A pair of ‘threatened’ bird species who help ensure crop survival could be in harm’s way with a proposed Suncor wind farm set for Lambton County, says a local anti-wind group.
Members of We’re Against Industrial Turbines (WAIT) – Plympton-Wyoming have taken their concerns to the Ministry of the Environment after reviewing a species at risk report for the site of the 46-turbine wind farm planned for Plympton-Wyoming, Lambton Shores and Warwick Township.
More than 150 hectares of grasslands that are home to bobolinks and eastern meadowlarks will be affected by the Cedar Point project, said Kristen Rodrigues, who reviewed the report on behalf of WAIT-PW.
“The bobolink and the eastern meadowlark are on the largest decline of any species at risk,” Rodrigues said. “They’re showing the sharpest down trend.”
Bobolinks are actually among the top 10 species killed by wind turbines in Ontario, according to a Ministry of Natural Resources report. Part of the problem is these birds have been known to collide with tall lighted structures at night.
Bobolinks also perform aerial mating displays, making them once again susceptible to collisions with turbines.
The Ministry of Natural Resources has prepared a recovery strategy to help restore the province’s population of these ‘threatened’ birds who are likely to become endangered unless action is taken.
Suncor spokesperson Nicole Fisher said the company doesn’t believe that area bobolinks are being put at risk with the project, and instead pointed to protection measures being put in place.
Suncor doesn’t plan to construct any part of the project in the grasslands area during the bird breeding season running from May to July, Fisher wrote in a email.
The company also plans create 10 hectares of grasslands in Tiverton, north of Kincardine, to help offset any removal of local habitat.
Under the Endangered Species Act, Fisher said up to 1.5 hectares of grasslands can be removed upon a project being registered with the Ministry of Natural Resources.
In the Cedar Point species at risk report, Stantec Consulting Ltd., who was hired by Suncor, has recommended on-site mortality monitoring be conducted twice weekly at the wind turbine farm for three years.
But Rodrigues is skeptical these measures do enough protect the birds.
While the Ministry of Natural Resources requires mitigation measures be in place to protect threatened species, Rodrigues said the province doesn’t follow up with the company’s efforts.
“You are ordering the company to do these things and self-monitor. Nobody is overseeing it. Nobody is looking out for the best interest of the birds.”
In a letter to the Ministry of Natural Resources, both Nature Canada and Ontario Nature reported that about 40 bobolinks have been killed by turbines in Wolfe Island near Kingston in 2011, Rodrigues noted.
“Even if you destroy that (grasslands) habitat and say you’re going to rebuild some or replace what’s there, that doesn’t work,” she added. “(Bobolinks) are a very picky creature. They like well-established grasslands.”
Bobolinks and eastern meadowlarks survive by eating insects, and in turn, help strengthen crop survival, she added.
Rodrigues believes Suncor should have to move sections of its wind turbine project out of the grasslands.
“You’ve got acres and acres of farmland you’re putting these turbines on. Just relocate those project pieces. It’s not that hard.”
While Suncor has tried to avoid grasslands, Fisher said it is not entirely possible.
“We have endeavoured to minimize the impact to any grasslands,” she wrote. “However, total elimination is difficult to completely avoid because of the existing crop rotation that occurs in this area.”
Suncor is still awaiting its renewable energy approval for the Cedar Point project before construction can begin at the site.
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