Hunters irate over hunting restrictions near wind turbines
'We perceive this to be a serious affront to hunters,' Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters says
Ontario hunters could have fewer places to hunt this season, if a wind turbine company convinces landowners to restrict hunting near more than 160 turbines.
Engie Canada, which owns four wind farms in Ontario, asked landowners who lease land for wind turbines to restrict hunting on their properties to ensure the safety of people servicing the towering machines.
Such a move could limit when and where people can hunt, and could lead to a misconception that hunting is not safe, according to officials with the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters.
"Knowing there are a lot of turbines, particularly on southwestern Ontario properties, it could have wide-scale affects where you're going to see multiple hunters displaced," said Matt DeMille, manager of fish and wildlife services with OFAH. "There's not a lot of Crown land or public land where they can go and hunt. They rely on private land owners."
Engie sent a letter to landowners in February asking to restrict hunting. DeMille said the original request called for an all-out ban when workers were on site servicing turbines.
The group's CEO Angelo Lombardo and Scott Petrie of Delta Waterfowl responded to Engie with their own letter, saying they found the company's tone "exceptionally troublesome."
"We perceive this to be a serious affront to hunters and hunting," they wrote.
Engie, formerly GDF Suez Canada Services, outlines a specific incident where one turbine was damaged and another incident where a turbine worker heard gun shots.
Lombardo and Petrie say the damaged turbine was more likely an act of vandalism and not the action of a licensed hunter.
"Hunters have hunted around homes, barns, hydro lines and other properties for decades," they wrote in their letter. "To assert that hunting can't coexist with industrial wind development is a significant over-reaction."
Owners working with Engie
Bonnie Hiltz, the government and regulatory affairs advisor for Engie, says the company is working with landowners to come up with a strategy to improve safety and communication on site.
"It's not a ban on hunting," she said. "What we're asking for is appropriate communication with us on when hunting will take place and also from us with them when we may be on the site."
Even prohibiting hunting when workers are near a wind turbine could be excessive, DeMille said. Engie has four wind farms that include 160 turbines on 87 properties.
Rick Nicholls, the Progressive Conservative MPP for Chatham-Kent-Essex, has similar concerns. He worries other companies may limit hunting as well.
"If Engie is successful in the Chatham-Kent-Essex area with prohibiting hunters, then other industrial turbine companies may in fact attempt to do the same thing," he said. "That would just cripple the hunting industry."
Hiltz sayds landowners leasing their sites to Engie have been working with the company to come up with a system to co-ordinate when hunters and turbine workers are on site.
"They understand it's not a ban on hunting, but we're trying to create the circumstances of a safe work environment and they have been co-operating with that," she said.