Proposed Wind Turbine Development Threatens Biodiversity

Algonquin Power plans to build 31 to 37 (500 foot tall) Industrial Wind Turbines on Amherst Island.  If erected, the adverse consequences to Amherst Island’s unique environment and many species-at-risk will be significant, perhaps irreversible. The project must be stopped.

  • 34 Species at Risk
  • Located on the Atlantic Migratory Flyway
  • Important Bird Area (IBA) of Global Significance
  • Internationally recognized for concentrations of wintering hawks and owls / Owl Woods
  • Ranked 2nd in biodiversity significance (Lake Ontario Islands - Northeast)

  • 400 Hectares of Provincially Significant Coastal Wetland


IBA (Important Bird Area) of Global and Continental Significance

The Amherst Island IBA, which encompasses the entire island, is recognized as being a site of Global and Continental Significance for Congregatory Species.  This internationally-recognized IBA is a “super-highway” for migratory birds and bats: hundreds of thousands of birds pass through this IBA during spring and fall migratory seasons.  The IBA provides a safe haven for birds that arrive in the spring exhausted after a strenuous trip across the lake and provides a feeding ground in the fall so they are able to build up their strength for their journey south.  Sizeable spring congregations of Brant and Dunlin have been recorded. Between 1994 and 1997 the average number of Brant staging at this site during the spring migration was 3,550, representing just over 1% of the North American population.  The IBA is critical in terms of biodiversity, this diversity of habitats has resulted in Amherst Island becoming a renowned site for a wide variety of birds including shorebirds, raptors, and land-birds such as large concentrations of migrating swallows.

Located on the Atlantic Migratory Flyway

Amherst Island, located on the Atlantic migratory flyway in Lake Ontario, is seasonally impaired by fog and other weather events. Migratory birds and those that inhabit the island often experience low visibility conditions that may increase the potential number of turbine blade/bird collisions. Furthermore, weather conditions may impair visibility (fog, storms, snow) during migration.

Recognized as significant for waterfowl (SWHTG)

Page 306 of the Significant Wildlife Habitat Technical Guide, published by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, specifically mentions the significance of Amherst Island for waterfowl.  Special consideration must be made with respect to the flora and fauna found on the island.

Internationally recognized for concentrations of wintering hawks and owls / Owl Woods

Amherst Island has gained international recognition for its concentrations of wintering hawks and owls. Up to 10 species of owls have been recorded during a single winter. Short-Eared, Long-Eared and Great Horned owls are among the resident bird population. Visitors from the Far and Near North -- Snowy owls, Saw-whet owls, and the rare Boreal owl as well as Eastern Screech and Barred owls add to the owl population during late fall and winter. Both Red-tailed and Rough-legged hawks are usually present and there are annual sightings of Bald Eagles, Peregrine Falcons and Turkey Vultures. 

Amherst Island ranked 2nd in biodiversity significance

Lake Ontario’s Northeast Coast is comprised of 911 islands. Islands of Life: A Biodiversity and Conservation Atlas of the Great Lakes Islands ranks Amherst Island 2nd in biodiversity significance in this area; second only in significance to it’s much larger neighbour, Wolfe Island.

The Great Lakes contain the largest collection of freshwater islands in the world.  These islands contain significant biodiversity including endemic species, rare habitats, and critical biological functions. They are important breeding and staging areas for colonial nesting waterbirds, harbor noteworthy assemblages of plants and animals and provide important stopover sites for migrating birds. They make a significant contribution to the physical and biological diversity of the Great Lakes and surrounding basin. 

In 2009 Islands of Life scored Wolfe Island with a total of 302 for Biodiversity and Amherst Island garnered a very respectable 272.  However, the development of the 86 turbine Wolfe Island wind factory has resulted in the destruction of a good portion of the biological diversity previously found on that Island.  It is possible that Amherst Island now supersedes Wolfe Island in biodiversity significance.

400 Hectares of Provincially Significant Coastal Wetland

The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources Life Science Checksheet provides the following information: “Norris has reported on the site diversity and notes that the site contains at least 16 vegetation communities, 8 wetland, 3 lowland forests, 2 upland, 2 beach and 1 dune community.  Norris also noted that the site contains approximately 350 species of vascular plants, 77 species of birds, 11 species of herpetofauna and 8 species of mammals…. Several floral and faunal rarities have been reported within this site.”

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