After spending a long time banding Ferruginous Hawks around Chaplin Lake and this spring banding Sanderlings along the dykes of Chaplin Lake, I feel a deep connection to this place and have an understanding of what this place means to birds in general. I feel to not voice my concern about the proposed wind farm that is to go just north of this important bird area, would be a disservice to the organisms I have held in my hand.
Two Sandlerings ready to be released this spring, 2015.
Sunrise over Chaplin Lake.
Dear Environmental Assessment Unit,
First, Chaplin Lake is an internationally recognized Important Bird Area. Millions of shorebirds use it as an important refueling station during their migration north to the Arctic. To place a wind farm directly north of this area seems incredibly ill planned. According to The State of Canada's Birds (2012), shorebirds as a group have seen dramatic population declines in Canada over the last 40 years, with population losses close to 50%! Additionally, research by Stewart et al (2007) found that shorebirds experienced the second highest collision rate with wind turbines as a group. So we know that a huge number of shorebirds use this area, we know that shorebirds are highly susceptible to mortality due to collisions with turbines, AND we know that shorebirds as a group are declining in Canada. So I am having a hard time understanding why this placement of wind turbines in this recognized Important Bird Area is a good idea... or why this proposal has even made it to this stage frankly.
My second major concern is the placement of a large portion of the turbines in native grasslands. Saskatchewan only has approximately 20% of native prairie remaining in the province. Species at risk, such as Sprague's Pipits, Ferruginous Hawks, and Bobolinks, along with other birds such as Baird's Sparrows, Western Meadowlarks, and Upland Sandpipers readily use these remaining patches of native prairie. In fact, I have banded many Ferruginous Hawks nestlings in this area, data for which the Conservation Data Centre has on file. The State of Canada's Birds (2012) also undeniably shows that grassland songbirds as a group have experienced dramatic declines in Canada over the last 40 years. In addition, research by Leddy et al. (1999) showed that turbines negatively influenced nest densities of grassland songbirds due to human presence at turbines, noise of the turbines and the motion of the turbines as possible causes. The authors recommended that turbines should be placed in cropland so that grassland songbirds are not negatively impacted by wind turbines. So again, we know that native prairie is becoming an increasingly rare ecosystem in Saskatchewan, we know that many species, including species at risk use this grassland around Chaplin, we know that grassland songbirds as entire group have seen major declines in Canada, AND we know that turbines decrease the nesting density of grassland songbirds. So as with my first point above, I am still perplexed why this site is even being considered for a wind farm!
What’s the solution? I am all for wind power generation! We need to dramatically alter our energy production in this province from coal to a low carbon emission alternative such as wind, to help fight climate change. However, we do not need to sacrifice wildlife by placing these turbines in the wrong places. We have 80% of southern Saskatchewan covered in cropland, where grassland songbirds do not nest. Move the wind farm away from Chaplin lake and put it in cropland. Compensate landowners appropriately for accommodating the turbine on their land. The benefits of wind energy for climate change are very important. As long as we are intelligent about where we place these turbines, they can have low impact on wildlife as well.
Thank you for taking the time to consider my opinion on this proposed wind farm and I hope common sense will prevail and the birds of Chaplin Lake and the surrounding prairie will not be impacted by an ill-conceived plan.
Leddy, K.L., Higgins, K.F., & Naugle, D.E. (1999) Effects of wind turbines on upland nesting birds in conservation reserve program grasslands. Wilson Bulletin, 111, 100-104.
State of Canada's Birds. http://www.stateofcanadasbirds.org/
Stewart, G.B., Pullin, A.S., and C.F. Coles. 2007. Poor evidence-base for assessment of windfarm impact on birds. Environmental Conservation, 34, 1-11.