The MNR’s at-risk species expert is OK if turtles die; says “driver training” might help
What the heck happened to Joe Crowley? Seasoned herpetologist, at-risk species expert for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, and mild-mannered scientist who just weeks ago testified at the Ostrander Point that it was his recommendation a permit not be granted for a wind power project there because the risk to wildlife was too great.
Joe Crowley as of November 10: everything is A-OK. His testimony was so at odds with what he said at the Ostrander Point appeal that appellant lawyer Eric Gillespie sought to have him declared an “adverse” (hostile) witness.
Here is this extremely polite report by Henri Garand and Paula Peel of the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County (APPEC).
Report on the Environmental Review Tribunal Hearing on the White Pines Wind Project
The Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) of the White Pines wind project focused, on Day Four, on Joe Crowley, a species-at-risk expert in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests (MNRF). Due to numerous procedural disputes, however, the hearing lasted from 10 a.m. till 8:30 p.m.
Crowley was summoned to testify on the basis of his evidence at the Ostrander Point ERT, and he was similarly qualified as an expert witness, specifically as a “herpetologist with expertise in Blanding’s turtles.” At MNRF he is employed in the Species Conservation Branch, where his work includes assessment and review annually of some 70 projects affecting reptiles and turtles. He confirmed he is the only MNRF employee with special expertise in the Blanding’s turtle, though other biologists may have general knowledge.
- Crowley said he overestimated turtle numbers at Ostrander Point and is no longer confident there is a “healthy and viable” population.
- Crowley supposed it is “conceivable” that Blanding’s turtles could be moving along the shoreline. Gillespie reminded Crowley of his Ostrander ERT testimony that Blanding’s turtles were known to range both along the south shore and inland 2 to 6 kilometres.
- Despite his own references in MNRF documentation to a
wetland complex on the south shore
, Crowley now considers that it’s only possible turtles move off the Ostrander property because their home range is typically 2 kilometres.
- Crowley identified two critical habitats for Blanding’s turtles at Ostrander Point. When reminded of the ERT’s finding that the entire site is critical habitat Crowley responded that it would depend on the definition of critical.
There were some positive points that came out of the testimony. Blanding’s turtles will move from Ostrander Point into the White Pines project area. Crowley’s 2011 statement from the Ostrander project, where he refers to interconnected wetland complexes throughout southern Prince Edward County is now on record. The number of turtles and the quality of their habitat cannot be in dispute given the conditions set out within the Renewable Energy Approval.