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Tiny hummingbird stops construction on the Trans Mountain pipeline in B.C. for 4 months

Construction on a key section of the Trans Mountain pipeline project has been halted not because of a protest but because of the tiniest of creatures. They're called Anna's hummingbirds and several of their nests have been spotted along a work site in Burnaby. And as Linda Aylesworth reports, their discovery means a costly delay in a contentious project – Apr 26, 2021

Work on the Trans Mountain’s pipeline construction has now been stopped for four months after the discovery of hummingbird nests during tree cutting.

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Members of the Community Nest Finding Network (CNFN) alerted federal wildlife officers in early April over concerns workers on the Trans Mountain pipeline in Burnaby were not complying with the Migratory Birds Convention Act.

Hummingbird nests force halt to Burnaby pipeline construction – Apr 26, 2021

According to the CNFN, on April 12, officers saw the felling of a tree with a hummingbird’s nest in it and as a result, Environment and Climate Change Canada issued the stop-work order until Aug. 21.

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Anna’s hummingbirds, among the most commonly seen on the West Coast, nests from B.C. and east to Arizona.

Under the Migratory Birds Act, unless regulations are made, no one can allow for a situation where migratory birds may be killed, captured or taken or their nests be damaged, destroyed removed or disturbed.

“When the government is the owner as well as the regulator, it means groups like ours are imperative. Our members have confirmed eight active nests on this site, but there are hundreds, likely thousands more bird nests along the 1,500 km of the pipeline route. And yet, construction continues without adequate government monitoring or protection,” said Ross from CNFN said in a release.

An empty hummingbird nest is seen in this photo. Courtesy: Coast Protectors.
City of Burnaby calls for federal help to ensure safety around Trans Mountain pipeline – Mar 4, 2021

Read more: Eight arrested in Vancouver protests against Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project

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Trans Mountain confirmed that the order applied to a 900-metre area along the Brunette River for the duration of the nesting period.

“While Trans Mountain endeavours to conduct tree clearing activities outside of the migratory bird nesting periods, this is not always feasible,” it said in a statement.

“Trans Mountain’s policies and procedures for the protection of migratory birds and their habitat were developed in consultation with stakeholders and communities and have been extensively reviewed by federal and provincial regulatory authorities.”

Environmentalists still fighting Trans Mountain pipeline expansion – Aug 8, 2020

Read more: Work on Trans Mountain pipeline resumes after safety review

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The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs also supports the work stoppage on the pipeline.

“It is very symbolic that a tiny hummingbird has stopped local construction of this pipeline,” executive board member Kukpi7 Judy Wilson said in a release. “At the same time, it is not entirely surprising, either. Many stories honour the qualities of (the) hummingbird, and one that stands out, in particular, is (the) hummingbird’s tenacious loyalty to the forest. Even as the forest burned and all the other animals fled, hummingbird carried drops of water – in their tiny beak – from the river to the forest fire. In response to the other animals, hummingbird said: ‘I’m doing what I can’.”

Trees cut down in the area where the Trans Mountain pipeline construction was taking place. Courtesy: Coast Protectors.

The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project is designed to triple the capacity of the existing 1950s-era pipeline between Edmonton and a shipping terminal in Burnaby to transport about 890,000 barrels per day of products including diluted bitumen, lighter crudes and refined fuels such as gasoline.

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—with files from The Canadian Press and Karen Bartko

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