15 February 2010

Delta passes bylaws to pave over biodiversity

On February 8, 2010 Delta Council & Mayor Lois Jackson unanimously voted to pass Bylaws 6827 and 6828 at Monday night’s Council Meeting. Three parcels of fragile Burns Bog land designated Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) will now be re-designated Industrial and Heavy Industrial to accommodate the South Fraser Perimeter Road (SFPR).

The Corporation of Delta publicly states on its website, “it has become increasingly important to preserve Delta's remaining natural assets. A system of designated Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESAs) can provide assurances that Delta's environmental values are secured in the future,” yet Monday’s decision contradicts such statements.

The meeting agenda, the three subject properties are within the SFPR's "zone of influence" as defined in the Environmental Assessment for the SFPR, and will be subject to habitat fragmentation.

This development of Burns Bog will disrupt the ecological integrity of the land. Mary Taitt, an internationally known vole expert, voiced her concern about the impact the bylaws will have on the endangered Southern Red-backed vole. The vole, once considered extinct, was found in 1999 in the area. Now that transitional habitat is open to be paved over and blocked by a freeway.

The Mayor tried to soften the re-designation by suggesting any money coming in from the sale of the lands be used to purchase bogland for conservation. Anita den Dikken of the South Fraser Action Network, questions whether this idea was brought up merely to entice councilors to vote in favour of the bylaws by easing their consciences.

In the weeks leading up to the meetings and hearing, Burns Bog Conservation Society sent out updates encouraging public participation against the bylaws, garnering wide opposition to the re-designation. Atypical of Delta Public Hearings, on January 26, 2010, many seats were filled with concerned residents voicing their objections to the bylaws. Mayor Lois Jackson said all the questions raised at the hearing had to be answered before Delta Council could make a decision on the bylaws.

At the following Council meeting on February 1, 2010, the bylaws were not yet on the agenda.

Eliza Olson, president of Burns Bog Conservation Society states, “until Burns Bog is properly protected, beginning by immediately ceasing construction of the needless SFPR freeway, BC can not claim to be the greenest province. 2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity yet our government insists on paving over the endangered Southern Red-Backed Vole’s only known habitat in the Lower Mainland. It’s absurd.”

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