The Natural History Society of P.E.I. and Island Nature Trust work to promote the study of natural history and to protect the flora and fauna of the province. A 30-megawatt wind development project is proposed for East Point, a crucial natural area which has been identified as critical for the protection of birds and other wildlife.
The area near the tip of East Point forms a triangle, which is the most critical for migrating birds. This site was identified as sensitive with the support of previous ministers and provincial staff. Previous recommendations were to avoid placement of turbines within this triangular area, since they interfere with migration and are known to cause collisions and deaths.
Impacts on wildlife and the natural environment are of key importance in new developments of all sorts and the impact of wind energy is one that we continue to learn from. The Natural History Society of P.E.I. and Island Nature Trust support the increased development of wind energy, but feel that any development must make provisions for sensitive environmental areas and endangered species.
As a point of land extending deep into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, East Point is an important staging site for major bird migrations on this portion of the Atlantic flyway. It is the last landfall as birds head north or the first one during their southerly migration. As a well-known “hot spot” in Canada, birders gather to see various species that are more difficult to find elsewhere. Threatened species listed under the Species at Risk Act are found at East Point including the Olive-sided Flycatcher and the Canada Warbler. In addition, three species listed as Special Concern birds under the same act are found here; Short-Eared Owl, Rusty Blackbird, and Harlequin Duck.
Large numbers of more common birds have been noted in migration at this site. These sorts of large migrations have resulted in formal protection of similar sites, such as Point Pelee in Ontario. Adjacent forested areas serve as a refuge and resting area for migratory birds, and thus widespread removal of trees for service roads is also a concern.
In addition, bat populations in the Maritimes and North America are in decline due to the rapid spread of the fungal disease White Nose Syndrome. There have been huge mortalities in Eastern North America’s bat populations in recent years. Wind turbines are a real threat to bats as collision with wind turbine blades causes fatalities. Bat fatalities have now been documented at the majority of wind developments in North America where surveys for bats have been conducted. An emergency assessment subcommittee of COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada) assessed the status of Little Brown Myotis and Northern Myotis in Canada on February 3, 2012. A recommendation was made to the federal minister of the environment that an Emergency Order be issued to place these wildlife species on Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act. These two bat species are native to P.E.I. and until now have been excluded from environmental impact assessments at East Point. Due to this recent proposal to change their status, there will be a legal requirement to protect them.
Our organizations and members are not opposed to alternative energy developments, but wind developments should not be located in environmentally sensitive areas such as the outlined triangle at East Point. We join other organizations in calling for a full environmental assessment, with meaningful public participation, and strategic provincial land-use planning before any new wind development takes place.
Fiep de Bie is president of Island Nature Trust and Ian Scott is president of the Natural History Society of P.E.I.
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