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Gord Miller, Ontario's Environmental Commissioner, says the provincial government has not gone far enough in its efforts to protect bird and bats from wind turbines in the province. In fact, Miller suggests the provincial government restrict wind projects in certain areas to safeguard avian habitats.

In a speech outlining the provincial government's environmental progress, Miller says there are "significant shortcomings" in Ontario's current siting guidelines that put birds and bats at risk.

He notes that approximately 75% of documented bat fatalities at wind turbines in North America are migratory bats, yet the provincial guidelines lack any criteria for identifying and avoiding bat migratory stopover areas during the selection of wind power sites.

Additionally, Miller says that wind power sites are evaluated and approved on an individual basis, with no regard for the potential cumulative effects on birds or bats from other nearby wind power facilities or other potential sources of bird and bat mortality.

"The Ministry of Natural Resources should rectify these shortcomingsand prohibit new wind power development within Ontario’s Important Bird Areas,” Miller says, citing the Point Pelee and the Leslie St. Spit areas.

"I fully support wind power. However, the use of wind power must be balanced by the equally important goal of protecting birds and bats. To accomplish that goal, we need to be smarter about where we place wind power facilities."

In a response to Miller's findings, the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) says the wind energy industry in Ontario - and globally - has a strong track record of partnering with academic researchers, regulators and wildlife organizations to ensure development of wind energy is responsible and sustainable.

"As the Environmental Commissioner has clearly stated, wind turbines are not a major cause of bird fatalities, but the industry is working diligently to reduce and mitigate impacts," says Robert Hornung, president of CanWEA. "While the relative contribution to overall avian mortality from wind turbines is extremely low relative to other sources of avian mortality, the wind energy industry is committed to continuous research and improvement in our understanding of avian interaction with wind turbines."

CanWEA has partnered with the Canadian Wildlife Service, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Bird Studies Canada to create and maintain the bird and bat monitoring database that provides the information required to assess the impact of wind turbines.  Hornungs says such collaboration informs the development of appropriate regulatory frameworks and mitigation requirements.

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