Children and adults decorated tree branches with their home-made letters and signs in a section of forest they want to see protected on Sunday. It was a display of love, for what’s left of the greenspace in Notre-Dame-de-l’Île-Perrot, off the western tip of Montreal.
“This wooded area is so special it’s a shame it’s coming down,” said Sébastien Boisvert, spokesperson for the SOS Boisé des chênes blancs Facebook Group.
Crews arrived last week to begin cutting down trees to make space for a housing development. l’Île-Perrot residents and environmental organizations at Sunday’s protest say there was no public consultation surrounding the project. Now they are calling for a moratorium.
Biologists say further analysis is needed before continuing to evaluate the sociological and environmental consequences of clearing the 7.8-hectare forest.
“What we ask, among other things, is to get time to make proper inventories of wildlife, plants and all the biodiversity that lives there,” said biologist Annie Claude Bélisle.
According to Bélisle, the area is home to a federally protected species of frog, the western chorus, as well as birds and foxes. The mature forest also has important ecological and historical value.
She said it’s home to the largest population of white oak, a rare species of trees in Quebec.
Protesters shocked by how fast the project was approved, are calling for regulations to protect woodlands. Quebec Green Party Leader Alex Tyrrell agrees that it’s important to protect what’s left, permanently.
“All across the island of Montreal and its surroundings, green spaces and, particularly, wetlands are being destroyed at a really alarming rate,” said Tyrrell.
In an email to Global News, Notre-Dame-de-l’Île-Perrot Mayor Danie Deschênes writes everything is already said and refuses to comment further.
While some advocates realize it may be too late to save the white oak forest, they hope to protect other woodlands in the area from development for generations to come.