TRURO – Wind generating companies competing to place turbines on mountain tops are also competing with wildlife seeking secure habitat.
Tony Nette, wildlife resources manger with the Department of Natural Resources, said there is a concern about the lack of research on the impact wind turbines may have if erected in areas inhabited by the endangered moose.
“As a society we are caught between a rock and a hard place. We know we need more green energy but we don’t want to lose anything else,” said Nette.
“Moose is an endangered species. That kicks in very powerful things and because of that we need to proceed with caution.”
The Cobequid Mountain range spans from Cape Chignecto in Cumberland County in the west and to Pictou County in the east and is largely uninhabited, making it a prime refuge for the strongest remaining moose population on mainland Nova Scotia.
It is also where some of the strongest winds in the province blow, making it an ideal place to erect wind turbines.
Nette said several things can cause disturbances which could increase the pressure of an already fragile moose population.
Along with construction traffic and noise, new access roads allowing recreational vehicles passage into previously untouched woodlands, rotor noise, and visual noise from the shadows of turbine blades could also have an impact.
“It’s a question that we don’t have all the answers to,” said Nette. “There is a big unknown there. I’m not sure we are giving it adequate consideration.”
Wildlife biologist Bob Bancroft is looking to answer that question by researching studies done in northern areas of the United States to learn about the impact wind turbines there are having on wildlife species, including moose.
“There are a lot of things wind energy generating companies can do to minimalize disturbance,” said Bancroft, adding it is very important for industry, government, and environmental groups to work together to protect wildlife. “The moose population is already in trouble and we don’t want to burden them with more.”
In the past 30 years the mainland herd has decreased by about 20 per cent with only about 1,000 remaining. There are already several significant threats to their survival such as poaching, off-highway vehicle disturbance, and illness.
By the end of December, Nova Scotia Power is expected to complete negotiations with six wind energy developers at eight locations, including properties in Colchester, Cumberland and Pictou counties, to build enough wind turbines to power 58,000 homes by the end of 2009.
By Sherry Martell
4 December 2007
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