Swaths of Blanding’s Turtle habitat found near Turbine 9 by wpd

In my opinion Ms. Ackerman’s letter in last week’s Gazette (Letters-Turbine site destruction will lead to further fossil fuel pollution, The Picton Gazette Oct. 10) is over-the-top. I’d like to explain why.

Ms. Ackerman begins her letter by setting people straight on Blanding’s turtles in the area of the White Pines Wind Project, or more specifically on the lack thereof. Ms. Ackerman describes her own property as “rocky, dry, scrubland” unsuitable for Blanding’s turtles.

For the record, wpd identified two swaths of Blanding’s Turtle habitat near Turbine #9, the turbine on Ms. Ackerman’s property. Interestingly, one of these swaths correlates with Wetland 13 (the name given to it by wpd) which extends across the entire Project area and beyond. To all appearances Wetland 13 provides specialized habitat for Blanding’s turtles and serves as a travel corridor (these turtles can travel up to six kilometres in a single season). wpd maps also confirm the presence of over-wintering habitat in the Project area. Ms. Ackerman can insist until the cows come home that there’s no suitable Blanding’s turtle habitat in the Project area but is hardly qualified to opine on this and, in any case, wpd maps speak for themselves.

We should all be concerned when decisions are made that could hasten the decline of a species that is meant to be protected. It seems to me that the decision of former lease-holders to leave the access roads in place has the potential to fall into this category. During the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) hearing, evidence was submitted that the access roads could become an ecological trap. While the new gravel substrate and lack of vegetation on the roads provide suitable habitat for nesting turtles, the presence of access roads will also facilitate predation by providing easy access to turtle nests. wpd describes the problem as follows: “If predators. . .use access roads to traverse through the habitat, Blanding’s turtles that oviposition in newly created habitat along the edges of these access roads may be at a higher risk of nest predation.”

After the ERT agreed there would be serious and irreversible harm to Blanding’s Turtles from predation, wpd proposed numerous mitigations to address the issue. The big question now is what happens after wpd disappears and the access roads are still there and none of those mitigations are? What can we expect when there’s no mitigations to prevent the ecological trap phenomenon from becoming a reality or to even know it might be occurring?

If I had more space I’d comment on the 64 acres of alvar habitat and 74 acres of woodlands that needed to be removed in order to construct the original 27 turbine project – and not a word from Ms. Ackerman. I would comment on the ERT finding of serious harm to migratory birds that wpd didn’t even bother to consider because only ERT findings of serious AND irreversible harm need to be mitigated. I would comment on the ERT finding of serious and irreversible harm to bats (make no mistake, Little Brown Bats were at no greater risk than any other bat species in the Project area). I would comment on wpd’s decision to commence vegetation-clearing at multiple turbine sites during the ERT hearing, some of which turned out to be pointless (some sites would never be used after the Project was down-sized). Finally, I would comment on the hundreds of back and forth trips by cement and gravel trucks during construction and the massive quantities of cement and gravel required (according to Ms. Ackerman a single turbine base consists of 57 tons of solid mass) and the really astonishing thing that there was not a single word of protest from Ms. Ackerman the entire time this “horrific and disgusting” work was going on.

For these and other reasons, I question the validity of Ms. Ackerman’s newfound angst over fossil fuel pollution (or over anything else for that matter) and choose instead to listen to those who’ve done more to earn our respect.

Paula Peel