Earlier this month, I advised the community of the tree clearing that is to start at the 195 Huntmar development site, you can review this update here. Following this information there were some questions raised regarding the impact the tree clearing will have on the wildlife in the area.
I know a number of residents share an interest in this concern which is why I am providing the following information that I received from the City’s Environmental staff.
- Ottawa has a Council-approved Protocol for Wildlife Protection During Construction (commonly called the ‘Wildlife Protocol’) which provides developers, city crews, and homeowners with a set of best practices to help minimize impacts on wildlife. The wildlife protocol provides information on construction timing, pre-stressing to facilitate wildlife movement, managing wildlife encounters, wildlife proofing, and wildlife awareness. It is important to know that adherence to the recommendations within the wildlife protocol is voluntary, but since 2015, the City has found that most responsible developers do try to minimize impacts on wildlife and use the recommendations within the protocol.
- While the wildlife protocol provides voluntary best practice recommendations, developers must adhere to specific regulations under the provinces’ Endangered Species Act, as well as the federal Migratory Bird Convention Act. Impacts on wildlife cannot be entirely avoided, however, as the conversion of any land to urban development will reduce the local availability of habitat, food sources, and in some cases, result in the direct death of animals themselves, these impacts will be minimized as much as possible.
- Unfortunately, there is no perfect time for this type of work, especially on a large site where tree clearing may take several weeks. Development within the urban boundary is going to happen, and for larger development sites like the one at 195 Huntmar, allowing for winter work makes sense for a number of reasons.
- The Blanding’s Turtle, an endangered species, is known to be in the general area and may be present from May through October. Winter work minimizes the potential for impact on them.
- The Migratory Bird Convention Act also prohibits disturbance during nesting season, which occurs between April and mid-August, effectively preventing any site clearing through the summer months.
- Again, there is no practical way to avoid all wildlife impacts. However, staff feel confident that the environmental studies, the Tree Conservation Report, the tree permitting process, and the Wildlife Protocol will provide as much protection as feasible under the circumstances.
The developer for the area did provide additional information as well to share with the community and those can been found here.
It is also important for residents to remember that private landowners have legal rights to develop their land and this area of land is intended for development as noted in the approve City Official Plan. If the City causes delays in the process then landowners have the legal right to appeal their development applications for the site to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).
Unfortunately, the displacement of wildlife happens with any developments and this is a similar situation when other areas of Stittsville were also constructed. It is important to be aware that the Protocol for Wildlife Protection During Construction or the Site Alternation By-law are still relatively new in the City and were established based on concerns by residents, wildlife/environmental groups and the City. This is an example of some of the behind-the-scenes work being undertaken by the City in the interest of the public and the environment.
As mentioned, the Wildlife Protocol is only a recommendation at this time but many developers are following these guidelines. I plan on working with the development industry and City staff to ensure we continue to work together and try to make the least impact to the wildlife as possible.
I have been a strong supporter of the establishment of the Wildlife Protocol and the Site Alternation By-law and I can appreciate that residents may find some of this information disheartening but I do want to assure you that the City and I do represent the interests of the community.
While many residents may not know of the negotiations between the City and the developers, I can assure you there are some wins for the community that are incorporated into the development plans. It is important that residents comment on development applications, attend public meeting, and provide comments to be able to incorporate changes to the plans.
I am continuing to work with the City staff to retain our natural environment when possible and another example of this is through the City’s approval to acquire the Shea Road Woods. The agreement for the City to purchase and save the woods was based on cooperation with the developer. There are other similar examples of this throughout Stittsville and across the City. The City does not have the finances available to protect all of our surrounding natural environment, but when possible there are positive steps being taken. I have also been a supporter of promoting our existing projected natural areas such as the Kemp Woodlot project with Ottawa Stewardship Council and Sacred Heart High School.