After much discussion surrounding what can be done to help protect the great blue heron, the City of Campbell River has started a process that would see heron nesting sites rolled into the current eagle nest bylaw “to achieve joint protection for the two species.”
The great blue heron has been listed as a “vulnerable” species provincially and “a species of special concern” federally, and the city’s environmental specialist Terri Martin told council earlier this year that, “they’re not that easy to protect through our regular options like development permits … because sometimes herons move around a little bit. Development permits aren’t great for [addressing] something that’s not fixed.”
The city can, however, map the birds’ nesting locations to determine “Great Blue Heron Nest Trees” and “Great Blue Heron Nest Tree Habitat Zones” and add those to the current eagle nest map in the Official Community Plan.
Those trees and habitat zones can then be protected by incorporating them into the Environmental Protection Bylaw wherever it references an eagle nest tree.
Eagle nest trees would also gain more protection under the proposed bylaw amendment.
Currently, an eagle nest tree that goes unused for five consecutive breeding seasons can have the development permit requirements waived. That five year “waiting period” would be struck from the bylaw should it be adopted.
There would still be an exemption if a Qualified Environmental Professional (QEP) determines a tree no longer has sufficient support structure to contain a nest.
“As the number of mature trees declines with development and canopy cover is lost, trees with a previous nesting history become even more valuable and can be re-used after many years of inactivity,” writes Marin in his report to council. “For example, this year two former nest trees that had been without a nest for greater than five years have become active again. Removing the reference to the five-year time frame means that properties within the Development Permit Area (DPA) would always require a development permit and a QEP assessment prior to development as long as the tree is standing and able to support a nest structure.”
The possible fines for contravening the bylaw would also be increased, should the amendment pass. The maximum fine used to be $10,000 but will now increase to $50,000 under the proposed bylaw.
The city gave first and second readings to the bylaw amendment at the Nov. 16 meeting of city council, and it will now proceed to public consultation and have a public hearing scheduled, likely early in the new year.