View topic - cutting down Bald Eagles nest for wind farm

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PostPosted: January 11th, 2013, 2:21 pm 
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Are you suggesting that the wrong decision was made?

Yes, and I don't lay the blame on any particular party or individual.

First, I think we should treat threatened species with the same respect as we treat things that are sacred to our society. Sacred meaning, that we don't argue about it, we just behave accordingly. Like, we don't eat dogs or even other humans - it's not a matter of detailed logic but rather an approach to the deeper values of life. Creating loopholes the size we talk about is immoral, in my opinion.

Second, about energy. Yes wind power is an important contributor to our energy needs.
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Either we have to address energy requirements in Ontario or we don't.

Of course we do. But at what cost - and money is not everything. Money comes and goes as the investing forces decide for their own benefit. If we sacrifice our environment, future generations will pay the price and we ultimately lose.
As we address energy requirements, we ought to get serious not only in developing alternate ways to produce energy but we don't seem to address the demand for energy. If we keep energy subsidized and artificially cheap, of course the demand keeps going up.

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PostPosted: January 11th, 2013, 2:43 pm 
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For sure we have to do something more about energy conservation (perhaps less subsidization??) too - no argument. We are probably not that far apart on this - your values for the eagle may be a little deeper than mine. But I think we have to recognize that "behaving accordingly" with any SAR can include some compromises. These compromises will be unavoidable and loopholes to allow for them have to be available. In this case, the bald eagle is not as threatened or endangered as other species. Secondly, in the big scheme of things, how severely has the environment been sacrificed? IMO, the removal of a nest can't be considered sacriledge - the birds will nest elsewhere.


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PostPosted: January 11th, 2013, 5:57 pm 
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The New MNR:?

http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editoria ... d-wildlife


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PostPosted: January 11th, 2013, 6:24 pm 
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That article offers some valid points but is a little biased in my opinion. Anne Bell would have more credibility if she was able to offer some meaningful dialogue on how to reach that necessary balance between industrial activity and meaningful protection for Species at Risk. Her idea of protection for caribou, for example, would be to curtail all forestry activities within caribou's natural range (which is virtually the entire boreal forest). She refuses to acknowledge that very significant steps have been taken, especially in the past 10 years to provide and increase caribou habitat supply and to maintain their current range. These efforts have had a direct negative impact (25-30% reduction) on wood supply to Ontario mills. To say that nothing has been done is misleading and doesn't help to solve the issue. But I suppose it's more difficult to raise funds for your cause or your association unless you are sensational.


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PostPosted: January 11th, 2013, 6:28 pm 
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I should have reminded folks it's an editorial, not an article. Undoubtedly the truth lies somewhere in between. Just where is for them to know and us to try and figure out.


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PostPosted: January 12th, 2013, 10:13 am 
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Alan Greve wrote:
Correct they were down graded to Special Concern, given the Northern population but here in the south they are still threatened, thus taking a great care down here is necessary.

Do we have any good evidence that relocation efforts don't work as a scientifically valid conservation tool when it comes to bald eagles? You can apply for such permits in the States, and as some have noted (existing conservation efforts have been very successful for bald eagles). They appear to be used widely (the best I can tell) for other projects that place active nesting birds at risk: transmission towers, road construction, new mines, managed forests, or even when new birds locate their nests in risky places (urban parks, botanical gardens, and the like).

It's definitely a problem if there are no scientific guidelines or public review processes for such things (and if such relocation efforts are unsuccessful). If they knew the wind farm proposal was sited at a location with active nesting birds, why wasn't this part of the site review for the wind project proposal in the first place?

I understand this particular incident happened in Haldimand County, which has a rather active and vocal group of anti-wind farm activists (who may not have been organized enough to be a part of environmental review efforts during early development stages of the project)? Do you think publicity (rather than adequate scientifically informed planning and review) may have been a motivating issue in this particular incidence, at this particular location, with this group of public activists, and for this particular bird?


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PostPosted: January 12th, 2013, 10:21 am 
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I can give many first hand examples of the Ministry turning a its head to the protection of species listed under the ESA that have very easy solutions for a fix to a given problem. Case in point..... The American Chestnut listed as Endangered here in Ontario and across its range in the US. We have a couple of tree's in a town close to me, a dog park was created where these two tree's stand. A call is made to fence off an area around the trees to protect from constant dog piss. Nothing is done. A call is made to the Ministry......they never came out and did nothing to enforce the law to protect those trees!
This wind project.....they had many very easy options open to them by re-designing the lay-out of the site and maybe putting in a few less turbines to protect the area around that tree, they took the easiest option......turn there head and look the other way!

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PostPosted: January 12th, 2013, 11:48 am 
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Oddly enough,MNR does not have to enforce it's own guidelines. My memory on the subject is somewhat clouded now, but the story went something like this.... a friend went through a series of court challenges regarding the construction of a dam, all on his own dime. In the end, the judge agreed with him that if the dam went ahead, it would violate the environmental assessments. However, the judge also said that MNR did not have to follow it's own regulations.

Decisions like this point out why the spirit of compromise is often to be valued over the acrimony of one side arguments.


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PostPosted: January 12th, 2013, 11:59 am 
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Alan Greve wrote:
they had many very easy options open to them by re-designing the lay-out of the site and maybe putting in a few less turbines to protect the area around that tree

A 1.5 MW turbine operating at 28% capacity factor produces around $400,000 in gross revenue/year (depending on local electricity rates). At 25 years operating lifetime, and a "few less turbines to protect the area" as you suggest, that's a gross financial impact of some $30 million for two birds (who will probably produce the same amount of offspring once their nest is relocated … if everything goes well). Not sure this justifies the costs/benefits for a species that is no longer threatened, lost revenue to local municipal tax base and landowners (who agreed to the development in first place), and also replacement energy that has to be found elsewhere (perhaps at a greater environmental impact). Especially considering that scientifically justified conservation alternatives exist (such as relocating that particular nest). Once the site is decommissioned, and if nobody wants to continue operating wind turbines in the area, or local municipalities or the Province pass more stringent environmental guidelines on wind farms, the site can be fully restored (and returned back to habitat more suitable for bald eagle nesting).

Perhaps park designation might be a better alternative (if nobody wants any development in the region, and local landowners feel they want more extensive habitat protection for the area's nesting bald eagles)?


Last edited by idylwyld on January 12th, 2013, 12:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: January 12th, 2013, 12:02 pm 
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JF wrote:
....We are probably not that far apart on this - your values for the eagle may be a little deeper than mine.

Agree. And the difference could stem from our differing back grounds. Yours lies in the MNR (my guess, and I perceive the MNR's prime job is an enabler of resource extraction), and mine is in conservation.
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But I think we have to recognize that "behaving accordingly" with any SAR can include some compromises. These compromises will be unavoidable and loopholes to allow for them have to be available. In this case, the bald eagle is not as threatened or endangered as other species. Secondly, in the big scheme of things, how severely has the environment been sacrificed? IMO, the removal of a nest can't be considered sacriledge - the birds will nest elsewhere.

Of course we need to accept compromises - but when to make them, and which side will carry the burden of the "give", that will be different. In our example, a conservation-based stance would only grant the resource (or energy) applicant he permission with the clear understanding that not all components of the resource potential will be available. There's nothing wrong with making the applicant expect that out of a 100 turbine locations within a turbine field proposal only 70 may be feasible and 30 need to yield to habitat requirements.

My perception is that resource (or energy) extraction can go ahead anyways and the environment at best gets some "mitgation" which may or may not negate the threat.

In the end, money is the driving factor regarding our dealings with the environment. A project denied is a loss of opportunity for the commercial proponent and commerce does not tolerate that easily. Under NAFTA, and I believe under WTO rules as well, the Province can be sued and thus the cost of the environmental protection gets put on the taxpayer's shoulder. That makes it pretty hard for the government to deny an application, regardless whether that's of blue, red or orange colour.

What this means we need a change in ethics - something that can trump money - before we will see real change on how we will deal with our environment.

Will I personally ever see that - I doubt it. Suzuki expressed it best when questioned on the outlook: we'll need a few more Katrina's before this happens.

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PostPosted: January 12th, 2013, 1:42 pm 
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Erhard: "And the difference could stem from our differing back grounds. Yours lies in the MNR (my guess, and I perceive the MNR's prime job is an enabler of resource extraction), and mine is in conservation."

That's an interesting perception, and again not quite the same as mine. It is true that our views stem from our different backgrounds. I have worked a few years for the MNR, but only about 20% of my career - the rest on the "dark side", as a resource extractor. So I never truly saw the MNR as much of an enabler for most of my time. Sometimes very much the contrary, with all the red tape, duplication and road blocks we faced. But I have had the benefit of working on both sides and have seen the need for balance and compromises.

It is interesting that not so long ago when I was working at the MNR, the feeling within was that we were becoming much closer to the MoE. Maybe that was part of the thinking of putting the forestry portfolio with Nothern Development and Mines for awhile - to eleviate some of the contradictions within MNR's own mandate (that of protection and development of resources).

Erhard: "My perception is that resource (or energy) extraction can go ahead anyways and the environment at best gets some "mitgation" which may or may not negate the threat."

I can tell you the relatively recent "go green" initiative, with the high numbers of applications for wind and water power from 2008-2011, all applications that came through the office were thoroughly scrutiized and most were sent back over and over again for revisions to be made to address other users or interests, and especially including concerns for Species at Risk. Most applications were not approved, and those that were involved a good deal of mitigation.

I agree that money is the driving factor. I get a little pissed off at those people that don't understand that the Province needs funds to do the protection part.


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PostPosted: January 12th, 2013, 6:04 pm 
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The funny thing is I don't see anyone here presenting a case against wind and green energy. I think most agree that these types of projects need to move ahead. But where applicable. And this issue certainly tells me that this case did not involve a great deal of mitigation, otherwise they wouldn't have posted on the web site the day before. They just didn't want to deal with the negative PR that would have evolved.

I too concur, its all about $$$$$$$$. But its also the disinterest of the general population, many of which don't take an interest in the environment or are aware of the foot print which they are leaving for future generations.

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PostPosted: January 13th, 2013, 9:52 am 
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I can tell you the relatively recent "go green" initiative, with the high numbers of applications for wind and water power from 2008-2011, all applications that came through the office were thoroughly scrutiized and most were sent back over and over again for revisions to be made to address other users or interests, and especially including concerns for Species at Risk. Most applications were not approved, and those that were involved a good deal of mitigation.

It's good to hear they are trying. But the dice are already loaded: short-range because less and less public money is spent on their behalf. And long-term: research is getting the short shrift, especially on the federal level. How can we make good decisions if we don't have the facts and understand all the connections and consequences?

Quote:
I agree that money is the driving factor. I get a little pissed off at those people that don't understand that the Province needs funds to do the protection part.

If there was no commercial use of the land, little money would be necessary to achieve environmental protection in the North. So if we accept the demands of commerce, we are well justified to make rules that the commercial activity must supply the funds. And that cost would end up in the price of the products, and no producer is burdened more that the other.
This would result in funds being available for protection, and in reduced demand for resources as they would be more expensive than now. That's a good thing as it would stop the nation from plundering its non-renewables and be easier on the forests and fish. Future generations would think that was a sensible thing to do.

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PostPosted: January 13th, 2013, 10:55 am 
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Well you will likely never agree with my view that forests are a renewable resource, for the most part being managed sustainably (not plundered). But putting that aside for the moment, when everything is ticking along with a thriving economy, commerial activities do pay for a good part of the chunk. In forestry for example, stumpage rates increase on a pro rata scale, more employees are earning wages and paying provincial and federal taxes, small communities thrive, more kids are in school allowing more courses to be available, more research is undertaken by government and industry, etc.

It's nice to think that putting all costs on the price of products would solve the dilema, but we live in a global economy and Ontario manufacturers can not compete. I do not believe that consumers would pay the price to justify companies to stay alive. And I'm truly talking just staying alive, not generating mega profits. Look at the last 6-8 years, with all the mill closures and curtailment of operations. Provincial revenues have taken a nose dive, mass unemployment, provincial projects stopped. Something had to give.


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PostPosted: January 13th, 2013, 11:32 am 
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This would result in funds being available for protection, and in reduced demand for resources as they would be more expensive than now. That's a good thing as it would stop the nation from plundering its non-renewables and be easier on the forests and fish. Future generations would think that was a sensible thing to do.

The plundering refers to minerals including carbon reserves. I should have worded that better. And I think we agree that we could be easier on the forests and the fish - think cod!

About the global economy - that creates a catch 22 situation ever since we removed restrictions at the border. I understand the benefits of global trade but also think we (as a nation) should have paired global trade rules with global environmental rules and more (e.g. human rights). I believe it could have been done. I am thinking of the efforts that set and enforce copyright rules across borders. It ain't a free-for-all everywhere and the industry has some measure of control there - so why not on environmental issues too?

So in the resource game, it has become a bidding market where the lowest price gets the nod. It becomes a rat race to screw down the cost of the product by putting pressure on the environment which in the long run is a losing game. Even the work force is out-bid in a similar manner, or simply supplanted with automation and imported cheap labour. Not only does our standard of living decline, but our national purchasing power becomes a minor factor. In the past, and still now, the emerging market forces had to be "nice" to us and our values, and that probably will change as well as we have less and less money to spend on the consumer market.

And after-the-fact efforts to put fair-trading rules in place are weak because it's not a level game: producers adhering to them need to compete under a price disadvantage that ensures their market share stays small (e.g. coffee example).
How's the forest certification program working out, maybe it's doing well? What percentage of the market do its products have? Maybe there's a glimmer of light - and what makes it different from the coffee situation? You might know, JF....

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