The decision of the City of Longueuil to extend a boulevard is causing the destruction of one of the last habitats of the chorus frog in Quebec, concludes a scientific opinion written by experts from the government of Quebec and whose The duty got copy. This notice, which reveals that the municipality will build residences in a legally protected area for this endangered species, was however not taken into account in the Legault government’s decision to authorize the project.
Following an access to information request, The duty was able to obtain the “wildlife notice” which was drafted a few months ago by experts from the Ministry of Forests, Fauna and Parks for the project. extension of boulevard Béliveau, in Longueuil. The works are now in progress.
The document, which the MFFP had initially refused to send us, despite repeated requests, is unequivocal: “The project has significant potential impacts that may either lead to permanent habitat loss or even present a high risk of mortality that may result. have significant consequences on the maintenance of the population ”.
According to the opinion of biologists, this new section of street will destroy “a nerve crossing point” and “breeding habitats” of the species which are “particularly active”, and this, in the heart of a site designated as ” critical habitat ”. This decision means that the destruction of this habitat is prohibited under the Species at Risk Act (THE P). In addition, work started with heavy machinery will create a “significant barrier” for amphibians and kill chorus frogs, which is also prohibited by SARA.
More and more threatened
The document, which also reveals that the City of Longueuil intends to authorize the construction of residences in this protected habitat, underlines that the population of tree frogs in the area is one of the last populations in Quebec. “In Montérégie, there are only 18 metapopulations, highly fragmented, spread over a thin strip 20 km wide between the municipalities of Beauharnois in the south and Contrecoeur in the north,” reads the notice.
The Western Chorus Frog Recovery Team in Quebec also determined that “for the period between 2004 and 2009 alone, 14% of the breeding wetlands were destroyed in this region”. In recent years, more than 90% of the species’ habitat has been destroyed in Quebec. MFFP experts also recall that the situation of this threatened species “represents an indicator of the loss of ecological goods and services provided by temporary wetlands and natural environments in urban and peri-urban areas”.
In a report of “threats” dated March 2021, but that the MFFP refused to transmit to the To have to, experts are sounding the alarm by pointing out that less than 25% of the populations present in Quebec will be able to survive, unless they curb the growing threats. “Consequently, the conservation actions planned for its recovery must at least make it possible to protect and restore” breeding sites such as those that will be destroyed in Longueuil.
The MFFP’s “wildlife advisory” produced for the Beliveau Boulevard extension project also rejects the mitigation measures presented by the City of Longueuil. She plans to build a “wildlife passage” to allow tree frogs to cross the new stretch of boulevard, but she has not yet given details on what will be done.
However, MFFP experts believe, in their opinion, that “although the structure of the wildlife passage planned under Boulevard Béliveau may be suitable for several wildlife species, its positioning and the layout / state of its approaches are currently not suitable for the tree frog. Western chorus cricket ”. In this context, “the project would therefore weaken the recovery and conservation of the species. The structure of the wildlife passage, as proposed, does not compensate for the loss of connectivity caused by the project ”.
By email, the City of Longueuil however indicated that the crossing project was “approved” by the MFFP. Its spokesperson, Hans Brouillette, also argued that the extension of the boulevard “makes it possible to achieve a balance of interests, because it provides not only a wildlife passage, but also other arrangements for the tree frog and for the creation of the biodiversity corridor ”. This “biodiversity corridor” project is located in the heart of the boulevard extension project, with a view to the construction of a new residential sector.
Following requests from the MFFP and the Ministry of the Environment and the Fight against Climate Change (MELCC), it was also possible to learn that the opinion of the MFFP, which The duty, just got copy was not taken into account.
The Beliveau Boulevard extension project was first submitted to the MELCC “in order to obtain an authorization for the extension of water and sewer networks, under the Environment Quality Act”, explained the MFFP. In this context, wildlife issues had to be taken into account “through a wildlife advisory” submitted by the MFFP to the MELCC. This review has been produced. It is this document that was obtained under the Access to Information Act.
However, the City of Longueuil subsequently withdrew the authorization request in order to submit a declaration of conformity under the provisions of the Regulation on the regulation of activities based on their impact on the environment (REAFIE), which comes under the MELCC.
In this context, no wildlife advice is requested or taken into account. “The responsibility then rests with the promoter of the project, the City of Longueuil in this case, to ensure to respect the regulatory requirements prescribed by the REAFIE”, explained, by email, the MFFP. The MELCC argued that the City of Longueuil’s statements “do not mention the presence of threatened or vulnerable species, such as the Western Chorus Frog”.
The director general of the Société pour la nature et les parcs du Québec (SNAP Quebec), Alain Branchaud, denounces this way of doing things in Longueuil. “SNAP Quebec is calling for a public inquiry to understand how such a project was able to go forward despite the fact that all the responsible authorities were aware of the presence of breeding ponds for the Chorus Frog,” he said. he argues Thursday.
“Everything suggests that the city of Longueuil was aware of the presence of tree frog breeding ponds at the work site. If that turns out, Quebec will have to demand that the site be restored, ”added Mr. Branchaud, urging the federal government to act on this issue.
For its part, the Quebec Environmental Law Center believes that the reform of the Environment Quality Act in 2018 made this kind of situation possible. “The City is exploiting a loophole in the legislative and regulatory framework, while the critical situation of the tree frog is well known. The reform of the Environment Quality Act made this situation possible, which once again illustrates the need for Quebec to reform its regulations, in particular for the protection of wildlife habitats on private lands. “
The office of the minister responsible for MELCC, Benoit Charette, sees nothing abnormal in the situation in Longueuil. “The Minister has confidence in the administrative process of the Department of the Environment and the Department must ensure that all of our laws are respected. We remind you that teams of inspectors were also dispatched to the work site and they did not find any deficiencies. We will continue to monitor the work, ”replied his cabinet, by email.
Earlier this year, the Legault government wrote to the federal government to oppose the decision protect the critical habitat of the Copper Redhorse, an “endangered” fish that is unique to the St. Lawrence. In the fall of 2020, the Legault government also refused to transmit to To have to the reports of the inventories of chorus frogs that were carried out on the site of the Port of Montreal, in Contrecœur. This land contains “critical habitat” for the species.