Tuesday, February 19, 2013
A significant legal precedent was set last week in Canada that could have ripple effects worldwide. A Canadian judge has recognized in a ruling the need for building owners to take action to reduce migratory bird deaths from lethal collisions with the highly reflective windows of office buildings.
“This is a significant development in an increasingly serious issue that is gaining more attention worldwide – the impact of man-made structures on wildlife, especially birds, and the need to modify existing buildings, as well as incorporating bird-friendly design into new construction,” said Dr. Christine Sheppard, Bird Collisions Campaign Manager for American Bird Conservancy, one of the leading U.S. bird conservation organizations and the only one in the U.S. with a national bird collisions program.
Cadillac Fairview, one of Canada’s largest commercial property owners and managers, was charged with violating the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) and the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). In a ruling, Judge Melvyn Green of the Ontario Court of Justice found that hundreds of birds, including threatened species, had been injured and killed at the company’s Yonge Corporate Centre, consisting of three office buildings in Toronto, during the 2010 spring and fall migrations. Judge Green ruled that both the EPA and SARA are properly interpreted to prohibit the emission (intentional or unintentional) of reflected light where that reflection causes the death or injury of birds.
While the Toronto court acquitted Cadillac Fairview and related companies of the charges, that verdict was handed down only as a consequence to the corporate steps being taken to address the problem. The company began investigating window films as a solution after Ecojustice and Ontario Nature laid similar charges against a different building owner, and subsequently installed window films on the most lethal side of their complex at a cost of over $100,000. The company also committed to retrofitting the remainder of the complex.