Conservationists push City of Fredericton to protect north side wetland

·2 min read
Graham Forbes and Renata Woodward at Wilkins Field. (Jon Collicott - image credit)
Graham Forbes and Renata Woodward at Wilkins Field. (Jon Collicott - image credit)

The Nature Trust of New Brunswick wants the city of Fredericton to protect one of the area's most important birding sites.

Wilkins Field is home to some rare and nationally endangered and threatened birds, including Least Bitterns.

"This site is one of the best natural history spots in the Maritimes, particularly for four or five species of birds that are really quite rare and almost impossible to see elsewhere in the Maritimes," said biologist Graham Forbes, president of the Fredericton Nature Club.

Forbes said there are also several species of turtles that are on the national endangered species list.

Wilkins Field is home to some rare and nationally endangered and threatened birds.
Wilkins Field is home to some rare and nationally endangered and threatened birds. (Jon Collicott)

"So it's quite a spot for rarity and unique sightings, a chance to come and see a lot of wildlife in one place," Forbes said.

The Nature Trust of New Brunswick says it has gotten close to 50 inquiries from naturalist groups asking what is going to happen to the important wetland.

"Ideally, we would like to see the land permanently protected," said Nature Trust CEO Renata Woodward. "And if there is any development that will happen in the surrounding area, it would exclude the areas where the known habitat for the species is."

Woodward made several recommendations for the land's protection to the city's environmental stewardship committee -- including a commitment to not develop the land.

The city of Fredericton purchased the 26 hectares from the Wilkins family last year. It sits on the city's north side, off Sunset Drive.

Joyce Trites, whose father owned the land, said her family was "very keen" to have it stay natural, adding that was why they sold it to the city.

The land has been used in the past for community events.

"It is timely to step in and maybe take a look at the other opportunities for the use of the land," said Coun. Stephen Chase, chair of the environmental stewardship committee.

"And when I say use, I mean use as public property that people can enjoy, you know, for its conservation purposes."

The committee sent the Nature Trust's recommendations to staff for a full report.

"We are really hopeful that we will hear soon from the city staff and potentially create another presentation to the council once we hear what recommendations from the staff is," Woodward said.