Dear SSC Members,
Very recently scientists in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) have expressed concern about the risk of irreversible harm to turtle species from poaching as well as road mortality.
Last year the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists (PECFN) argued and won the ERT stating that 5.4 kilometres of new access roads at Ostrander Point would cause serious and irreversible harm to the Blanding’s turtles. Experts brought forward by PECFN noted their concerns about the roads in relation to road mortalities, increased predation and access to poachers to undeveloped areas.
On Tuesday of this week the South Shore Conservancy board sent a letter to Premier Wynne, the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry and other Ministers advising them that wpd “White Pines” is proposing to construct 16 kilometres of new access roads in habitat known to be used by the Blanding’s turtle and other turtle species.
We encourage SSC members to call on Premier Wynne and all MPPs to respect Blanding’s turtles and other species at risk that use the County’s south shore.
You may wish to reference the Conservancy’s letter as a starting point for your letter, or an article on our website (southshoreconservancy.wordpress.ca).
The Conservancy continues to support the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists as they continue with their challenge of the Ostrander Point wind project at the Ontario Court of Appeal. Date to be announced.
Your letters are greatly appreciated especially when put in your own words.
Remember to ask for a reply to your letter or email.
Sandy Goranson, Janice Gibbins, Paula Peel, Beth Harrington
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Premier Kathleen Wynne
Hon Bob Chiarelli
Ministry of Energy
4th Floor, Hearst Block
900 Bay St
Hon Bill Mauro
Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry
Ste 6630, 6th Floor, Whitney Block
99 Wellesley St. W.
Hon Glen Murray
Ministry of Environment and Climate Change
11th Floor, Ferguson Block
77 Wellesley St W.
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July 15, 2014
Dear Minister Mauro, Minister Chiarelli, Minister Murray, Premier Wynne and advisors:
Re: Please acknowledge receipt of this email
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It is the understanding of the Prince Edward County South Shore Conservancy that scientists in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry [MNRF] are gravely concerned about the risks of irreversible harm to endangered turtles due to poaching and road mortality.
Your own officials are publicly commenting on the known risks to the Blanding’s turtle in recent news reports. For example a report from Windsor about Victor Miller, Ministry of Natural Resources intelligence and investigations specialist states:
Whether it’s a poacher involved in the illegal pet trade or a cottager unwittingly snatching an endangered turtle, these are the types of scenarios undercover officers with the Ministry of Natural Resources have confronted as they stepped up their enforcement in the last decade.
He won’t reveal where poachers are most active in the province but said Essex County and Southwestern Ontario are the hotspot of endangered species. Seven of eight turtle species in Ontario are at risk and Windsor-Essex has a handful of them including the threatened Blanding’s turtle, spiny soft-shell turtle and eastern musk turtle.
‘Turtle troubles: undercover officers after poachers and smugglers’ Windsor Star July 4, 2014
In addition, Joe Crowley, an at-risk-species Herpatologist at the MNRF and part of the Canadian Herpetological Society states in a recent news article from The Canadian Press:
“Turtles are definitely in pretty big trouble in Ontario,” Crowley said, adding that there are various contributing factors, such as loss of habitat and road mortality. Crowley said turtles have low reproductive rates, so the deaths of adults can be detrimental to a population.
“Poaching is an especially problematic threat for the rare species, the ones that have high demand in the pet trade,” he said. “A single poaching event could theoretically wipe out a population.”
‘Turtle Populations Threatened by Poachers’ The Canadian Press July 12, 2014
As you are now aware, two industrial wind projects, Ostrander Point and White Pines, are proposed for the south shore of Prince Edward County where the Blanding’s turtle makes its home.
It must be noted that your own Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry acknowledges the unique significance of the area:
“The combination of size, extent of shoreline, known species diversity and special features make this site unique …” (Ministry of Natural Resources, 2008, describing the area between Prince Edward Point and Ostrander Point, which is a candidate site for an Area of Natural and Scientific Interest)
In an ERT Decision July 3 2013, the Tribunal panel revoked the approval of the Ostrander Point Wind Park Renewable Energy Approval on the grounds of irreversible harm to the Blanding’s turtle due to construction of 5.4km of new access roads.
The Decision of the Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal [Case Nos.: 13-002/13-003] panel which heard the Ostrander Point Wind Project appeal in 2013 states:
…the Tribunal concludes that the appellant citizen group PECFN has shown, on a balance of probabilities, that engaging in the Project in accordance with the REA will cause serious and irreversible harm to plant life, animal life or the natural environment. This is on the basis of findings that such harm will be caused to Blanding’s turtle.
The Site has been identified as habitat for Blanding’s turtle, a threatened species in Ontario. One of the most serious threats to Blanding’s turtle is road mortality.
As noted by the Tribunal, the wind developer’s own reports recognized the following “potential indirect
disturbance effects to Blanding’s turtles from the turbines or an increase in human activity”:
– Increased risk of mortality on new access roads, which may experience an increase in
traffic over current conditions
– Increased predation of nests due to predators (i.e., coyotes and foxes) using access roads
to traverse through the habitat
– Increased poaching for the pet trade due to increased access and awareness of the local
Blanding’s turtle population
Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal [Case Nos.: 13-002/13-003, Section 259]
A second proposed project now in the approval stage is wpd’s White Pines project. This project will include the construction of 16km of new access roads on uninhabited land along Prince Edward County’s protected shoreline. According to recently published research from McMaster University, road mortality is seen as one of the most significant causes for loss of life to Turtle populations.
Blanding’s turtles were chosen for this research project because of their complex habitat
requirements, relatively large home ranges, long annual nesting migrations, and their
status as a threatened species (Government of Canada, 2009; Ontario Ministry of Natural
Rapid population declines of the majority of turtle species have been discovered in
the Great Lakes region in Ontario due to destruction of habitat, rapid development of
urban areas, and increased rates of road mortality (Ashley & Robinson, 1996;
DeCatanzaro & Chow-Fraser 2010; Haxton, 2000).
The Movement Patterns and Home Ranges of Blanding’s Turtles (Emydoidea Blandingii) In Two Protected Areas in Ontario Canada By Robert J. Christensen, H.Bsc
It is the conclusion of (a) the Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal, (b) the Ontario Court of Appeal, (c) MNRF scientists/investigators, and (d) experts in the U.S. as well as those in the Canada that road mortality due to increased traffic in previously undeveloped areas is the leading cause of decline in population of Blanding’s turtles which are a species-at-risk. Also, as noted by the Environmental Review Tribunal, it is acknowledged by experts that the construction of access roads in undeveloped areas creates new opportunities for predators and poachers. The fact that female Blanding’s turtles are attracted to gravel roadways to lay their eggs makes the problem with predators and poachers even more acute. It is also acknowledged that the south shore of Prince Edward County is the longest stretch of undeveloped shoreline on Lake Ontario and an ideal breeding ground for this rare turtle.
In light of this information the Conservancy would greatly appreciate the ministries of the Environment and Climate Change, of Natural Resources and Forestry and of Energy to give serious consideration to a moratorium on wind projects along the south shore of Prince Edward County. We also request that a study into the possible effects of up to 21.5 kilometres of new access roads in this unique ecosystem is carried out that will assess the potential detrimental impact of these projects on the Blanding’s turtle population in the County.
Thank you for consideration of this request.
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