Four area naturalists groups are opposing Ontario's approval of the Amherst Island Wind Energy Project.
The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change announced Aug. 24 that the project received renewable energy approval, pending more than two dozen conditions. The project, to be build by Windlectric Inc., is to include up to 26 wind turbine generators and one substation transformer.
Nature Canada, Ontario Nature, the Kingston Field Naturalists and the American Bird Conservancy have come forward to ask the project's approval be overturned. The Association to Protect Amherst Island (APAI) and Randy Hillier, MPP for Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox & Addington, already publicly opposed the project.
Stephen Hazell, director of conservation for Nature Canada, called the approve another 'tough on nature' move by the ministry and asks the Environmental Review Tribunal to overturn the approval.
"Given the clear breaches of the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act, the federal government should in future apply its environmental assessment process to wind energy projects," Hazell said in a release.
Joshua Wise, greenway program manager for Ontario Nature, said the 35 kilometres of new roads will destroy habitat for species at risk.
"Amherst has the largest breeding population of the at-risk short-eared owl in southern Ontario," Wise said. "During the winter, Amherst supports the largest concentration of owl species of anywhere in eastern North America as far as we know. "We are all for green energy, but not at the expense of nature."
Kurt Hennige, president of the Kingston Field Naturalists (KFN), said his group opposes the Amherst Island Wind Energy Project because they know the turbines on Wolfe Island are killing area birds such as ospreys, red-tailed hawks, purple martins and the wilson snipe.
"The KFN believe that there will be the same or higher levels of mortality on Amherst that will result in the local extinction of these four species and have irreversible impacts on Eastern Meadowlarks and Bobolinks," Hennige said. "Our requests for a radar study of bird and bat migration was ignored and the environmental impact of the project was grossly minimized in their (Environmental Bill of Rights)."
South of the border, Michael Hutchins, director of the American Bird Conservancy's Bird-Smart Wind Energy Campaign, said it could not ignore the MOECC's decision. The American Bird Conservancy will be looking to any of their tools available to overturn the decision.
"The birds and bats that will be killed would be migrating to or from the United States and are a shared resource," Hutchins said. "They contribute millions of dollars of tourism revenue and ecological services to the U.S., Canada and other countries that may be their winter destinations.
"There is no regard in this decision for its international implications."
"APAI intends to continue its commitment to preserve the cultural and natural heritage of the Island for future generations," APAI said in a release following the approval. "The association has a strong legal position and fact-based evidence and will file an appeal of the decision to the Environmental Review Tribunal in the near future." APAI said the project is unwanted because it will bring down property values, hurt the climate of the island, and Windelectric Inc. has not provided an emergency response plan.
Hillier said he admires the resolve of the APAI and their efforts.
"The essence of a democracy is to listen to people and to have policies that are consistent with the desire of people," Hillier said. "There is ample evidence that this development would be harmful to Amherst Island."