Two great blue herons emerge from the foliage of a tree in Arrow Heights. As a vulnerable species, destruction of the birds along with their nests and eggs is prohibited under federal law. (Submitted)

Revelstoke environmental society urges city to protect blue herons

The North Columbia Environmental Society has voiced concerns of protective measures for vulnerable great blue herons nesting in Arrow Heights.

In a letter to city council, North Columbia president Jody Lownds requests that land owners in the neighborhood be alerted of the birds inheritance.

While the B.C. Wildlife Act does protect the trees and nest of the blue heron against destruction, Lownds has called for a more proactive rather than reactive approach to protection.

“It’s one of those things that can’t be rectified,” says Lownds. “Blue herons are very sensitive human activity, so even if it’s a neighbouring tree that’s being cut down, or even just the sounds of chainsaws, and that scares them away, then potentially you’re looking at disrupting their nesting sites that they’ve established.”

In the letter, dated June 12, 2018, Lownds asks that all owners within the area of Airport Way, Park Drive, Mountain View Drive and Nichol Road be informed by the city of the rookery and the vulnerable nature of the birds.

“Most people in the neighbourhood likely know about the rookery,” Lownds added in an email to the Revelstoke Review. “What isn’t commonly known is the potential impacts on the rookery should someone have a bonfire or burn yard waste (smoke) or decide to cut down some trees and not realize that just because they are two or three properties away from the nests that it could impact on the rookery.”

Though permits are not required for tree removal on private property according to the city, removal, alteration, disruption or destruction of vegetation involving more than 100 square metres of vegetation coverage area within the CSRD Area B does require a development permit.

The letter cites the city’s vision of “balancing environmental, social and economic values” along with other community priorities and goals as reason for action to protect the vulnerable birds.

Lownds says that an original letter was sent to council in April requesting similar notice be sent to residents, though no action was taken by the city.

Now, great blue heron eggs have hatched and more vulnerable herons occupy the rookery.

“We figured that should be an easy ask…” says Lownds. “We didn’t really get a firm commitment that they were going to do anything, and so then this most recent letter is just reiterating that there’s now 12 confirmed nests in five different trees, chicks have now hatched and so we again that the city be proactive about just educating people in that neighborhood.”

City of Revelstoke director of corporate administration Dawn Low says the letter was discussed at the Environmental Advisory Committee meeting on June 21, though the responsibility of alerting residents does not fall under the jurisdiction of the city.

According to Low, committee members are now reaching out to provincial and federal government to determine who is responsible for action.

Low also says steps are being made to look into the current lack of tree bylaws within the city in terms of private property to help protect the birds.

“What we are looking at is possibly reviewing our tree bylaw with respect to protecting the trees that they’re in,” says Low. “That’s where the city steps in.”

RELATED: Researchers looking for herons in North Columbia region

The large, vocal birds are difficult to miss in the trees they reside in near residential areas of Arrow Heights, with an average wingspan of 1.8 metres according to the ministry of environment website.

Though he says the herons are consistently loud, Arrow Heights resident Brian Gadbois says the neighborhood has been welcoming to the birds who occupy several trees around his property.

The Great Blue Heron is currently on B.C.’s blue list of vulnerable species due to its declining population and sensitivity to human activity.

The species is also protected under the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act of 1994, prohibiting the harming of birds, their nests or their eggs.


@NathanKunz1
nathan.kunz@revelstokereview.com

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A great blue heron makes its approach towards the tree it occupies in Arrow Heights. Arrow Heights resident Brian Gadbois, who lives across the street from a group of trees with nests, says he first noticed the birds moving in about a year ago. (Nathan Kunz/Revelstoke Review)

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