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St-Laurent Techoparc backs off from birdwatchers

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St-Laurent Techoparc backs off – The August 27 birdwalk in the Technoparc area of St-Laurent produced a morning bird count of 78 species, but did not provoke an expected confrontation with security forces. Technoparc’s lawyers sent birdwalk organizer, Joel Coutu a Mise en demeure (legal notice) on August 24, threatening vague legal actions if the walk continued.

“We have to fight for this wildlife or we will lose it,” counters Coutu. “There are over 180 species of birds catalogued here which is by far the best birding spot on Montreal Island. For them to send a bailiff to my house, I find this motivating. I must be doing something right!”

Joel Coutu talks to CBC ©John Symon

Some 100 participants turned up for the bilingual walk, which avoided Technoparc properties. A dozen species of warblers, king birds, vultures, hawks, and many sparrows were counted. Some birds, like catbirds and pileated woodpeckers, were more audible than visible.

Missing, however, were water birds such as : rails, green herons, green wing teals, wood ducks, and soras, all apparently scared off by construction that began in 2016. A similar count in late August last year came up with 86 bird species.

Some 100 participants turned up for August 27 walk and bird count ©John Symon

The controversy is over Technoparc’s ongoing construction of the so called “Hubert Reeves Eco-Campus” in the middle of wetlands which are now noted for their abundance of birds, especially wetland species and songbirds. Coutu has conducted over 100 birdwalks in the area, drawing attention to the biodiversity found here and provoking calls to save these wetlands.

Ironically, Hubert Reeves is a Quebec-born environmentalist who has called frequently for greater efforts to save biodiversity. Reeves now lives in France where his reputation rivals that of David Suzuki in Canada. There is speculation that Reeves’ foundation was paid off to give naming rights to the Eco-Campus, a high-tech business incubator.

Was that a yellow warbler? Birdwatchers quickly look up.©John Symon

Coutu maintains that the Eco-Campus is being built in the worst possible spot from an environmental viewpoint. He is not against the project per se, only wishing it could be put elsewhere.

Coutu also alleges that Technoparc hired trappers who snared and skinned coyotes in the area, leaving the carcasses behind. “The coyotes were not hurting anybody; they were actually helping bird species that nest on the ground, chasing away foxes and raccoons.”

Coutu estimates he has put in almost 500 hours of volunteer birdwatching in Technoparc, leading over 100 group bird walks or just cataloging species, including the endangered Least Bittern. His work seriously challenges the environmental study that previously described the area as “having little ecological value.”

In the Mise en demeure, Technoparc accuses Coutu of trespassing onto private property. “What are they worried about, that a birdwatcher will photograph a yellow warbler on a branch?” asks Coutu.

By: John Symon – mtltimes.ca 
To see the article in the Montreal Times 22.96 September 2, 2017 edition please click on the above image

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