Massive tree-cutting along St. Jacques Escarpment
Citizens, local politicians sound alarm
By: John Symon – mtltimes.ca
There has been massive tree-cutting recently by the Quebec Highways Ministry (MTQ) in an ecologically-sensitive area, the Saint-Jacques Escarpment (Falaise Saint-Jacques in French). This area, behind the U-Haul on Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue Blvd, straddles NDG, Montreal West, and the Sud-Ouest borough. The former Motel Raphael is adjacent to where the trees were cut and bulldozed.
The Escarpment runs for about 3km, parallel to St. Jacques Street in NDG. This 20 hectare wooded area was previously used as a dumping site for old cars, refrigerators, and building materials before being purchased by Montreal in the 1980s. It is now referred to as the St. Jacques Escarpment Eco-Territory.
Plans to open the Escarpment as a public park were put on hold after parts of the slope were found to be unstable and dangerous. Montreal replanted the once-barren slope with a wide assortment of trees, trying to stabilize the slope. The area is ecologically important for migratory birds and for some reptiles.
For an explanation about why so many trees were cut and a large area bulldozed, The Times contacted the MTQ but received no definitive response by press time. We were, however, forwarded a text from the Sud-Ouest borough director via councillor Craig Sauvé. The borough did not do this work, but is nonetheless collaborating with the MTQ.
“As part of [MTQ] work to move the CN tracks to the bottom of the Escarpment, a retaining wall is required behind the U-Haul in NDG. The landowner there apparently had considerably land-filled his property, creating a sort of appendix to the Escarpment. The proximity of train tracks, the creation of an access road and of a multi-functional trail at the bottom of the slope requires that this portion of the Escarpment be re-profiled.”
“The trees cut down for this work were surveyed and should be replanted at the conclusion of the project. There are plans to seed this part of the Escarpment once the retaining wall is completed. Other portions of the Escarpment should not be touched in such a brutal fashion. Let’s remember that the trees cut down will be compensated for (replanted on the site or nearby).”
Meanwhile, NDG councillor Peter McQueen commented: “I was shocked that this cutting occurred with no warning or consultation, especially since (a) member of the Green Coalition, had asked about (survey) markers in that part of the Falaise at the last Turcot neighbours’ meeting.”
“The answer received this week is not particularly encouraging either. Although the consortium does not expect to have to cut many more trees on the Falaise, they do reserve the right to if drainage or other conditions necessitate it…”
Lachine resident, Lisa Mintz, said: “I was at the meeting of the Comité de Bon Voisinage Turcot in April, asking specifically about this area, as I had seen orange survey markers on trees there. I was told that the Falaise would not be touched and that the markers coincided with protection measures for endangered brown snakes. I don’t know what they consider protection measures, but destroying habitat is not usually one of them.”
Green Coalition transportation spokesperson Avrom Shtern commented: “The MTQ cares little about the environment. They had promised that the St. Jacques Escarpment would remain untouched by the rework of the Turcot Interchange. It seems that they did not tell the entire truth or that their plans have changed…”
On Sept. 19, the MTQ was also criticized for abruptly destroying the Tannery Village archeological site–apparently with no warning–near the other end of the Escarpment.