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Nature Canada supports Senate motion for moratorium on wind projects in Important Bird Areas

November 28, 2011 (Ottawa) – Conservation group Nature Canada today announced its support of a Senate motion calling for greater protection of Important Bird Areas in Canada’s Upper St. Lawrence-Eastern Lake Ontario region.

The motion, announced today by Senator Bob Runciman, calls for “a moratorium on the approval of wind energy projects on islands and onshore areas within three kilometres of the shoreline in the Upper St. Lawrence-Eastern Lake Ontario region, from the western tip of Prince Edward County to the eastern edge of Wolfe Island, until the significant threat to congregating, migrating or breeding birds and migrating bats is investigated thoroughly and restrictions imposed to protect internationally recognized important bird areas from such developments.”

Nature Canada joined Senator Runciman in making the announcement at a press conference on Parliament Hill. Also participating were Cheryl Anderson from the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists and Rosemary Kent from the Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory.

“We believe in good things in good places,” said Ted Cheskey, Nature Canada’s manager of bird conservation programs. “To achieve wind energy’s greatest promise – a clean alternative to fossil fuels that helps, not harms wildlife – wind turbines should not be located in Important Bird Areas.”

Wind energy is a clean, abundant, renewable source of energy that can contribute to combating the harmful environmental changes brought about by global warming. When compared to other forms of energy production, particularly fossil-fuel based sources, wind power has a relatively small impact on the environment – as long as they are appropriately situated.

In some cases, when wind projects are poorly located, the benefits of renewable energy are offset by a terrible cost to wildlife. TransAlta’s Wolfe Island Wind Energy plant, near Kingston Ontario, for example, is one of the most destructive for birds and bats in North America. The casualty rate for birds at this site is seven times the industry average.

Wolfe Island, and other areas in the Eastern Lake Ontario basin, are found within what are known as Important Bird Areas, or IBAs. IBAs are literally the most significant sites on earth for birds, places where they breed, feed, and rest in great numbers. IBAs are recognized according to strict international scientific criteria. These are places birds depend on for survival.

“The coasts of the Great Lakes are like super highways for migrating birds,” said Cheskey. “Things like wind turbines, transmission towers, and tall buildings can exact a terrible toll on birds.”

Nature Canada supports the development of wind energy in Canada, coupled with conservation measures to reduce all forms of fossil fuel consumption.

However, to ensure that wind energy projects do indeed help, and not harm, wildlife:

• Wind turbines and wind farms should not be located in places – such as Important Bird Areas – where birds congregate, migrate and breed.

• All wind farm proposals should be subject to an environmental assessment prior to development in order to evaluate their impact on all wildlife, including birds and bats.

• Regulators such as the provincial and territorial governments should adopt policies and guidelines that exclude wind energy projects from Important Bird Areas and other areas that are known to be of importance to birds and bats.

• Any wind farms that already exist within migratory corridors or bottlenecks should be subject to the best practices for mitigating their impacts on birds, especially during migration season.

“We have an opportunity to get this right, now,” said Cheskey. “Clear standards are needed to ensure that projects are more carefully sited to exclude wind energy plants from Important Bird Areas, and that’s why we support Senator Bob Runciman’s motion announced today.”

For more information, contact:

Ted Cheskey
Manager, Bird Conservation Programs
Nature Canada
Phone: 613 562-3447 ext. 227
Email: tcheskey@naturecanada.ca

Chris Sutton
Director, Communications
Nature Canada
Phone: 613 562-3447 ext. 248
Email: csutton@naturecanada.ca

About Nature Canada
Nature Canada is a member-based non-profit nature conservation organization dedicated to conserving and protecting wildlife and habitats in Canada by engaging people and advocating on behalf of nature. With strategies based on sound science and passion for nature, Nature Canada effects change on issues of national significance. Our Web site is www.naturecanada.ca