Ottawa to protect habitat of endangered western chorus frog in Montreal suburb

·3 min read

MONTREAL — The federal government will intervene to preserve the habitat of an endangered frog south of Montreal, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said Monday.

Guilbeault said in a statement on Twitter that he will recommend an emergency order to protect the western chorus frog, whose habitat is in peril because of a road construction project in Longueuil, Que., a suburb south of Montreal.

Guilbeault wrote that after assessing scientific evidence and conferring with department officials, he has decided the animal deserves protection under the Species at Risk Act.

Quebec environment groups reacted favourably to the announcement, which came after lawsuits seeking federal intervention were filed in late October.

The western chorus frog is a small species that breeds in temporary wetlands that are increasingly threatened by agriculture and development.

Environmental groups convinced the Quebec Superior Court that the threats to the western chorus frog were serious, and they obtained an injunction to stop roadwork in Longueuil for 10 days, due to end Monday.

On Monday, Geneviève 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.

"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," Paul said in an interview, saying she hopes the wins mean the habitat will be adequately protected.

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.

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.

It has said the 300-metre road extension — as well as a frog passage to allow them to pass under the new road — was almost completed but not yet open.

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.

The groups now want remediation measures from all levels of government in the area where work was being done to stop the drainage of wetlands before the ground freezes so as not to compromise breeding next spring.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 8, 2021.

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press

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