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Expert says Ostrander Point Blanding’s turtle habitat now damaged

Comments on habit disturbance activities (UXO removal site preparation) on Ostrander Point August/September 2011 by Frederic Beaudry, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Environmental Science,  Alfred University, Alfred, New York, September 8, 2011

The original Word document appears below.

 “The following comments refer to activities observed on the site of a wind farm proposed by Gilead Power Corporation on Ostrander Point,Ontario. It appears that site preparation for unexploded ordnance removal has been conducted in the last week of August 2011. The activities documented on photos show site preparation consisting in clearing land of grass, forbs, shrubs and small trees using a Brushcat rotary mower pushed by a Bobcat skid steer.

These activities are of serious concern for the viability and persistence of the local population of Blanding’s turtles. Two main threat mechanisms were at play because of those activities:

 1)     Direct damage to Blanding’s turtle habitat is evident from the photographs and the maps situating the mowing activities. The mowing occurred in areas turtles use to conduct upland movements between foraging and nesting sites. More importantly, without proper prior wetland delineation procedures, damage may have occurred in spring / early summer foraging areas that would most likely be dry at this point. Damage in these foraging areas would affect their suitability for pond-breeding amphibians, a significant source of food for Blanding’s turtles. Finally, the use of gas- or diesel-powered vehicles in turtle habitat is risky, as highly polluting fuel, oils or lubricants can easily leak into the environment.

 2)     A greater threat to the Blanding’s turtle population is the risk of injuries or mortality from the mower.  At this time of year, the air temperature is still high enough to allow for relatively frequent overland movements as adult turtles seek new foraging areas, search for deeper waters as wetlands dry out, or make movements back towards the wetlands where they will overwinter. The mower can inflict mortal wounds to the turtles that are located upland, a threat that has long been recognized and usually associated with agricultural mowing equipment such as disk mowers. This risk is of great concern as Blanding’s turtle populations are extremely vulnerable to any additional mortality of adults. Their delayed sexual maturity, low annual reproductive output, and low egg and hatchling survival rates need to be offset by a high longevity. Because of this the adults’ annual survival rate needs to be between 94 and 96%; the loss of just a few individual adults, as little as one or two in small populations, is enough to drive local extinctions. For this reason the operation of motor vehicles or machinery that can kill adults is the greatest threat to their persistence.”

Frederic Beaudry, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Environmental Science

Alfred University

Alfred, New York

beaudry_comments_on_UXO_activities

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