KNL winter tree cutting threatens wildlife
It is very distressing to learn (West Carleton Review – December 22/16) that tree cutting in the Kanata Lakes North Development is slated to start any day.
Construction undertaken in winter is a death sentence for animals. Particularly when it involves several hundred acres of natural habitat that is home to many species, as in the KNL lands.
During the winter, hibernating animals and those living in underground dens will be crushed to death by the heavy equipment involved. Animals denning in trees will be killed when the tree is felled. Even mobile animals that are forced to leave their dens and food supply will likely freeze or starve to death.
Where is the City’s Protocol for Wildlife Protection during Construction?
This Protocol, approved in 2015, acknowledged the high risks to wildlife of winter construction in its outline on Sensitive Timing Windows. It recommends that initial site clearing be done at the time of year that is least lethal to wildlife, i.e. in late summer or early Fall.
Let’s be clear here – we are talking only about the initial site preparation – work that is generally carried out in a matter of weeks. Once this work is done and animals are given a chance to escape, all other phases of construction can occur throughout the year.
Surely, given that this project has been in the planning process for many years, the timing chosen for the initial site clearing could have ensured the least likely deadly impact on wildlife.
The Protocol was designed to reduce harm to all wildlife – not just endangered species. In fact, with legislation that has long been in place to protect species-at-risk, there would have been no need for the Protocol. As it is, based on pressure from the development industry, the original draft Protocol was significantly watered down in that regulations were replaced with ‘best practices’.
The implementation of these ‘best practices’ will determine whether the Protocol is simply empty rhetoric or a humane and environmentally-timely response to wildlife concerns on the part of the City of Ottawa. If not implemented, a lot of tax dollars will have been wasted by the City in the year or more it took to develop the Protocol. Along with time wasted by stakeholder groups like ours and over 100 members of the community who provided strong support for measures to protect local wildlife.
People will not accept that living creatures that feel pain and suffering are not accorded the same degree of protection as trees receive under the City of Ottawa’s Tree Conservation Guideline. Nor will they accept that the initial site clearing and felling of trees in a natural area should be an automatic death sentence for the animals that reside there.
Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre