By now probably everyone who reads this already knows about the removal of an active eagle’s nest near Fisherville, Ontario, by Nextera. The tree (a 100+ year-old cottonwood) and nest were apparently in the way of several turbines and Nextera was unwilling to move the turbines or the service road to spare the nest. The pair have been reported flying around the area looking for the nest. The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) was responsible for the decision, and one has to wonder if there’s anything they wouldn’t be willing to sacrifice in order to build the turbines. To date the MNR has approved anything and everything – except anywhere close to the Toronto area where the current government’s supporters mostly live.
As crappy as just the act itself was, the background makes it even crappier.
Crappy #1. The location was known to be important for raptors, especially wintering raptors, yet they went ahead with the project. From the Wolfe Island project documents there was this.
Environment Canada compiled the results of recent winter bird surveys from 17 sites in southern Ontario, and concluded that just a few sites across southern Ontario provide the necessary conditions to support high numbers of wintering raptors (Environment Canada, letter, September 21, 2007). Two sites, Amherst Island (3.14 raptors/kilometer) and Fisherville (2.14 raptors/kilometer) had higher raptor densities than Wolfe Island (1.4 raptors/kilometer, with 1.92 raptors/kilometer west of Highway 95), which had similar densities to a site north of Glencoe. The remainder of the sites supported raptor densities that were an order of magnitude less than these four sites (Environment Canada, letter, September 21, 2007).[my emphasis]
Of these 4 hot spots 3 are now within the borders of wind projects. Only Glencoe has been spared, more or less, so far, although even it is pretty much surrounded by turbines. Just as with Wolfe Island, it is not creditable that they didn’t know there would be a large kill-off of valued (at least, by most of us) birds. Below are three clickable maps (the first two are from ontario-wind-turbines.org, while the third is from the NextEra project documents) that show where it is located. The first map shows all the projects in this area, in red, to the west of Niagara Falls and Buffalo.The next map centers on just the NextEra project. The Samsung project is east and Port Dover to the west. Fisherville is just north of the Route 12 sign. The nest location was south of Fisherville, quite close to Lake Erie.The next map is a closeup of the site itself, with the red dot indicating the tree’s location. Note how close it is to turbine #49. Note also how isolated the tree was, and how the ground all around is quite flat and open.
Crappy #2. What did they know and when did they know it? The MNR’s EBR entry indicates:
Since receiving all required approvals for this project, Bald Eagles (listed as special concern in Ontario) have built a nest within the project location in a tree that was scheduled to be removed for the construction of a road, and within 20 metres of the blade sweep of a proposed turbine.
The nest was brought to the attention of MNR in summer 2012 and confirmed in the fall when leaves fell from the tree. Confirmation of an active nest was given by Bird Studies Canada and Guelph District.
No doubt you’ve seen pictures of the nest. It is the MNR’s contention it was built “since receiving all required approvals” on March 16, 2012. That’s a rather fast build for something that large (see comments below). As reported by the Simcoe Reformer, Josie Hernandez of NextEra stated that they had removed eagle nests before in Maine and Florida. “We understand some may be concerned about the removal of the nest and we share that concern,” Hernandez said. “However, after discussions with experts, we believe the action taken was absolutely in the best interests of the eagles and would significantly reduce the risk of harm coming to them.” One wonders what experts were part of that discussion, and if NextEra ever even remotely considered moving the turbine. One of MNR’s experts, Jody Allair of Bird Studies Canada: became aware of the nest last November. It is a new nest belonging to a young mating pair. Allair told the MNR that the nest should be left alone and the turbines relocated elsewhere. Allair only learned of the nest’s removal on Monday.
The locals knew a nest was in the area somewhere as this pair was spotted and reported it to the MNR. The MNR took the reports and initially seemed to be acting in good faith, at least to the locals. No doubt NextEra was telling the MNR that they wouldn’t move the turbines, and either MNR couldn’t make them or MNR really didn’t care. A black-out for the locals went on for months, until the permit to destroy the nest was “suddenly” granted. This black-out and sudden switcheroo shows just how much contempt the MNR has for regular citizens.
Crappy #3. The timing of the permit. The permit was issued on December 31, 2013. It wasn’t announced until after 5PM on Friday, July 5. The very next morning the equipment, including several OPP cars, was on the scene and by 10:30 AM the nest was down. Obviously the insiders knew of the deal before the rest of us. One can only conclude that the MNR works for the benefit of exploiting corporations with no regard for any local sentiment.
Crappy #4. MNR’s justification. From the EBR notice: “Removing the nest will reduce the risk of eagle mortality at the site. ” So we’re destroying the nest to save it? Why didn’t they just come out and say that eagles (along with the locals) are expendable in the Province’s quest for green whatevers. Even if turbine #49 would have been eliminated the remaining turbines would have presented a significant hazard to the eagles in flight, which is why the project shouldn’t have been allowed anywhere near this area in the first place. At least, not if you valued the birds. The most recent eagle count for this area was 16, including the pair that have just been evicted. One can only wonder how many will be left several years from now.
The reaction to this was fast and furious. In spite of MNR’s attempt to slip this by, about 2 dozen protesters showed up and took videos and pictures of the event. Both Wind Concerns Ontario and Ontario Wind Resistance had a series of postings on it immediately. From there the media picked it up, i.e. the London Free Press and the Hamilton Spectator. Needless to say, the politicians soon joined in. Closer to my home, there was reaction from Amherst Island, one of the 4 hot spots that will be covered with turbines shortly.
I have this vision of the two eagles looking in vain for their home and it saddens me. What is it about man that makes him so careless of other living things? Especially for something as worthless as a wind turbine? Aside from the money to be made, of course. Which is certainly the key to this entire sorry episode. Shame on MNR and shame on NextEra.