Fraser Valley quarry work near rare peregrine falcon nest worries conservationists

Click to play video: 'Fraser Valley quarry work sparks concerns about rare peregrine falcon' Fraser Valley quarry work sparks concerns about rare peregrine falcon
WATCH: Conservationists are worried that work in an Abbotsford quarry is threatening the safety of a nest of rare peregrine falcon. Paul Johnson reports. – May 13, 2021

Conservationists are raising concerns about the effects of a gravel quarry on a nesting pair of peregrine falcons in Abbotsford, B.C.

The falcons, who have been nesting on the cliffside for several years, are one of only a handful of breeding pairs in the region.

They’re now confronted with work beneath and adjacent to their nest site, which includes the use of heavy machinery and blasting.

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“Common sense tells you you are disturbing the nest. The dust is going in there, you’ve got the bouncing of the rocks down there,” conservationist Chris Kitt said.

Peregrine falcons, once categorized as endangered due to the devastating effects of pesticide DDT, are currently listed federally as a species of special concern, with an estimated national population of between 250 and 1,000.

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But while the population of falcons in B.C.’s Interior has begun to bounce back, those on the coast are struggling according to biologist Howard Bailey.

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“Due to local conditions you have populations that are at very high risk,” Bailey said.

“Right now there’s probably three pairs breeding in the historical region from hope up to Lillooet, Pemberton, Squamish and back to the Lower Mainland.”

The provincial government, which has granted a permit to Mountainside Quarries, says the company is required to keep 50 metres away from the nest, and keep any blasting work 100 metres away.

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Conservationists like Kitt say that’s not good enough, want the work in the area to stop until the falcons have finished breeding.

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“The question is what is the province going to do to protect these birds?” he said.

“It’s a 50 metre no disturbance buffer. They need to define what a disturbance is. Because if you look behind me at the actions that are going on and the dust that’s going across the nest and the blasting that went on an hour ago? There’s a disturbance.”

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Mountainside Quarries told Global News that since the province has signed off on their permits, they intend to carry out the work they are legally entitled to do.

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Bailey, who described the birds as the region’s most productive breeding pair, said that’s a shame if it puts their future in the region at risk.

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“This is probably the only place literally in North America where you can drive, or bring your invalid parents to watch a peregrine falcon up close,” he said.

“Most of the time you’re on a plane to the Queen Charlottes or on a long hike in the Rocky Mountains.”

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