Nov. 26 2014: On Gabriola Island a lot of us have been paying close attention to what’s happening on Burnaby Mountain, just across the Strait of Georgia. Maybe you’ve heard? Kinder Morgan, a Texas-based multinational oil company is drilling in the Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area, a 576 hectare park created, in perpetuity, by a 1996 referendum of the citizens of Burnaby British Columbia. The drilling contravenes the by-laws of the City of Burnaby and is opposed by its Mayor, its citizens, and much of the province of BC.
The Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area (BMCA) is primarily forested park land. According to the BMCA Management Plan (2000) it is “one of the most significant natural areas in the Lower Mainland and the largest component of the Burnaby Parks System…. (it) represents an important island of wildlife habitat in a predominantly urban area. … at least eleven species of provincially Blue and Red-listed wildlife may be found at or near Burnaby Mountain based on the types of habitats present and the geographic ranges of the species.”
The forest supports Black-tailed deer, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, and occasionally black bears as well as bats, squirrels, rabbits, moles, voles, shrews and mice. And since it is part of the Pacific Flyway, habitat for more than one billion birds, you’ll find lots of birds here, especially in spring when large fallouts of migrants, including warblers, sparrows, vireos, flycatchers, hummingbirds, and tanagers, stop on the mountain for rest and sustenance.
Here are photos of just a few of the many birds that inhabit Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area year-round or use it during migration. (Many thanks to Adam Blake for the use of his gorgeous photos.)
Other birds known to inhabit the BMCA include the Varied Thrush, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Swainson’s Thrush, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Black-throated Grey Warblers, Hammond’s Flycatcher, Western Wood-Pewee, Red-eyed Vireo and Warbling Vireo, Fox Sparrow, Pileated Woodpecker, and Olive-sided Flycatcher.
The city of Burnaby has been working to preserve and protect the Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area for years. For details, check out the BMCA Management Plan (2000) here: https://burnaby.civicweb.net/Documents/DocumentList.aspx?Id=1172
You’ll see nothing in these plans about pipelines being built through the mountain. So it’s hardly surprising that Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan is fighting Kinder Morgan in the courts, and that Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, and a majority of BC citizens and First Nations are opposed to the project.
I walked up the mountain today, Wednesday November 26. On the way, I looked for birds. (It’s a habit I can’t seem to break.) I struck out. Not one. Is it any wonder?
We islanders are sensitive to the events unfolding on Burnaby Mountain. After all, if the Kinder Morgan pipeline is ever built, some 400 tankers a year, some of which are sure to be of the AfraMax variety holding 750,000 barrels of oil, will make their way from Burrard Inlet down the Salish Sea, right past this island whose shores we share with Harbour Seals, Steller’s Sea Lions, Double-crested and Pelagic Cormorants, Belted Kingfishers, Barrow’s Goldeneyes, Bald Eagles, and a huge variety of species of geese, ducks, and gulls. Do you know how much oil it takes to kill a sea bird? One teaspoon. And how many actually survive, even after cleaning? Estimates run from 1-10%. Those are not great odds.
Many of the bird species that live on the shores of Gabriola also live in and around Stanley Park on Burrard Inlet in Vancouver, a nationally recognized Important Bird Area. It is from here that oil tankers carrying fuel from the Kinder Morgan Pipeline would depart for Asia. It is also here that Great Blue Herons nest in huge colonies.
The birds of Burnaby Mountain, Gabriola Island, the Burrard Inlet, Stanley Park, the planet: they’re all at risk if this pipeline goes through. As if tar sands tailing ponds and habitat loss and climate change weren’t enough to deal with!
A GOOD NEWS UPDATE! Yesterday (Nov. 27) the BC Supreme Court refused to extend the Kinder Morgan injunction and ordered the company to leave the mountain by December 1. All 103 arrests for Civil Contempt were thrown out! Thank you to all the protesters, supporters, and to Judge Austin Cullen and the rule of law.