September 23, 2018 6:50 pm
Updated: September 23, 2018 8:47 pm

Calgary ring road opponents say province not enforcing Weaselhead protection order

WATCH: Work on the southwest Calgary ring road is already affecting local wildlife, according to some environmental watchdog groups. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, critics say the province is not enforcing an order put in place just this year to protect wetlands.

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The Weaselhead Preservation Society has been gathering information for the past seven years as part of their southwest Calgary ring road impact study.

Members have been keeping track of everything from birds to bears to water quality. Now, biologists are raising concerns about the impact of construction noise on bird populations and how  roadwork is keeping animals from moving freely.

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“Wildlife movement is a huge concern right now,” says local wildlife biologist Lisa Dahlseide. “We think that there is quite a barrier to wildlife movement in and out of the park, which overall, could affect genetic diversity.

“We have been doing the noise monitoring and definitely there’s an increase in noise. It starts at 6:30 in the morning and some nights it goes quite late, and so that will definitely affect the presence of species.”

But Dahlseide says thanks to citizen involvement, Alberta Transportation has improved the wildlife corridor significantly, expanding it and raising a bridge to accommodate large mammals getting through.

“It was largely as a response to the Weaselhead Preservation Society and the members that sent letters providing that science to back it all up,” Dahlseide says.

Last summer, work on part of the ring road was halted as part of an environmental appeal asking for protection of several wetlands, including the popular beaver pond.

READ MORE: Environmental concerns from southwest Calgary ring road debated in 3-day hearing

In January, Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips said protection of the wetlands would be improved. However, YYC Cares, the group that spearheaded the appeal, is skeptical judging from member observations. 

“The proper setbacks for the three protected ponds, which includes the beaver pond that we can access in the Weaselhead, are not being enforced. It should be a 30-metre setback and it is not,” says YYC Cares’ Allie Tulick.

“I think Alberta Transportation should be held to a higher standard, especially after losing this appeal hearing. The additional problem we have is that Alberta Environment and Parks is not enforcing what that ministerial order outlines.”

But Alberta Environment and Parks has said the order has been properly followed by construction crews and that provincial officials have been monitoring the effects of the work.

Global News reached out to Alberta Environment and Parks on Sunday but didn’t get a response to specific concerns from Weaselhead Preservation Society.

The society hopes to meet with provincial officials regarding concerns about the ministerial order later this fall.

View photos of the area where the southwest Calgary ring road is being built in the gallery below:

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