Save the Blanding's Turtle
Update 9 (July 13): A petition has started to stop clearcutting for a subdivision north of Beaver Pond. The link is above.
Update 8 (June 18): South March Highlands - Carp River Conservation Inc. will take the City of Ottawa to court by arguing the City has failed to comply with its obligations under the provincial Environmental Assessment Act.
**Interested in becoming a volunteer for this campaign? Click here.**
Update 6 (Apr. 26): The City's Forests and Greenspace Advisory Committee is meeting tonight to discuss the potential environmental implications of the road project. We need as many people as possible to fill the room and show the committee that we care about this!
Update 5 (Mar. 30): About 30 people came out on Mar. 20 for our Turtle Walk and over 65 people came out on Mar. 24 for the debate. Thanks to all who made it out. Video soon to come.
Update 4 (Mar. 19): Send City Council a personal letter (as of Mar. 23, over 200 letters sent).
Update 3 (Mar. 15): New events scheduled (Walk - Mar. 20 & Debate - Mar. 24).
Update 2 (Mar. 11): Over 800 letters have been sent! Thank you to all who have sent letters to the Ministers (and continue to do so) and helped to support this campaign financially. Stay tuned for our next steps.
Update 1 (Mar. 1): Clearing has begun for the first 1 kilometre of the Terry Fox Extension. This has occurred despite NOT having permits from the Ministry of Natural Resources to cut down ginseng plants and butternut trees (these are currently being fenced off under the assumption that they will eventually get the permits). Meanwhile, the remaining 3 kilometres still require provincial approval, but time is running out. Please take action now and sign our petition!
Nestled on the western edge of suburban Ottawa lies a wetland under threat from urban expansion. This wetland has long been home to a population of threatened Blanding’s turtles as well as a number of other listed species. It is land that contains the most pristine native flora in the Ottawa area.
Sierra Club Canada has just learned that the City of Ottawa is rushing the approval of a road extension that would cut right through this habitat of hardwood forest, marshy wetlands, disused farm fields, and part of the Carp River floodplain. To make matters worse, the extension is unneeded by the surrounding community – it is simply an attempt by the City to claim some of the federal government’s economic stimulus funds.
We can and must stop this from happening. Will you help us?
If we are to save these turtles, we need to act quickly. In order to be eligible for stimulus money, the City must get the project started right away. That means that if we can delay or prevent the Province from issuing the required permits before the federal grant deadline the City will have no reason to continue the project and we will have saved these turtles and their wetland home.
Our plan is simple, direct and effective -- but it can only work with your help!
1. Send Ottawa City Council a personal letter and let them know how you feel.
2. Use our web form to send a personal letter to Ontario Minister of the Environment John Gerretsen and Minister of Natural Resources Linda Jeffrey.
3. Donate to Sierra Club Canada so that we can continue working on issues like the protection of these threatened turtles and the wetland they call home.
Links to SCC Press Releases, Blogs and Letters:
Stop Terry Fox Road and Create a Park, says New Coalition >>>
More Buses, Less Roads>>> Read SCC's Mar. 8th press release.
Federal Stimulus Claims Ottawa Victims>>> Read SCC's Mar. 2nd press release.
A Road to Ruin: Endangered Species Everywhere>>> Read SCC's Feb. 25th press release.
Letters to Ottawa>>> Read John Bennett's blog.
Campaign News>>> Read selected letters from the community.
The Blanding’s turtle is a threatened species found in the proposed expansion site. According to Ontario’s Endangered Species Act of 2007, the turtle is protected from any actions that may cause further harm to the species. It is also protected under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act.
Currently an Environmental Assessment is being done on the impacts of the build, but because of a strict funding timeline the building of the road must be fully completed by March 31st, 2011 in order to qualify for federal funding as part of the stimulus program. Unfortunately, this has led to Infrastructure Minister Baird’s personal intervention in order to circumvent the Environmental Assessment process and commence the road building. Despite this, it is still unlikely that this road will be completed on time due to the nature of the project and the fact it is being built on a senisitive floodplain. As a result, Minister Baird's intervention can be seen as irresponsible and will have an adverse impact on the ecological system.
Additional Information on the Blanding’s Turtle:
The Great Lakes St. Lawrence population of the Blanding’s turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) is considered threatened by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) – “a committee of experts that assesses and designates which wildlife species are in some danger of disappearing from Canada” – which means by definition that it is likely to become endangered if limiting factors are not reversed. The reason for this designation relates to an overall decline in the species population. Subpopulations exist that are threatened by perpetual fragmentation by roads that are built directly through their habitat.
The Blanding’s turtle is cold-blooded and has a helmet-shaped carapace and a bright yellow neck, which makes it easily distinguishable. Its lifespan is 75 years or more. Adults can be found in open areas and juveniles prefer wetland areas near the water’s edge that are heavily vegetated. They also prefer shallow water that is rich in nutrients and spend much of their time moving between wetland sites. In one season, a Blanding’s turtle has been known to travel up to seven kilometres.
The species is considered to be aquatic, but will spend much of its time on land in order to find the perfect nesting site. The species is vulnerable to degradation and alteration of its wetland habitat. Road mortality is also a serious threat to the species. The nesting females prefer the gravel on the side of the road and this obvious risk leads to fatalities. In general, Blanding's turtles are attracted to roads because of their heat properties and will do their best - even if there is a fence - to get on/near it.
It can take up to 25 years for these turtles to reach reproductive maturity meaning the mortality of adults in a population can cause dramatic consequences. Every two or three years, the females will lay clutches of 3 to 19 eggs. Predators include coyotes, skunks, raccoons, and foxes that will raid the nesting sites. The capture and sale of these turtles further threatens the population and often affects the nesting females as they are most conspicuously near the sides of the roads.
An increase in mortality by even 2-3% can cause long term declines in the Blanding's Turtle population.
Additional notes on the Terry Fox Drive Extension:
♦ In addition to the Blanding’s Turtle, several other species at risk will be affected by the Terry Fox Drive Extension. They include: Butternut Tree, American Ginseng, Eastern Milk Snake, and Whip-poor-will. In addition, the Golden-Winged Warbler, a threatened species, use this area as its nesting grounds and are protected by the federal Migratory Bird Act. Construction in this area will cause a loss of habitat for these species.
♦ Section 9 (1) of the Endangered Species Act prohibits the killing, harming, harassing, capture or taking of living members of a species that is listed as endangered or threatened. Section 12 of this Act requires the Minister of Natural Resources to ensure a management plan is in place where species of concern may be affected by such undertakings as in the Terry Fox Drive Extension.
♦ In 1974, much of the land now facing development was identified as a "Natural Environmental Area" by the Regional Official Plan. This required the municipality to protect areas deemed "Environmentally Significant" and "Environmentally Unique." Unfortunately, as the years went on, development creeped in and environmental protection was put on the backburner. Today, only approximately 400 hectares (or 35%) of the original 1,100 that made up the Natural Environmental Area of the South March Highlands is left. This area is now described as a Conservation Forest.
♦ In 2004, it was decided that the road would be realigned to be moved further into the Carp River Floodplain. This came AFTER the 2004 federal environmental assessment was done based on the path of the old design of the road.
♦ Now, 90% of the proposed Terry Fox road will go through the Conservation Forest. About 30% will go through the Carp River Floodplain. Ecological fragmentation is now the biggest threat to this diverse ecosystem and with development already surrounding this area, further disruptions will ruin what was once a vibrant and diverse area that was unique within Ottawa.
♦ This project was first proposed back in 2000 at an estimated cost of $13.5 million. This 4 kilometre extension is now estimated to cost $47.7 million. This is an increase of nearly 400%!
♦ Ottawa’s 2003 Transportation Master Plan only called for the Terry Fox Extension to be completed beyond the year 2021. It should be noted that a subsequent 2008 Transportation Master Plan moved up the timeline to between 2009 and 2015, but without explanation. This road is not urgently needed!
♦ This road is being proposed in advance of any other development (i.e. housing) that could even possibly justify the need for a road. In essence, the purpose of this road is to bring further unneeded development to the area.
♦ The land through which the proposed road would be built is very sensitive and subject to flooding. It is unclear what additional impact a road would have on this already fragile area. In fact, the city Committee Report (2004-2007) which approved the Class Environmental Assessment is based on a 1983 Flood plain definition.
♦ A local community association in the area has expressed the need for a new road, as the only route now is the winding and narrow roadway, Goulbourn Forced Road. But Goulbourn Forced Road will itself be improved and the City in fact has plans to spend $18.2 million on improvements in the coming years.
♦ An estimated 5000 dump truck loads will be required to construct the road bed through the floodplain.
Links to media coverage:
Ottawa Citizen, Nov. 2, 2009:
Ottawa Citizen, Nov. 23, 2009:
Ottawa Citizen, Nov. 23, 2009:
Ottawa Citizen, Nov. 24, 2009:
Ottawa Citizen, Feb. 3, 2010:
Ottawa Citizen, Feb. 5, 2010:
Ottawa Citizen, Feb. 24, 2010:
Ottawa Citizen, Mar. 2, 2010:
The North Bay Nugget, Mar. 3, 2010:
YourOttawaRegion.com, Mar. 3, 2010:
Ottawa Citizen, Mar. 3, 2010:
24 Hours Ottawa, Mar. 10, 2010:
Page 4 http://eedition.ottawa.24hrs.ca/epaper/viewer.aspx
Ottawa Citizen, Mar. 13, 2010:
Ottawa Citizen, Mar. 31, 2010:
Ottawa Sun, April 27, 2010:
Ottawa Citizen, April 27, 2010