TRANS MOUNTAIN OIL COMPANY BLOCKS EAGLE NESTING PERCH

A cone Trans Mountain installed in a nesting tree to prevent eagles from nesting at their work site, near the Westridge Marine Terminal

A local environmental organization is concerned about Trans Mountain’s approach to dealing with wildlife after the company blocked access to an eagle nesting perch on its Westridge Marine Terminal property by installing a silver cone over it.

Eagles — an iconic species in Canada — have used the nest for more than a decade, said John Preissl, a Burnaby resident and local streamkeeper who has been monitoring the eagles in the area for 25 years.

“It’s actually kind of sickening for me to see this,” he said of the cone.

Peter McCartney, a climate campaigner with the Wilderness Committee, alleged the cone is “just characteristic of this company’s wanton disregard for wildlife,” he told StarMetro in an interview. “We saw it with the salmon mats in the northern interior — Kinder Morgan’s mitigation strategy is ‘no wildlife, no problem.’”

The National Energy Board warned the company last fall after it installed orange, plastic nets along a stream bed to discourage fish spawning, without the federal regulator’s approval.

This time though, Trans Mountain said it had approval from the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations to install the metal cone in the nesting tree on its marine terminal property in preparation for tree clearing and construction work. The tree in question won’t be removed as part of the clearing work.

The company said it worked with the ministry and a local raptor specialist to develop an eagle nest mitigation plan, which was designed to mitigate the impact of construction on potential nesting eagles.

“The nest site was not in use and nesting material was almost entirely on the ground before the deterrent was installed in the tree,” the statement said.

The company added that an artificial nest site was installed away from the work area to “offset the temporary loss of use of the tree.”

Preissl, however, is concerned about how the eagles might be fairing. “Most likely the eagles will try to come here every year, it’s ingrained in their DNA to come back,” he said. “They may very well be OK, but we don’t know.”

The cone is just part of the issue, he added, noting eagles have lost prime nesting habitat on the other side of Burnaby Mountain from Trans Mountain’s clearing work there as well.

“The eagles are actually in distress,” Preissl said. “They use these areas as perch trees. It’s literally ingrained in their DNA to go back to the same spots.”

McCartney said there are more than 50 species at risk living along the pipeline route, and that removing their habitat “would be catastrophic for them.”

“If this is their M.O. when it comes to dealing with British Columbia’s wildlife, can we really trust them to be protecting it?” he said.

Concerns about wildlife are just some of the issues First Nations, environmental groups and municipalities have raised about the $7.4 billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, which would double the existing 1,100 km pipeline and nearly triple the flow of diluted bitumen to B.C.’s coast. The project is also expected to increase tanker traffic sevenfold.

But its future is uncertain after Kinder Morgan announced it was suspending non-essential spending due to “extraordinary political risks.” The company’s announcement further fuelled a battle between the Alberta and federal governments, which support the project, and B.C. which is opposed.
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