Work curtailed at Abbotsford quarry after province suspends wildlife permit

·2 min read
A peregrine falcon photographed on a rocky ledge at an active quarry on Quadling Road in Abbotsford in May 2021. (Chris Kitt - image credit)
A peregrine falcon photographed on a rocky ledge at an active quarry on Quadling Road in Abbotsford in May 2021. (Chris Kitt - image credit)

A permit issued by the province allowing a company in Abbotsford to work in and around vulnerable birds at an active quarry has been suspended.

In January, the province gave Mountainside Quarries Group Inc. the go-ahead to remove a peregrine falcon nesting site from the previously dormant quarry and work around any birds that arrived in the spring to breed. Certain conditions had to be met, such as building new nesting sites and not disturbing the animals.

The B.C. Wildlife Act protects peregrine falcon nests from being disturbed or destroyed. The birds usually nest on rock ledges high on steep cliffs, mostly in undisturbed areas.

When a pair of falcons returned to the site this spring to nest, advocates for the birds complained to the company and province that mitigation efforts to help the birds, including a 50-metre non-disturbance buffer, were not enough to keep the birds from abandoning the site where drilling and blasting is ongoing.

On Thursday the province announced it had suspended the wildlife permit, part of requirements needed to mine aggregate at the site, because of non-compliance.

It offered no other details other than to say that the permit "may be re-instated upon confirmation of the compliance."

Measuring 50 metres

A spokesperson for Mountainside said the company and the province disagreed over how the buffer zone around the birds was being measured.

John Moonen said in an email to CBC News that the company has accepted the province's recommendations, marked out a new buffer zone and asked Friday afternoon to have the permit reinstated.

The approximate location of a pair of peregrine falcons nesting in a quarry in Abbotsford. Advocates are worried work on the site will prevent the birds from breeding.
The approximate location of a pair of peregrine falcons nesting in a quarry in Abbotsford. Advocates are worried work on the site will prevent the birds from breeding.(Chris Kitt)

Earlier in May the ministry said that no disturbance is permitted within the 50-metre area such as scaling, blasting, drilling, excavation or driving vehicles.

Blasting is permitted outside of the 50-metre area, but provincial officials have requested Mountainside not blast within 100 metres where possible. Although this is not a permit requirement, the province says the biologist hired by the company has recommended it.

The province has also notified the company that it must ensure that blasting outside of the buffer area does not cause debris or rocks to cause a disturbance within the buffer.

Mountainside said it would spend more than $80,000 to help the birds by building new nesting sites and monitoring the birds for several years.

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