Federal environment minister recommends emergency order to protect endangered frogs in Longueuil

·3 min read
The western chorus frog is considered endangered in the St. Lawrence area. (Radio-Canada - image credit)
The western chorus frog is considered endangered in the St. Lawrence area. (Radio-Canada - image credit)

Canada's new environment minister has agreed to protect the endangered western chorus frog in Longueuil.

In a tweet Monday, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said he would recommend an emergency order for the protection of the small frogs.

"The chorus frog is listed on the endangered species list under the Species at Risk Act and the development activities underway in Longueuil, Quebec are destroying the critical habitat of this species," he said.

The announcement comes after two Quebec environmental groups had threatened to take the federal government to court if it failed to protect the frogs from a road expansion.

Longueuil is extending Béliveau Boulevard in the Saint-Hubert borough by 300 metres to connect it to another boulevard through part of the wooded area of Du Tremblay.

According to Quebec's Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks, 20 per cent of the chorus frog's habitat is located there, making it the most important site the species occupies in the province.

The city built a tunnel for the frogs while it went ahead with expansion plans for the boulevard.

It's not clear how the emergency order would affect Longueuil's expansion project.

Court injunction

The fate of the habitat of this local population of frogs is also being debated in court.

Environmental groups have already convinced the Quebec Superior Court that the threats to the western chorus frog are serious, and they obtained an injunction to stop roadwork in Longueuil for 10 days — a period that was due to end Monday.

On Monday, Genevieve Paul, executive director of the Centre québécois du droit de l'environnement, said that order has now been extended until Nov. 22, ensuring work won't continue on the site.

Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press
Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

"So it's a relief twice today, one in regards to the recommendation the minister of the environment made and another relief because we're against the clock here, and we managed to have a suspension of the construction work for additional days,'' said Paul, adding that she hopes the wins mean the habitat will be adequately protected.

In a statement, the city of Longueuil said it had consented to the work suspension order from the court, but a spokesperson said there would be no further comment as the case remains before a judge.

The city has said previously it was trying to balance the needs of citizens with the protection of the environment, noting it had received the necessary approvals for the project, which has been in the works for a decade.

The federal government in 2016 issued an emergency order protecting a western chorus frog population threatened by a housing development in nearby La Prairie, Que., a fight Paul's group was involved in.

Paul's organization, along with SNAP Quebec, another environmental organization, hopes the most recent ruling sends a message to the Quebec government to modernize its policies for the protection of threatened or vulnerable species.

"There are serious or severe weaknesses in our framework that led to such a situation being possible and we know how the problem can be fixed,'' she said.

While the species's numbers are secure globally, the population in Canada's Great Lakes-St. Lawrence lowlands-Canadian Shield region has been listed as threatened since 2010, and current estimates suggest up to 90 per cent of its habitat has been lost in recent decades.

The western chorus frog breeds in small, often temporary wetlands that are increasingly threatened by agriculture and urban sprawl. Adults grow to a maximum length of less than four centimetres.

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