The Tribunal also found that the White Pines wind project posed an unacceptable threat to the Blanding’s turtle. In 2013, a previous Tribunal revoked the permit of another developer at Ostrander Point—located within close proximity of the proposed White Pines turbines— because the project would cause serious and irreversible harm to this endangered species.
In its ruling, the White Pines Tribunal expanded the scope of the risk it found the Blanding’s turtle would be exposed to. While the Ostrander panel focused on the project’s access roads as the primary risk to the turtles, the White Pines Tribunal saw the upgrades to municipal roads in the area as a significant threat—particularly over the longer term. Moreover, it concluded that the project would expose the Blanding’s turtle to a greater risk of nest predation.
The Tribunal found the evidence of Joe Crowley, a herpetologist with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry particularly compelling— citing it several times in its decision. Crowley testified that an ongoing annual adult mortality rate of four or five per cent, and possibly as low as two per cent, could lead to the local extinction of the Blandings turtle.
The Tribunal found that upgrading municipal roads in and around the project site would more than likely lead to more Blanding’s turtles dying on these roadways. It also found that new construction in the project area would give predators easier access to turtles’ nests.
The developers’ lawyers argued that the roads could be returned to their original condition after construction is complete. But the Tribunal dismissed this argument as hypothetical and subject to agreement with the municipality.
The Tribunal found that “the death of even a few individual turtles, particularly adult females, above the existing mortality rate will, more likely than not, lead to serious harm to the local population.”
It concluded that due to the low reproductive rate of the Blanding’s turtle and its low egg and hatchling survival rates, “the annual losses from road mortality and nest predation represent irreversible harm to [the] local population of Blanding’s turtles.”