With many city projects and initiatives placed on hold this year to mitigate the impacts and spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Great Blue Heron Society (GBHS) wants to know where the city’s planned tree bylaw and heron protection measures stand.
The organization sent a letter to council recently, commending the city on the moves its already made towards protecting heron habitat, such as hiring a full-time arborist, but says it’s worried about how ongoing development will affect the historical and current heron colonies in the community should protection measures not be implemented before the next nesting season.
“With regard to the Twillingate heron colony, where there has been heron nesting activity since 2008 and seven active nests this year, we hope to see these protections in place before next spring’s nesting season begins,” the letter reads. “At least four historical colonies have been displaced in the Campbell River area, so we urge council to consider a fresh planning perspective for the Twillingate area before any more development is approved, including ensuring wildlife corridors into Willow Creek Nature Park for all area wildlife. Care must also be taken to ensure area residents are aware of the needs of the herons.”
The great blue heron is provincially Blue-Listed, meaning it’s been recognized as “vulnerable,” and is listed as a “species of special concern” federally by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. There are only between 4,000 and 5,000 nesting adults in the coastal subspecies, according to a recent report presented to council in February of this year from the city’s environmental specialist Terri Martin.
When council received that report, it asked for options for conservation measures it could implement to be brought back before council, and the GBHS letter received this week spurred them to ask for an update from staff.
“It’s nice to get recognition for the things we’ve done,” said Coun. Charlie Cornfield in discussing the letter. “I think we try our darndest to make sure environmental values are balanced and appropriate for different things.”
Cornfield asked for an update from city staff on how the tree protection bylaw, the heron nesting program and the urban forest plan, all of which are supposed to be in development, to be brought to an upcoming Committee of the Whole meeting so council can see how things are progressing and discuss next steps.
The motion passed unanimously. Watch future editions of the Campbell River Mirror for updates.