by Harvey Wrightman
Bill Monture, the traditional Mohawk, is definitely not like the elected chief, Wm. Montour. Their views of wind development are polar opposite. I came into the Tuesday hearing just before noon, in the midst of a presentation by a team member of Bill Monture’s group – Mr. Slaman who culled out some interesting details from the Golder avian report, going so far as to obtain the field notes of the study. To whit:
- The studies were done not knowing the exact turbine locations (which seem to change innumerable times in every project). This is akin to driving without a map to an unknown destination.
- As a consequence of #1 above, a lot of observation was done from a car seat, a kind of drive-by reporting style.
- Only migratory routes were taken into consideration, completely ignoring the staging and foraging routes to nearby grain fields so important in the energy diet for waterfowl migration. Something that’s well-known and extensively studied by Long Point Waterfowl.
- Natural features that contribute to “funneling” of flight pathways are not considered.
- There is no mention of the further fragmentation of habitat which will affect feeding and reproduction.
- The energy cost of “avoidance strategy” is not discussed.
- Tundra swans are not considered at all, Golder stating, “…would not bother to count them.”
- The mortality reporting method is not systematic nor comprehensive. Carcass searches will be conducted only within the span of the blades (50m), though a bird strike could be hurled or fly off further.
- If the ground vegetation is over 25 cm, no search is required. The wind way – lots of excuses to do nothing.
- Records are only done for the first 3 years.
Pointedly he said the field notes do not agree with the final report written. Perhaps stating the truth was not supportive of the turbine locations – more on this later.
The next 3 presenters were all traditional Mohawks, Lester Green spoke first.
He explained their position as guardians of nature who knows they must assure a plentiful nature for future generations. He said to the panel and other counsel, “We are not paid.”“Where are you from?” – basically all from Toronto – no surprises there. He asked further of them, “How many dead animals do we have to pick up before it’s considered to be not a good thing? What is the company doing to prevent harm. Why is the burden of proof put upon the affected people and the nature” – which CANNOT speak for itself.
He expressed frustration with the government which on the one hand executes legislation to protect endangered species, yet is equally willing to write exemptions for the wind industry.
Summing up he said, “No one seems to be from this area, yet we have to prove to you that there is harm.” The process is backwards and wrong-headed.
Jijanhdah – meaning “little frog that’s all over”, or Kelly Curly, as we came to know him, spoke next.
As you probably sense, the restrictions on movement that the wind companies love to invoke is proving to be a sore point – and Kelly made that clear, “No one has permission to tell me where I can go, yet this land lease seeks to do that. I cannot say that the people siting at those tables (NextEra & MOE) don’t believe in what they’re doing; but, I can tell you, you’re in for the fight of your life. We cannot live without those animals” (that will be harmed by the turbines).
He too is puzzled with the power structure here which is erected pyramid style – a few leaders making the decisions at the top with the mass of people forming the base with little input or power. In Mohawk law, the pyramid is inverted, with the leaders obeying what the people tell them. This would explain the disdain of the people for elected officials – it is a style of government which does not suit the people.
Bill Monture prefaced his remarks by saying, “We need to stand together, native and non-native. We need to ask you (NextEra, the MOE and the ERT) about harm.
None of the counsel had any questions for the presenters; the MOE and NextEra counsel were clearly anxious to not provoke any heated exchange. Mr. Gillespie is just as clearly thankful to have someone else taking some rather effective shots at the other side. By this time, the opposing counsel are chafing, unhappy with their lot – but with billable rates of $500/hour/lawyer, they shouldn’t complain.
Being a nurseryman with a specialty for alpine plants, I was fascinated with how Bill uses the plants he collects. We have a very good friend, Czech botanist Josef Halda, from whom we obtain a lot of seed from wild collections in Turkey, Central Asia and now China. Halda too is observant and has many reports of how the plants are used by local people. While I won’t go into all the detail, it was clear that Bill is accustomed to roaming the local area and knows where everything is. So in this broad conversation he was having, I heard that there are short-eared owls in the vicinity of Clear Creek – where some of the turbines are anchored onto the Clear Creek Ridge, and he wondered aloud how the vibrations from the turbines present might affect an animal with such highly developed hearing apparatus – good question, does anyone know?
He distributed a composite map of the combined wind projects (neither the companies nor the MOE does that) with pen markings where the wet-lands are – information not made available by anyone else. Bill knows where the wetlands are from first-hand experience. Not surprisingly, there are turbines close by.
Again he returned to the treaty rights (1701) which state, “…free from all disturbance…” to hunt, fish and collect medicinal plants. So while the ERT previously stated that Bill’s appeal could go forward on the basis of irreversible harm to human health and nature, to rule on “treaty right” was out of the scope of the hearing. This clearly was a sticking point which irritated him. The panel after some private discussion clarified its position as allowing for the concept of “harm to the environment” in a sense broad enough to include the collecting of plants – I’m not sure how they stand on “hunters” as part of the natural environment, but I’m quite sure Bill does. That would be a big step forward!
The other “concept” of “consultation” with First Nations is irrelevant in light of the rights enshrined in the Nanfan Treaty of 1701. The right of free movement in the pursuit of a sustenance is not negotiable nor subject to “consultation.”
As Bill said,”What gives an American based company the right to talk about or consult about inherent treaty rights to hunt and fish? This shouldn’t be excluded from the discussion – it’s very discriminatory… We need to stand together, native and non-native. We need to ask you (NextEra, the MOE and the ERT) about harm.”