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Birds and Bats Need More Protection from Wind Power

Toronto, October 2, 2012 – The Ontario government should put additional areas of the province off-limits to wind power projects to safeguard birds, bats and their habitats, says Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller, who released Part 2 of his 2011/2012 Annual Report, Losing Our Touch, today.

“I fully support wind power. Together with energy conservation, renewable sources of energy such as wind are necessary to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and protect the environment,” says Miller.  “However, the use of wind power must be balanced by the equally important goal of protecting birds and bats. To accomplish that goal, we need to be smarter about where we place wind power facilities.”

The government has released guidelines for evaluating and reducing harmful effects on birds, bats and their habitats during the planning, construction and operation of wind power projects. The Environmental Commissioner praises the government for giving special attention to birds and bats as wind power development increases in the province, but notes “there are some significant shortcomings in the guidelines that continue to put birds and bats at risk.”

  • Lack of protection for migratory bat species: Approximately 75 per cent of documented bat fatalities at wind turbines in North America are migratory bats, yet the provincial guidelines lack any criteria for identifying and avoiding bat migratory stopover areas during the selection of wind power sites.  Three out of the eight species of Ontario’s bats are migratory.
  • Development in Important Bird Areas not prohibited: Important Bird Areas are designated, using internationally accepted standards, as key areas supporting specific groups of birds. There are no special rules to prevent wind power development in Ontario’s 70 Important Bird Areas.
  • No consideration of cumulative effects: Wind power project sites are evaluated and approved on an individual basis, with no regard for the potential cumulative effects on birds or bats from other nearby wind power facilities or other potential sources of bird and bat mortality.

Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner says “I am concerned that the current guidelines do not go far enough to ensure that wind power development is compatible with Ontarians’ objective of protecting wildlife. Given the importance of selecting sites that minimize the harm to birds and bats, it just makes sense to avoid building wind energy projects in these species’ most ecologically sensitive locations.”

“The Ministry of Natural Resources should rectify these shortcomings,” says Miller “and prohibit new wind power development within Ontario’s Important Bird Areas.”  Important Bird Areas, such as Point Pelee and the Leslie St. Spit, cover only about two per cent of Ontario in total.

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Environmental Commissioner says Ontario government ignores endangered species

 (Toronto- November 29, 2011) The Government of Ontario is not taking sufficient steps to protect and recover the province’s imperilled species. This warning was issued by the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, Gord Miller, in his 2010/2011 Annual Report released today at Queen’s Park.

“Ontario’s Endangered Species Act is a good law that has the potential to make a real difference,” said Gord Miller. “However, the government is not making the tough choices about what it will and will not do to protect species at risk. Rather than taking decisive action, much of what the government is doing has become an empty bureaucratic exercise with little benefit for endangered species.”

The government released its plans to address the recovery of 13 species at risk in November 2010. The Environmental Commissioner’s report found that the government’s commitments in the majority of these plans do the bare legal minimum to address these species. The government is taking a backseat in its own program by offloading key actions, creating a situation in which the on-the-ground recovery of species at risk might only occur if external, voluntary groups step up. Further, the government is not providing stakeholders with the necessary information on how to carry on with business, if appropriate, when species at risk are present.

“Protecting endangered species must first be framed by science, and then political and social choices can be made,” stated the Environmental Commissioner. “Instead, the government has so muddied the process that it is difficult to decipher science from politics. The result for Ontario is that the loss of biodiversity continues unchecked.”

The Environmental Commissioner’s report found the Ministry of Natural Resources is sending mixed messages in its conservation efforts for species at risk:

 The Ministry of Natural Resources allows the hunting and trapping of some species at risk, such as snapping turtles and eastern wolves which are both species of special concern.

 The Ministry of Natural Resources has failed to provide the public with a clear picture of where Ontario’s threatened woodland caribou are and what will be done to actually conserve their habitat