WENTWORTH – A group fighting a proposed wind farm in the Wentworth Valley is urging Nova Scotia’s government to declare the area as a wilderness area to protect the mainland moose and prevent future wind development projects.
“We want to inhibit industrial wind turbines in areas of important moose habitat and connectivity in Colchester Cumberland,” Folly Lake area resident and Protect Wentworth Valley spokesperson Leslie Dykeman said. “We don’t believe the Wentworth Valley is the right place for industrial wind turbines for so many reasons.”
The group, she added, is not against renewable energy, but says placing multiple turbines in the Wentworth Valley could be devastating to the area as a moose habitat. She said it’s one thing to get away from fossil fuels and energy sources that are bad for the environment, but it’s important not to replace that with something just as bad.
“The more we learn and the more we understand the valuable land we have in Colchester-Cumberland, the more we want to protect that,” Dykeman said. “We feel we have an obligation to future generations to protect this land. We know construction of these turbines does cause more destruction of our forests and impacts these valuable habitats.”
Dykeman said the group hopes to meet with Premier Tim Houston to encourage him to bring additional protection to the Wentworth Valley in Cumberland and Colchester counties, where at least two companies are proposing to develop wind farms.
“We want to have protection enacted for the Mainland moose core habitat designated in Colchester-Cumberland, documented in the Nova Scotia mainland moose recovery plan,” she said. “We want the core habitat area designated as a Wilderness Area under Nova Scotia’s Wilderness Areas Protection Act.”
This would provide enhanced connectivity with both the already protected Portapique and Wentworth Valley wilderness areas.
The group is already fighting against a proposed 100-megawatt project at Higgins Mountain in Cumberland County and recently learned of another possible 100-megawatt project on the Colchester County side of the Valley, called Windy Ridge.
Each turbine is expected to be more than 600 feet tall.
Their campaign comes after the province announced a rate-based procurement request for proposals earlier this month for renewable energy.
Dykeman said the province has a mandate to protect at least 20 per cent of its land and water mass by 2030.
“By protecting this particular area of the Wentworth Valley, it will go a long way toward meeting that goal,” she said.
Karen Beazley, who helped author the mainland moose recovery plan, said it’s essential to bring added protection to the moose in the Wentworth Valley area. She said ripping out a large portion of woodland to build the turbines would hurt existing moose and prevent other moose from coming to the area.
“This is not a NIMBY, or not in my backyard, thing. It’s much bigger than that,” Beazley said. “Yes, we need more renewable energy to address the climate crisis, but on the other hand, the best way to address the climate crisis is to protect our forests. It seems illogical to reduce our forests to put up wind turbines.”
She also warned the development of roads to build and service the turbines could lead to more deer in the area. She said the deer have a brain worm that is deadly to moose.
Beazley said for Nova Scotia’s moose to recover, 500 or more moose are needed in each habitat, including the Wentworth Valley. Right now, she estimates, there are no more than 700 moose in the entire mainland.
“It’s an important area for the recovery of the moose population and that recovery can’t happen anywhere else,” Beazley said.
With Cumberland and Colchester part of the pathway to the Isthmus of Chignecto, joining the moose habitat with New Brunswick, industrial wind turbines would effectively be a roadblock to the movement of moose through the area.
Heather Allen-Johnson said the group isn’t against one or two projects, it’s against all industrial wind development in the area because of their impact on the moose habitat in what they feel is an ecologically threatened area of the province.
“It’s one thing to talk about wind turbines, but any kind of development that will impact the forests will be devastating to that habitat,” said Allen-Johnson, who lives near Westchester in Cumberland County. “If one of these areas is to be clear cut, there will be damage to the moose habitat, but it also doesn’t do anything to help stop climate change when you’re taking out large swaths of woodland. How is that helping climate change? It’s not. Protecting our forests is so critical. We need to protect biodiversity.”
The group has already met with Environment and Climate Change Minister Tim Halman and Natural Resources and Renewables Minister Tory Rushton, who, as Cumberland South MLA, is responsible for the Cumberland County section of the Wentworth Valley.
“We’re not going to stop until we get this land protected,” Dykeman said. “We have to protect it now before it’s too late. They have the ability to do that.”
The group hosted a virtual community meeting on Thursday night to reach out to as many Nova Scotians as possible to gather support for their campaign to protect the Wentworth Valley.
It’s also encouraging people to write letters to the Municipality of Cumberland before its March 2 deadline for input on its land-use bylaws regarding wind farm development. Colchester County joined Cumberland County last week in placing a six-month hold on wind projects while it also takes a look at its land-use bylaws.
Allen-Johnson said municipal councils in both counties have been supportive and co-operative of what their group is attempting to do, but she says it’s up to the provincial government to get involved to protect critical habitat.
She said the Valley has been under threat from wind farm development since at least 2004.
“It feels as though there’s a bull’s eye on Wentworth Valley, it’s a special place and it deserves to be protected,” Allen-Johnson said.
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