Airport authority busted – Technoparc Montreal, a wooded and marshy area just north of Trudeau Airport, was the scene of another environmental drama this week. Amateur birdwatchers noticed a steam shovel cleaning out a ditch there in apparent contravention of federal law prohibiting work that disturbs nesting migratory birds. Complaints were made and a federal agent was quickly dispatched to investigate.
“We were out birding very early on Wednesday morning when the agent from Wildlife protection arrived,” birdwatcher Joel Coutu told The Times. “The work was being done by the Aéroports de Montréal (ADM) in a ditch where rare birds such as Virginia Rails have been sighted.”
“The agent told us that the ADM had somehow received a special permit to do emergency work; this is strange because there was no apparent emergency like a bridge about to collapse. She also assured us that the work has now stopped and will not recommence.”
In the past three years, the area around Technoparc has emerged as the primary bird watching spot on Montreal Island with over 180 species observed, including two endangered species (Least Bittern, Wood Thrush) nesting there. Coutu notes that other endangered species, such as Short-Eared Owls, use Technoparc as an important stopover during migration period.
“This area, including federal land and a golf course, is much bigger than Mount Royal Park. We hope to create a nature park here and are pressuring the federal environment minister to declare it critical habitat for the two endangered species nesting here. This is the third summer that Least Bitterns have been documented nesting here, so it has a lot of credibility.”
Coutu points to the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act which puts many restrictions on work during nesting season, basically from April to August in Montreal. “Many people are unaware of this 100-year-old law; City of Montreal officials only became aware of it in recent years. But the federal government only responds to specific complaints of the law being broken.” He showed The Times recent correspondence with Marie Fortier, Compliance Promotion Officer with the Canadian Wildlife Service regarding the complaint with the ADM.
There were also a lot of questions for borough mayor Alan DeSousa at the St. Laurent Tuesday evening council meeting on July 2. Five out of six people who took the microphone during question period grilled DeSousa about threats to nesting birds in Technoparc.
DeSousa, while obviously familiar with the Migratory Birds Convention Act, was on the defensive about his support for the Hubert Reeves Eco-Campus in Technoparc—seen by environmentalists as a major threat to wild bird populations. He was also on the defensive about his long-promised plans to create a nature park, le Parc des Sources, there.
“For the correct answer, you would have to ask Luc Ferrandez, who is responsible for large parks on the Montreal Executive Committee,” said DeSousa in response to a question about the status of this projected park. “My understanding is that a piece [of land] will be ceded to city as early as this fall. It is at top of Alfred Nobel [Blvd] and is 9-10 hectares now owned by Technoparc.”
“Those 10 hectares are all water with dead trees standing in it,” mused Coutu after the meeting. “The only land he has set aside for the park is a 10 hectare marsh. And that is much less than one percent of the undeveloped land area around Technoparc. I think Mr DeSousa’s park is just a mirage…”
Feature image: Environmentalists and birdwatchers gather on front steps of St. Laurent borough hall. ©John Symon