Updated: Sun Jan. 25 2009 18:44:32
Environmentalists are crying foul that construction of a major transportation route near Burns Bog is putting an endangered rodent in peril.
And if the rules established in a recent court judgment apply, destroying the habitat of the red-backed vole to make way for B.C.'s Gateway Project could lead to huge fines and even jail time, said Susan Jones of the Boundary Bay Conservation Committee.
"It's disgusting what they're doing," she told CTV News. "It's the habitat for this subspecies, and they're about to trash it."
But supporters of the project say it's been through all necessary environmental reviews, and the province can't afford to delay it any longer.
"The process has to move now," said Paul Landry of the B.C. Trucking Association.
The red-backed vole is so rare it was thought to be extinct until several of them were discovered near Progress Way and 80th Avenue in Delta a few years ago.
That's along the route of the South Fraser Perimeter Road, one of many roads designed to link ports south of the Fraser River with highways to ease congestion and make it easier to transport goods by truck.
In 2004, a private company dumped construction materials nearby, and it was the destruction of the voles' habitat that moved the judge to punish Alpha Manufacturing with a fine of hundreds of thousands of dollars and jail time.
"It is a death sentence for the bog (which is) home to at least three endangered species, including the red-backed vole," said Judge R.D. Miller at the time.
Jones says the government should think twice -- because if it destroys the habitat, they could be liable for the same punishment.
"There's two different rules, one for the government and one for the public," said Jones.
"Build the road somewhere else, don't destroy the Burns Bog habitat, especially habitat that's irreplaceable," she said.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Jon Woodward