By Amanda Moore
MPP says province should protect endangered species
QUEEN'S PARK — Tim Hudak says the minister of natural resources must decide which is more important to Ontario: industrial wind turbines or endangered turtles.
Hudak called on MNR Minister Bill Mauro last week in legislature "to do the right thing" and protect Blanding's turtles whose habitat is threatened by the onslaught of industrial wind turbines. The Blanding's turtle is listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.
The most significant threat to this reptile are loss or fragmenting of habitat, motor vehicles, racoons and foxes. Another threat is poaching for the black market.
Hudak said a provincially-approved wind development in his riding puts the turtle at greater risk.
The 40 trucks loads of cement and 540 metres of steel required for each of the 77 wind turbines Niagara Region Wind Corp. has been approved to build puts the Blanding's turtle in jeopardy. Twenty of the project's turbines are slated to be built in known Blanding's habitats.
"If the government wants to continue down this reckless and expensive path, they should at the very least be protecting an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act," Hudak told The News.
The courts have sided with the turtle in the case against Ostrander Point Wind Energy. The Prince Edward County Field Naturalists Club successfully challenged the approval of a 324-hectare, nine-turbine wind farm in Ostrander Point, south of Belleville, Ont. in an environmental review tribunal last year. That decision was challenged at divisional court and the project was once again slated to move forward. However, the Ontario Court of Appeals recently ruled that the ERT was correct in its 2013 decision that the project posed a threat to the endangered turtle and that the Divisional Court was wrong to find otherwise. The court also said the tribunal needs to take a look at mitigating potential harm other projects pose to endangered species other than out-right cancelling entire projects.
Hudak said it should have been the province and not the courts looking out for a threatened species.
"The unfortunate part is that it should have been the government enforcing its own act and tossing it out," said Hudak. "But the courts forced their hands and I am calling on the MNR to do the right thing and play the role that we expect.
"Ensure the same protection for Blanding's turtles found in Niagara and anywhere else in the provide."
Hudak said Mauro "sidestepped" the question and instead of responding, offered information on how species get listed under the Act.
"We have a clear question in front of us. When residents of West Niagara think of the natural environment, do they think about wetlands, rivers and streams or industrial wind turbines? Do you protect the endangered species or the turbines? The minister has to choose."
Local activities Mothers Against Wind Turbines brought up the Blanding's turtle in its environmental review tribunal hearing which took place earlier this year. The ERT ruled that the issue was outside of the scope of the appeal when it issued its decision to dismiss the appeal.
MAWT is not giving up and is investigating next options.
TURBINE CONSTRUCTION TO START THIS MONTH
With the appeal dismissed by the Environmental Review Tribunal, Niagara Region Wind Corp. plans to begin construction of the 230-megawatt wind farm this month.
In an email, Shiloh Berriman, a project co-ordinator with Enercon Canada Inc. said construction on the 77 turbines will begin in June. He said the turbines will be built in accordance with all rules and regulations.