Keith Stelling – 5.0 – Mitigation
Proposed mitigation for the Amherst Island project is incomplete and vague and highly unlikely to be effective in increasing benefits to the species.
There is no reason to believe that impact monitoring (which involves the collection and summary of scientific data on the adverse effects of the authorized activity on the species) will minimize adverse effects or be of overall benefit to the species. The goal of impact monitoring is to improve future
predictions of the potential adverse effects of particular activities on species at risk. However, impact monitoring records from nearby Wolfe Island do not appear to have been used to consider the potential for adverse effects at Amherst Island. Post construction monitoring at Wolfe Island has already revealed the second highest raptor kills in North America and yet this additional development is now being proposed only a short distance away. Would one not anticipate a similar outcome?
The issue is whether the mitigation measures themselves, contained in the conditions, will be effective in preventing serious and irreversible harm to these species and their habitat.
16 (Reijnen, et al. 1991) found that 26 out of 43 species (60%) of breeding birds in woodland habitats showed evidence of reduced density near busy roads. The analysis clearly showed that it was the noise and not the sight of the traffic that was affecting the birds. (19) Exactly how will an overall benefit for the species in Ontario be achieved by killing more birds and bats and then, according to the proponent’s proposal, partnering with “an accredited post-secondary institution to conduct research and fill knowledge gaps for Eastern Whip-poor-will”? Just what will be achieved towards the overall benefit of these species in Ontario through the training and educating of
contractors and staff on identification; and what will be the “appropriate action” they will be trained to take upon encountering Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark and Eastern Whip-poor-will? Will the project be called to a halt at the sight of the first Bobolink? Not likely.
5.1 Can industry self-monitoring be considered unbiased?
Many criticisms have been raised in the scientific community about industry generated environmental assessments and post construction monitoring. These studies, produced by an
accommodating consultant, have been described as lacking in scientific rigor, not standardized, using observations from unsuitable times and seasons (i.e. after or prior to migration), and being based on casual observations done over an insufficient number of days, seasons, and weather conditions.
“Estimates of bird and bat fatalities are often made at wind-energy projects to assess impacts by comparing them with other fatality estimates. Many fatality estimates have been made across North America, but they have varied greatly in field and analytical methods, monitoring duration, and in the size and height of the wind turbines monitored for fatalities, and few benefited from scientific peer review. . . As wind energy continues to expand, there is urgent need to improve fatality monitoring methods, especially in the implementation of detection trials, which should be more realistically incorporated into routine monitoring. (Smallwood 2013)”.
On examining Ontario’s post construction reports one finds that very often carcass retrieval does not occur once crops are more than 12 inches high until after harvest—i.e. most of the 6 month growing season. (20)
What revelations does the MNR expect to derive from studies on a habitat that has been systematically debased– other than confirmation of further species decline– which has already been
documented? How will this knowledge “fill critical information gaps” once the species has further declined?
Where is the logic that further irreversible destruction will contribute to an overall benefit? Where is the principle of caution to which the MNR is committed?
To accept that “securing and actively managing an area(s) to create and maintain suitable habitat for Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark and Eastern Whip-poor-will, at least equivalent in size to the area adversely effected by the activity, for the duration of the project” will be of overall benefit to the
species is to wilfully ignore the body of scientific research (outlined above) that demonstrates the ineffectiveness of such a measure, specifically in relation to these three species.
On its “Endangered Species Act Authorization Tracker” the Ministry also notes that “an overall benefit to a protected species under the ESA involves undertaking actions to improve circumstances for the species in Ontario. Overall benefit is more than ‘no net loss’ or an exchange of ‘like for like’.
Overall benefit is grounded in the protection and recovery of the species at risk and must include more than mitigation measures or ‘replacing’ what is lost”.17 How are these fine words being applied to the Amherst Island decision?
Clearly, there is no overall benefit from this mitigation activity which the Ministry defines as merely “replacing what is lost”, quite apart from its failure to take into account the inappropriateness of habitat exchange and fragmentation for these species. (17) MNR Endangered Species Act Authorization Tracker.