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Request McGuinty to protect IBA, deny Gilead project

Dalton McGuinty, Premier
Main Legislative Building, Room 281
Queen’s Park
Toronto, ON
M7A 1A1
January 11, 2011

Dear Mr. McGuinty,
I am a volunteer at the Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory in Prince Edward County and the president of its Board of Directors. Over my ten-year involvement with the Observatory, I have developed a deep appreciation for the miracle of the annual bird migration. Every year our Canadian boreal forest becomes a highly productive avian nursery for approximately 300 North, Central and South American bird species.

Early in the spring, millions of birds are impelled to leave their winter homes and begin the long trek north – Bobolinks from Argentina, Warblers from the rain forests of Brazil, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks from Columbia, Purple Martins and Cedar Waxwings from Nicaragua. Their first hurdle is to cross the Caribbean Sea, taking advantage of the many islands as resting places. Then, some head up the Atlantic seaboard, while others keep to the west of the Appalachians until they come to the Great Lakes – the last major obstacle in their flight path. Most prefer to cross the smaller, lower Great Lakes, Erie and Ontario.

Wanting to spend as little time as possible over open water, they look for islands and pieces of land jutting out into the lakes where they can rest, refuel and seek shelter from nasty weather and predators – hence the significance of Long Point and Point Pelee in Lake Erie, and the south shore of Prince Edward County in Lake Ontario.

The Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory (PEPtBO) is located in the Canadian Wildlife area at the southeastern end of the Prince Edward County South Shore Important Bird Area (PECSS IBA).  As a member of the Canadian Migration Monitoring Network (CMMN), PEPtBO conducts standardized banding operations and surveys that result in daily estimated totals for each species passing through the area during the spring (mid-April to early June) and fall (mid-August to early November) migrations.

Annually we band between 10,000 and 17,000 birds of 166 species of passerines (song birds) and raptors. A daily census and observations bring our annual total of migrants to between 500,000 and 650,000 birds of over 200 species of passerines, waterfowl and raptors. Without a doubt, similar numbers occur at any of a number of points along the PECSS resulting in the potential of several million birds migrating through the area annually on route to and from their nesting sites in the Boreal forest.

We fully support the Government’s efforts to provide clean, renewable sources of energy, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. We have also, perhaps rather foolishly, trusted that the Government would recognize and protect the uniqueness of an Important Bird Area such as the south shore of Prince Edward County. The IBA programme is a science-based initiative to identify, conserve, and monitor a network of sites that provide essential habitat for bird populations. IBAs are identified using criteria that are internationally agreed upon, standardized, quantitative, and scientifically defensible. In Ontario, about 70 IBA sites have been designated. (For more information on IBAs see enclosed pamphlet or go to www.ibacanada.com).

In December, I was asked, as president of PEPtBO, to review your Ministry of Natural Resources policy document entitled Birds and Bird Habitats – Guidelines for Wind Power Projects, and to take advantage of the opportunity to make comments and recommendations (EBR 011-0112).  As I read the document, I became more and more disturbed. The guidelines are vague and weakly worded. The environmental requirements are limited to a site investigation (with little guidance regarding timing, duration or methods to be used) and a records review, all to be completed by the applicant! And most shocking of all – there is no provision made for IBAs. How can a superficial assessment of bird activity and populations, contracted by companies that have a vested interested in developing the area, even begin to reveal what the experts have known for years and PEPtBO’s data confirms: the entire PECSS IBA is situated on a major migration route?

Our energy problems are huge – and of our own making. However, do we have the right to interfere with the essential life patterns of other creatures? Where is the equality in the equation of providing power for several thousand homes at the expense of inhibiting the migratory practice of millions of birds by further diminishing their access to our north? The placement of industrial wind turbines on a major avian migratory route defies the principles of conservation and no amount of promising to monitor the number of dead birds after the fact can mitigate that reality.

We applaud the Government for its commitment to green energy, and recognize that the issue around industrial wind turbines is complex. However, if the movement to develop green energy is to be environmentally sound, its growth and implementation must not come at the expense of our wildlife and its habitat. Unless there is a responsible commitment to protecting our wildlife, it has no right to bear the name “Green”.

The Gilead Power Corp is currently seeking approval to proceed with its project at Ostrander Point located in the middle of the IBA not far from the Observatory.  I would ask that you 1) take a stand to protect this significant piece of shoreline, 2) prohibit wind power projects within IBAs, and 3) deny the Gilead application.

Thanking you in advance for your thoughtful consideration of this request.

Rosemary Kent
Picton

Filed Under: Letters and Opinion

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  1. Doris Lane says:

    Come out to Prince Edward Point and observe the birds coming across the lake to the South Shore of the County. WE keep track of the birds coming into the banding area but they are coming all the way across the South Shore of the County.
    Last Friday I had the privlege of observing over 100 Mrytle Warblers as they crossed over the PEPtBO area. These brave little birds may have come all the way from Mexico and are headed to the Boreal Forest where they will nest and then return again to Mexico. Stop and think what will happen to them if they collide with IWTs as the cross over the County. Why should their natural migration route be interrupted by man made obstacles. KEEP TRUBINES OUT OF IMPORTANT BIRD AREAS

  2. Renee says:

    Gilead isn’t doing this for the good of the planet – they’re doing it for their pocketbooks.

    Leona toes the party line, I don’t think she’s looking out for our interests either but she likes the paycheque – thank you very much.

  3. Jennifer Mosiac says:

    I dont know if anyone posting here attended the many meetings that Gileed has held but they are trying to do their best to ensure birds and other wildlife are not hurt or killed by the wind turbines. Doesnt it make sense to work with them and work together to minimize harm to the creatures then trying to kick them out entirely? If you agree that green is good and needed then we shouldnt be so quick to lock the door and throw away the key to a company that is trying to make it happen. Food for thought.

  4. Chris Keen says:

    Hazel – PEPtBO members, I’m sure, support responsible wind energy developments – just not in the middle of an Important Birding Area. Sacrificing this pristine area is NOT going to help the planet in future.

    Rosemary – I too have written numerous letters both in the fall and this spring to McGuinty, and the Ministers of the Environment and Natural Resources. I had one reply from a Director of the Approvals Program at the Ministry of the Environment explaining the “process” for approving projects. Not a peep from anyone else. Even our MPP simply passed my letter to her along to the aforementioned ministries with no comment. She seems to have no opinion she’s willing to express either for or against these two projects.

    It’s time to let Leona know that we expect her to work on our behalf to save this environmentally sensitive area instead of ducking the issue, or she’ll be out of office.

    Previous municipal councils across Ontario,including ours, rolled over without a peep as McGuinty introduced draconian powers for the provincial government in the Green Energy Act.

    It’s time for the Mayor and Council to put a major effort into stopping this madness. McGuinty and his minions don’t care what I think, but perhaps they will listen to elected officials. Nothing will happen if our Council doesn’t act. And, make no mistake, there is no issue more important facing Council and the County, than insuring this environmental gem is left untouched.

  5. Hazel says:

    Rosemary, humans have long “interfered with the essential life patterns of other creatures”. Habitat destruction and species extinction is caused by all human activity such as urbanization, industry, resource harvesting (mining, logging, trawling), agriculture, transportation, production of goods and services and energy. Humans have already done their utmost to destroy the planet; the tipping point has come and gone. We all need to make sacrifices now and think of the planet and future generations.

  6. Rob says:

    “How can a superficial assessment of bird activity and populations, contracted by companies that have a vested interested in developing the area, even begin to reveal what the experts have known for years and PEPtBO’s data confirms: the entire PECSS IBA is situated on a major migration route?” – The simple answer is: It Can’t!

    It’s great to see green energy initiatives but unfortunately they will drive ahead too fast to reliably predict and counteract other issues because in the end they need to be driven by a financial gain to make them feasible. Sort of a double edged sword but it’s definitely moving in the right direction.

    Excellently worded letter, have you just sent it? Would be interested to know the response. – Cheers from NS!

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