Sunbury Neighbourhood Association

BC Government destroying habitat of endangered species

January 2009

The B.C. Government is bringing in fill to dump on unique Burns Bog habitat after sending a landfill operator to jail for the same offence.  During the 1990s, the B.C. Government charged a Delta landfill owner with placing waste on 7 acres of Burns Bog.  In 2004, the landfill owner was fined $715,000 and sentenced to jail for 21 days.  Subsequently, the landfill owner lost land and business worth several million dollars.  The court erroneously claimed the area of landfill was the location where the rare and endangered sub-species of the Southern Red-backed Vole was found in B.C. for the first time since 1948.  In fact, the endangered voles were found in the area where the B.C. Government is now dumping fill for construction of the South Fraser Perimeter Road.

In 1999, the endangered voles were found near the 80th Street SPCA shelter in Delta where trucks are now unloading fill for the new freeway through unprotected areas of Burns Bog.  The area is also critical habitat for 2 other endangered species, the Pacific Water Shrew and the Trowbridge’s Shrew.  These were also cited in the landfill court case.  Referring to the 7-acre parcel and the testimony of a government expert, Judge R.D. Miller stated:

“… He told me how it was home to at least three endangered mammal species, including one species (the red-backed vole) that was thought to be extinct until it was found in this area.”

While the landfill owner has been denied justice, the B.C. Government feels free to dump on several unprotected parcels of Burns Bog despite warnings from government and independent scientists.  The Scientific Advisory Panel to Burns Bog has advised that the South Fraser Perimeter Road should not be built on the unprotected properties of Burns Bog that are adjacent to the protected lands.  Their concerns have been echoed by federal and provincial scientists who warn that changes to Burns Bog are expected to be significant and irreversible causing ecological effects that cannot be adaptively managed.  In August 2007, the B.C. Ministry of Environment wrote:

“The Southern Red-backed Vole, occidentalis subspecies is provincially red-listed and is a candidate for listing as Endangered or Threatened under the BC Wildlife Act.  Five individuals of this red-listed sub-species have been captured at three locations….  Impacts from habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation will likely be significant given the sub-species’ limited range.” 

During the Environmental Assessment of the new freeway, Environment Canada wrote:

“ Environment Canada concludes that the management objectives for restoration of Burns Bog, to which the Province of BC, GVRD and Corporation of Delta committed to Canada in the Conservation Covenant, and further articulated in the Burns Bog Management Plan, are likely not attainable should the project proceed as proposed.” (EC Technical Appendix, Nov.19, 2007, page 33)

“EC advises that the effects associated with building a road adjacent to Burns Bog will result in certain, permanent, irreversible impacts of a high magnitude that EC considers to be significant.”(Nov.19, page 27) 

Delta owns environmentally-sensitive properties on both sides of 80th Street as well as two other properties.  Instead of protecting these properties and adding them to the protected lands, Delta is paving the way for the B.C. Government to dump fill for the SFPR.  Construction of the road is just beginning and permanent irreversible damage is already taking place.

Ironically, the $1-billion freeway is not needed as the container business is not growing as predicted.  Supporters of the freeway are deluded into believing the propaganda that the freeway will help local traffic issues while research proves that freeways bring more traffic congestion over time.   

Sources of Information

1.     Delta Optimist: Highway Work Near Animals, January 14, 2009 

2.     Court Case:  Provincial Court of B.C., Reasons for Sentence; Miller, R.D. June 2, 2004 AB. Vol. 12. p.p. 2366-2388:

     Page 15: “Clearly the subject property here (Burns Bog) is a unique ecological area supporting rare flora and fauna as well as an essential wildlife habitat, and therefore this offence should be severely condemned…

     ‘If the damage is irreparable, extensive, persistent, or has numerous consequential adverse effects, the penalty must be severe.’

     This description of damage again clearly fits the case before me, and therefore I must consider a severe penalty.”

     Pages 21-22:  sentence of 21 days and 2 fines totaling $715,000

     Quote in text above:

“… He told me how it was home to at least three endangered mammal species, including one species (the red-backed vole) that was thought to be extinct until it was found in this area.”

Pages 6 & 7, Statement (20)

3.     Burns Bog Ecosystem Review: Small Mammals, December, 1999, Mark Fraker, Claudio Bianchini, and Ian Robertson, Robertson Environmental Services Ltd. and TerraMar Environmental Research.

4.     Reference to voles at 80th Street in Delta: Environmental Assessment Application for the SFPR, Vegetation and Wildlife Impact Assessment, Technical Volume 12, Robertson Environmental Services Ltd. September 2006; pages 30, 85 and 93.  The reference is also found in the actual study cited in #2 above.

5.     Burns Bog Ecosystem Review Study: Status of Wildlife in Burns Bog, Delta – 1999, Martin Gebauer

6.     Letter from B.C. Ministry of Environment, Environmental Stewardship to Environmental Assessment Office, Re: The South Fraser Perimeter Road Development Application, August 21, 2007.

7.     Technical Appendix, Environment Canada Comments on South Fraser Perimeter Road, Environmental Assessment, November 19, 2007, pages 27 and 33.

8.     Will More Freeways Bring More Traffic? 


9.     Common Myths: Freeways Relieve Traffic Congestion  


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