04 November 2009

Society President Calls for Your Help to Stop the South Fraser Perimeter Road

Dear readers,

I am Eliza Olson, one of the founders of the Burns Bog Conservation Society 20 years ago. Burns Bog has been classified as the only estuarine raised peat bog found in a Mediterranean climate. It is also considered the largest raised peat bog on the west coast of the Americas. Burns Bog was originally 10,000 to 12,000 acres (or 4000 ha to 4100 ha). In 2004 we were successful in getting about half of Burns Bog (2000 ha) placed under a conservation covenant. Unfortunately, this covenant is not being taken seriously.

The British Columbia Government is proposing to put a road through unprotected bogland right next to the conservation area. There are some areas where the road is planned, which according to one person who is familiar with the area says, they will have to go down 200 metres before hitting a clay bed for any stability.

Another problem is that the unprotected areas contain habitat for rare and endangered species. These include the Southern Red-backed vole. When it was discovered in 1999, it was the first time it had been seen in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia for something like 53 years! The loss of the forested area near the garbage dump is believed to have a negative impact on the small flock of Sandhill cranes. One observer believes that the road will cut them off from their traditional feeding areas and impact their ability to fool predators like the coyote by using the trees to deflect their calls and thereby fool the coyotes as to where they are.

In the 1970s Dr. David Bellamy, a renowned peatland expert, visited Burns Bog and thought that it was too degraded to survive. In 1995 when he returned at our invitation, he was delighted to discover that a great deal of the cutover bog was regenerating. He even went for a swim in a cutover created pond that had the red fuscum sphagnum growing on its banks.

In 1996, Dr. Bellamy invited me to attend the Peatland Congress in Edinburgh, Scotland. He was the keynote speaker and spent the last 1/2 hour of his speech talking about Burns Bog and the need to protect it.

Following the congress, resolutions were passed calling for Burns Bog to be either purchased or expropriated and declared a Ramsar site.

Now the future of Burns Bog is being threatened again. It is listed as an "area of concern" on the International Mires Conservation Group's website. http://www.imcg.net/.

In the last 20 years we have managed to change people's attitudes towards Burns Bog and peatlands in general in the Lower Mainland. Since we started, other peatlands in the area have been protected. Words like "lagg" and "acrotelm" and "catotelm" have become part of the vocabulary of local scientists and non-scientists alike. We have done this by producing educational material for elementary, secondary and post secondary teachers.

But it is not enough.

We are very small organization funded by individuals. We do not receive funding from the Federal, Provincial or local governments for our work.

Here are some websites for more information about the South Fraser Perimeter Road that we are fighting to move.

It is becoming increasingly critical that we receive international support to stop or change this road if we are to save Burns Bog for future generations. With the downturn of the economy, the federal and provincial governments are talking about approving such infrastructures as roads to stimulate the economy. The most recent approval of the Provincial government to remove farmland from the Agriculture Land Reserve to build the road, opposition from international sources is vital.

Dr. Catherine O'Connell of the Irish Peatland Conservation Council, believes that the building of this road places Canada in contravention of several international protocols, including the Convention on Biodiversity and Climate Change.

Peatlands are little understood in Canada and especially in British Columbia, as the focus has been on protecting the majestic forests while ignoring the Lilliputians of nature.

You can stop this. Contact your MP, educate others about what is happening, organize a demonstration, or donate to the Society.

Thank you for your consideration of this dire matter and I look forward to your support. I cannot put it more simply, I need your help.


Eliza Olson
Burns Bog Conservation Society

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