The provincial government has given approval for a rare peregrine falcon nest to be moved to allow a dormant quarry to resume operation in Abbotsford.
The go-ahead was given to Mountainside Quarries last week by the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD).
“FLNRORD have carefully considered available falcon population estimates, trends and productivity including that provided by local concerned members of the public and agents for the proponent,” said ministry spokesperson Tyler Hooper.
He said one of the conditions of the permit is that Mountainside must create new on-site nest ledges and establish new nest boxes and monitor them for five years.
Hooper said the company will also be placing satellite transmitters on the subject pair of falcons and undertaking a four-year study.
“Given the mining operation, FLNRORD believes that the mitigation to be completed is reasonable to address the relative risks to these falcons and the local species population,” he said.
Brent Palmer, who runs Mountainside Quarries, which is responsible for the site’s operation, previously stated that the Sumas Mountain site needed to be mined to protect the public.
The site was abandoned in 2012, when a stop-work order and bankruptcy brought operations to a hasty end.
But Palmer said operations need to resume because massive rocks bounce down the cliff and into the public right-of-way, threatening the safety of anyone using Quadling Road, including those who park on the road of access a nearby boat launch.
He said there is no way to fix the site without more mining, but the plan has drawn staunch opposition from people concerned about the location of the peregrine falcon nest at the base of the mountain.
The birds are on the province’s “red list” for threatened or endangered species, and the provincial Wildlife Act specifically protects the nests of peregrine falcons, along with five other prominent birds. Biologists believe only a couple dozen of the birds live in the Lower Mainland.
The province issued a mine permit for the quarry in the spring of 2020, but, in order for activity at the quarry to restart, a permit was also required for the removal of the nest.
Palmer previously stated that the peregrine falcons adopted the site only after the previous quarry closed, and that the nest hadn’t been regularly inhabited in the last five years.
He said that the company promised to spend $30,000 to build a protruding ledge on which the falcons could nest after the mining stops at the quarry.
Opponents argued that although the nests aren’t used continuously throughout the year, the birds camp out at them in the spring to lay eggs and rear their young.
Howard Bailey, an environmental scientist, previously stated that the Quadling site is the only such one between Hope and the Port Mann Bridge that is active south of the Fraser River, and it’s not possible to mitigate or repair the harm caused by removing a nest.
Bailey stated that once the birds are moved off the site, it’s not likely that they will return.