.

The Ostrander Point Environmental Review Tribunal, appealing the Ministry of the Environment approval of Gilead Power’s Ostrander Point industrial wind turbine project on the south shore of Prince Edward County.

Tribunal members Robert Wright and Heather Gibbs, lawyers for the Ministry of the Environment and Gilead Power were present along with parties to the appeal, the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists (PECFN) and the Alliance for the Protection of Prince Edward County (APPEC) and their legal representatives Eric Gillespie and Natalie Smith. Appeals are to be heard by PECFN, on grounds of harm to plants, animals or the natural environment; and the APPEC, on grounds of harm to human health.

On Thursday, March 7 the hearing will move back to Toronto to hear evidence from witnesses by video conference.   Ian Dubbin and Dr. Robert Barclay are to be heard. Dr. Barclay is a Professor and the Head of the Biological Sciences Department at the University of Calgary. He teaches in the areas of biology, ecology, conservation biology, field biology and mammalogy. In his career he has supervised more than 35 graduate students and has been the recipient of numerous prestigious research grants including the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (“NSERC”) Operating and Equipment Grants. He also has a substantial publication record which includes a long list of peer reviewed articles. Dubbin has presenter status in the hearing. He is a retired engineer from Kingston.

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  1. Louisa says:

    If those in the process of coming to educated decisions and a healthy outcome of this whole debate read this they are surely going to laugh and not take it seriously these days. This comment feed has become a cat-fight of human pettiness, and I find it disgusting. I am not finding any new facts here, or positive actions coming forward. This will be the last time I read about this here, and am going to remove CountyLive from my bookmarks list. Who needs it?

    The main fact seems to be that the destruction of known important and sensitive environments is once again under attack by those with, or seeking more, money for their pockets and shareholders. It is the constant fight of this current age, and we don’t know where, if at all, it will end. That is what we seem to fear.

    It isn’t the existence of, say, the Blanding’s turtle that affects my daily life and whether or not I survive and thrive, but it’s demise or blatant destruction that tells the tale of how life is now in this society – no real concern for nature and environments and how we fit into them – and THAT’S what truly scares me, and countless others. The fact that we as a race are slowly but surely diminishing our surroundings, which represent our own lives and survival, is the real wake-up call to stop and do better. But doing better always comes smack up against the cold, hard wall of the corporate world. This whole wind turbine issue has brought out our fight or flight mechanisms, to be certain.

  2. Chris Keen says:

    Donna -really?? “Remaining anonymous is vital when giving an opinion against the anti-winds. They threaten pro-renewable energy advocates with lawsuits when we become too vocal. That’s a fact.”

    Sounds paranoid to me.

    Should IWTs eventually be built in the County, and you are hosting one, it’s possible your neighbours will sue if their property values are affected or their houses unsalable as has happened all over Ontario. I suppose they could also sue if their health is affected, otherwise I don’t think there would be cause for action. You certainly cannot be sued for being a “windy”.

  3. Lori Cairns says:

    Well said, Samantha. That was a great summation.

    I couldn’t agree more.

  4. Samantha says:

    It just saddens me that we are so desperate to keep the lights on and have “business as usual” that we will destroy anything in our path that keeps us from it. How is it that my right to run my tv trumps the right of the Blanding’s Turtle to go on about its business unharrassed, unharmed, unkilled?

    I am not “anti-wind”. Sure, the wind is an ass sometimes and rips up my greenhouse and tosses across the yard, but that doesn’t mean I’m against it. I am, however, anti-earth rape. Whether you believe wind turbines will “save us” from our own addiction to energy by harm reduction or you see them as another corporate snake oil sales job, surely we can all agree that their construction and ongoing presence will alter the lives of everything around them. The real argument, it seems to me, is whether you think it’s worth it or not.

    We so often think of ourselves as outside of nature that we forget we need the Blanding’s turtle and the whipoorwill and those rare alvar plants for our own survival. If they thrive, we thrive. The web of biodiversity and connection is so complex that we may never know which animal or plant we wiped out that will cause a cascade of collapses that will eventually mean we can no longer support ourselves on this earth.

  5. Donna says:

    I so agree, Marnie. We are human beings, County residents, and thus entitled to our opinions and comments. Names are irrelevant.

  6. Marnie says:

    Why, Ken? Did you want to call or write? Although there are several people posting to this site who insist that only a last name gives crediblity to any views expressed by the writer I disagree. Donna is no friend of mine but if she prefers to keep her surname confidential what’s the problem? Are your opinions automatically more valid than hers or mine because you give a surname? I think not.

  7. Ken Globe says:

    I’m still waiting for Marnie’s last name… 🙂

  8. Donna says:

    Remaining anonymous is vital when giving an opinion against the anti-winds. They threaten pro-renewable energy advocates with lawsuits when we become too vocal. That’s a fact.

    Suggesting that Ostrander Point is not a birding hot spot for birds or birders is merely an observation from eBird statistics. My comment to Terry was only that Ostrander Point was never a big birding destination for hikes. The two observations lead me to conclude that Ostrander Point was never a valued natural area in PEC until wind turbines came along. I am entitled to that opinion.

  9. Marnie says:

    Someone wisely suggested that Donna might like to supply her credentials since she presents herself as an authority on the migratory routes of birds. Terry needs no introduction for we are aware of his qualifications. So Donna, how is it that you supposedly know more about birds than Terry? Have you written columns that we missed in the paper or led hikes that we did not hear about? Did you work for a Conservation Authority or as a park natualist?

  10. Chris Keen says:

    @Donna – I guess the thousands of red-winged blackbirds and common grackles that have been stopping by my feeders and flying over my property for the past three days(within a km of the proposed Ostrander IWT development) thought they were flying over Wolfe Island but are confused and have lost their way??

  11. Doris Lane says:

    Donna why would you question Terry. All of us turn to Terry for our information on sorts of materials that include our naturalist questions. He receives numerous emails asking for his help and always gets back to us as soon as possible. How many emails do you get asking for your opinion–but it is hard to email you since we do not who you are? Speaking out against Terry is like speaking out against God!!!!!

  12. Donna says:

    In the birding world, eBird is THE place to post since the information is vital to Cornell’s ornithology studies. It has been active for 11 years.

    “eBird data are part of the Avian Knowledge Network (AKN), which integrates observational data on bird populations across the western hemisphere. In turn, the AKN feeds eBird data to international biodiversity data systems, such as the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). In this way any contribution made to eBird increases our understanding of the distribution, richness, and uniqueness of the biodiversity of our planet.”

  13. For one thing, I don’t do “bird” hikes except during the spring Birding Festival. I do “interpretive hikes” encompassing all aspects of natural and human history. I have done several guided hikes at Ostrander Point, but with between 30 and 40 people in tow, parking that many vehicles is an issue. Liability is an issue and I must choose locations with established trails and adequate parking. You will notice that my schedule includes only two guided hikes in Prince Edward County this year. All others from April to November are from Cobourg to Kingston and north to Highway 7. And eBird is definitely not an argument; it is too new yet, and not every birder reports their sightings to eBird. I don’t even report yet to eBird. To question the migration and its numbers (“Not much of a ‘hot spot’ for birds or birders”)that I have personally observed along the South Shore in the past 50 years is both unacceptable and insulting. Those who use a pseudonym instead of their full name, are seldom taken seriously.

  14. Donna says:

    Terry, if you consider Ostrander Point such a birding hot spot, it’s odd that your bird hikes didn’t include this area.

    eBird is the tool that birders use to record data in North America. “eBird was launched in 2002 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, and provides rich data sources for basic information on bird abundance and distribution at a variety of spatial and temporal scales.”

    “The observations of each participant join those of others in an international network of eBird users. eBird then shares these observations with a global community of educators, land managers, ornithologists, and conservation biologists. In time these data will become the foundation for a better understanding of bird distribution across the western hemisphere and beyond.”

    This sharing of statistics is vital to the birds and birding community, and birding HOT SPOTS are of special interest since they indicate high bird counts. For example, in March 2012 alone, participants reported more than 3.1 MILLION bird observations across North America!

    In the last 4 years, the Ostrander Point location shows postings by 4 birders in a couple of months in 2009 and 2010. Only 30 birds were reported in all of 2012. Not much of a ‘hot spot’ for birds or birders.

  15. Marnie says:

    Go, Terry! Your in-put is unquestionably far more valuable than Donna’s claim that Ostrander Point is not a significant wildlife area. She knows not whereof she speaks but is not deterred by this fact. You’re the expert and she would do well to give consideration to your observations.

  16. Doris Lane says:

    Terry most of us understand that you know more about the birds of PEC than ohter person as you have lived here all your life and been involved in this area in many different aspects. You certainly know much more than a person from Stantec who spends several hours in their studies. We also have the stats prepared by the banding station that tells us how many birds of every species that pass through the area.
    You are our expert Terry.

  17. I have probably birded the entire south shore of the County more years than anyone else – since at least 1964. Anything that I have seen suggests that the entire south shore of Prince Edward County – Huyck’s Point, West Point, Sandbanks, Point Petre, and Salmon Point, and on down its entire length, attract huge numbers of migrants each spring. I know the Point Petre Provincial Wildlife Area, Gull Bar shoreline and wetlands, Ostrander Point area, right down to Prince Edward Point proper inside out, backwards and forwards. I have seen large concentrations of migrants in all of these areas. These migrants arrive en masse along the shore and work their way, foraging as they go, down the length of the penininsula, seeking a convenient escape route. Finding none, they tend to pile up at Prince Edward Point and Point Traverse waiting for suitable conditions to cross Prince Edward Bay, hence the large numbers on some days at these two points. In my numerous boat tours to Main Duck Island since the late 1990s, nothing I, or any other knowledgeable birders to whom I have spoken, suggest that Main Duck Island is used extensively by migrants as a stepping stone during their flight northward as has been suggested in past postings. Wolfe Island is famous for its raptors and waterfowl; it does not have the concentrated diverse habitat that our South Shore has to attract and feed the scores of neotropical migrants for which the area has become famous. There are few locations along the north shore of Lake Ontario that compare with the numbers and densities of spring migrants. To appreciate these densities that I have witnessed in almost 50 years of intense birding all along the south shore, one must make more than just one visit before making an assumption.

  18. Donna says:

    More birds migrate through Wolfe Island in a night than through PEC in a season! Traverse Woods IS the migratory route in the County. Ostrander Point, on the other hand, is NOT a birding hot spot.

  19. Samantha says:

    Meanwhile, while this Tribunal is going on to find out if there is any good reason to drop massive wind turbines on a sensitive ecosystem and important bird area (nope, can’t think of any), a local commercial fisherman is in a bunfight over Point Traverse with Environment Canada. This federal ministry is going to tear down some fishing shacks because, and this is apparently a quote: “There are no other locations on the Canadian side of Lake Ontario where migratory birds are known to occur in such high densities during migrations…. In view of the known impacts to wildlife and their habitats associated with commercial activities, these are generally not permitted within a national wildlife area.” So some guys, some boats and a few shacks are not permitted because of the impact on the flora and fauna, but just up the road, industrial turbines are ok? I realize the feds and the province don’t always agree, but this is madness.

  20. Gary Mooney says:

    Mr. Dubbin requested to be an independent Participant and is not on the roster of the Appellants’ expert witnesses.

  21. Donna says:

    Mr Dubbin was a bust, I hear, from his lack of qualifications, offensive language, and final hang-up.

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