A letter to Cumberland County's Planning Department
The following letter was submitted by Tracey MacKenzie to Cumberland County as part of their request for public input on regulations controlling small & large wind turbines.
Please accept this letter for consideration during the review of municipal regulations controlling small and large wind turbines in your municipality. The contents of this letter represent a sampling of facts associated with environmental issues attributed to industrial wind turbine sites proposed for the Wentworth Valley Ecosystem.
Dr. Lynton Caldwell, a prominent scholar and key figure in the development of environmental policy in the United States wrote an award winning article in 1963 (Environment: A new focus for public policy). It was in this article that he makes reference to public decision making and the two not necessarily opposite but dissimilar viewpoints of economy and ecology. The ecological view that this letter presents reiterates the view of Dr. Caldwell that sees “the natural world including humans and their work as dependent for well being and ultimate survival on the maintenance of equilibrium among the elements of the environment.”
The Wentworth Valley ecosystem has long been the focus of corporations seeking to exploit natural resources for economic growth. In 2010 the Province of Nova Scotia facilitated the Neenah Land Purchase by loaning $75 million to help Northern Pulp purchase 475,000 acres of land including significant acreage in the Wentworth Valley. In an effort to balance economy and respect ecology the province also invested $16.5 million to purchase 55,000 acres of the land Northern Pulp bought, most of which was designated for protection in Cumberland, Colchester, Pictou, Halifax, Hants and Guysborough counties. The Wentworth Valley Conservation area was a result of this purchase but this effort was not enough to ensure maintenance of equilibrium among elements in the environment of the Wentworth Valley. It is not the intent of this letter to debate the less than positive environmental record of Northern Pulp or the fact that this loan has never been repaid to the people of Nova Scotia despite a significant portion of the land purchased as part of this agreement being clear cut for profit in 2017 in the Wentworth Valley.
It is important that we realize that the same corporation now stands to profit once again off these lands if there is a lack of balance in public decision making between economy and environment by our elected officials. While our provincial government launches the most aggressive strategy in our country to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels in an effort to satisfy our insatiable need for energy it is important that we realize the implications of the alternatives we support towards this goal.
Dr. Edward O. Wilson, whom many consider the father of biodiversity science once stated: “The worst thing that can happen is not energy depletion, economic collapse, limited nuclear war, or conquest by a totalitarian government. As terrible as these catastrophes would be for us, they can be repaired within a few generations. The one process ongoing that will take millions of years to correct is the loss of genetic and species diversity by the destruction of natural habitats. This is the folly that our descendants are least likely to forgive us.”
The Wentworth Valley ecosystem has been recognized by the province of Nova Scotia in the recently released Mainland Moose Recovery Plan as core habitat that offers “those conditions most likely to secure habitat and connectivity requirements that are spatially appropriate to recover a viable population from one that is currently small, declining, and fragmented.” It is the responsibility of government to balance ecology and economy by preserving such important lands and look toward alternative locations for wind energy projects while also considering the other options for renewable power generation outlined in the provincial plan including marine renewable, hydropower, geothermal, solar, biomass and energy storage. As stated in the provincial plan: “No single resource can supply all our energy needs - fossil fuels will continue to play a role in our energy needs for decades to come, but we can reduce that role and create a diverse mix of energy resources”. Current operating and decommissioned wind energy sites have been found to create significant environmental impact including habitat destruction and fragmentation as well as impacts to local hydrology. We must realize that alternatives exist allowing us to do the right thing and protect core habitat and places in our province that represent important areas of biodiversity.
I urge you to consider these facts in your decision making process when reviewing municipal regulations controlling small and large wind turbines in your municipality. At a minimum there should be a planning committee established to review all wind projects that includes the public and turbine setbacks should be at least 1000 meters and preferably 5000 meters from conservation lands and private property to help reduce impacts. Damage to roads, habitat and waterways must be strictly monitored and recognized as the responsibility of the land owner and proponent. Decommissioning and environmental restoration must also be funded by the proponent and part of any proposal. You have the opportunity to correct the oversights of past governments that did not balance economy and ecology and to protect and promote the Wentworth Valley ecosystem as a pristine example of environmental balance. It is part of the job of elected officials to protect the interests of future generations by making balanced decisions.
Tracey MacKenzie, MES
Senior Instructor and University Teaching Fellow
Department of Plant, Food and Environmental Sciences
Dalhousie University, Agricultural Campus