Technoparc Ville St. Laurent protest / bird walk holds great turnout
Technoparc Ville St. Laurent protest – Some 250 people of all ages turned out April 14 for guided walks of the Technoparc region of Ville St. Laurent, recently recognized as the number #1 birding location on Montreal Island. The crowd was not disappointed, collectively sighting 63 species of birds despite a late spring that means most insect-eating birds have not yet returned from the south. It was also a time for speeches about the ongoing destruction of the largest marshland on Montreal Island with three television crews on hand.
“The birds have spoken and we need to protect this place,” said main event organizer, reverend Neil Whitehouse of the Westmount Park United Church. Whitehouse thanked other event volunteers, birding groups and environmental groups that worked with his church.
“We know who to thank for such a perfect weather,” quipped bird watcher Joel Coutu. “It’s obvious that Neil has connections in all the right places!”
Coutu is among amateur bird watchers who have sighted 179 bird species in the vicinity over the past 12 months, including 80 nesting species. The Least Bittern, an endangered species, is among the nesting birds. Environmental studies carried out there previously by the developer claimed that the area “had little ecological value.”
“In fact, this area is full of rare species of birds with indications of a very healthy ecosystem. We also know that marshes like this are among the most biologically productive areas on the planet. Why not simply build in a less-sensitive dry land site nearby?” asks Coutu, referring to recent road and dyke construction in the marsh itself. That work was authorized on the basis of environmental studies now shown to be horribly flawed.
Last September, work started in the marshland on $5 million worth of road work to prepare the site for building of an “eco-campus,” a business development site designed to attract high tech industry. The Green Coalition attempted to put an injunction on that work and nearly succeeded according to lawyer Ricardo Hrtschan.
“Ironically, this senseless destruction stems from the building of an ‘eco-campus’ named after Hubert Reeves, a famous Quebec environmentalist who has long warned of the need to protect our natural habitats.” said environmentalist Lisa Mintz.
Quebec Green Party leader said that it was good to see birdwatchers together with environmentalists. “You have the power to stop this project,” he told the crowd, referring to how nature lovers stopped a refinery project in Cacouna, Quebec because of concerns of how it would affect beluga whales.
Behind the speakers was a marsh popular with rare shore birds such as Soras and Virginia rails. A sign saying “private property / conservation zone” was posted there, but plans are to turn the marsh into a parking lot says Coutu.
Other groups organizing the Good Friday bird walk include: les Amis du Parc Meadowbrook, Climate Coalition of Montreal, Dawson College Living Campus, The Green Coalition, Sauvons l’Anse-à-l’Orme, Sauvons la falaise, Sierra Club Quebec, Technoparcoiseaux, Trainsparence, and Transitions NDG.