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Local woman gets Supreme Court date to hear case of SARA violations by City of Surrey - Monday January 8 at 9:45am

Species at risk in Hawthorne Park defended by local environmentalist

by Roslyn Cassells

Local community activist and teacher Roslyn Cassells today won an early court date to demand the City of Surrey do their duty towards wildlife and the local ecology in the hotly disputed Hawthorne Park road construction project, which would bisect the north Surrey nature park putting lives and habitats at risk.  The case for injunctive relief will be heard in New Westminster Supreme Court on Monday Jan. 8 at 9:45 am.

Cassells, a former Vancouver park commissioner for the Green Party, is concerned for the plight of the many species at risk living in the park and surrounding area.  The City is planning to go ahead with tree and vegetation removal, soil removal, and other habitat disturbances on Jan. 8 2018 according to news reports and city announcements.

The Pacific Water Shrew, who has moderate likelihood of being in the park according to Ken Bennett, local resident biologist and member of the Pacific Water Shrew Recovery Plan for BC, is an endangered species only found in the lower mainland of BC.  It is a race with time to save the remaining shrews and their habitats, especially given the developer first priority given to damaging ecological projects in the City - the habitat hotspot for the shrew - with 3 areas in Surrey alone designated as critical habitat, including areas close to Hawthorne Park.

The shrew is currently in breeding season with babies coming in March, nests often found in rotting logs and other vegetation the City wants to clear for the road project.  The Recovery Plan, as well as provincial Best Management Practices call for a minimum 100 metre setback of any riparian areas and riparian terrestrial habitat.  As Hawthorne Park is bounded and criss-crossed with water features such as streams, creeks, ditches, transitional bog areas, flood plains, ponds, and lakes it would be almost entirely exempt from development if properly protected for this species.

The City's draft Environmental Report, released to the public on Dec. 20 2017 neglected to even mention the likely presence of the Pacific Water Shrew, nor did it mention other protected species such as the Oregon Forestsnail, Screech Owl, and Vancouver Island Beggartick.  The City neglected to survey for the presence of the aforementioned species nor to protect their habitats as well as the species it admits are potentially in the park including the Cutthroat trout, Great Blue Heron, Rough-legged Hawk, Common Nighthawk,  Barn Swallow, Band-tailed Pigeon, Barn Owl, Townsend's Big-eared Bat, Little Brown Myotis Bat, Western Toad, Northern Red-legged Frog, Western Painted Turtle, and Monarch Butterfly. 

In short the City is blatantly violating the Species At Risk Act, the provincial Wildlife Act, the Develop with Care 2014: Environmental Guidelines for Urban and Rura Land Development in BC (BC Ministry of Environment 2014b), Best Management Practices for Amphibians and Reptiles in Urban and Rural Environments in BC (Covask et al. 2004), the Small Wetland and Amphibian Assessment Field Card (Wind and Beese 2008), the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the various provincial Recovery/Management plans for the above-mentioned species, and any legislation pertaining to the protection of species and ecological communities living or using Hawthorne Park and surrounds.  The City is even violating its own policies, including the Biodiversity Conservation Strategy and Green Infrastructure Network and others.

Surrey City Council, which was funded to the tune of $902,000 by developer interests in the 2014 elections, regularly ignores environmental laws if they conflict with the financial interests of their developer cronies.  The marginalized and voiceless are regularly neglected at City Hall, in this case the most marginalized members of our community, the animals, who cannot speak and defend themselves from rapacious developers and the political self-interest of city council.

Cassells hopes the court will agree to a stop-work order in Hawthorne Park until such time as the City complies with the various provincial and federal laws they are currently violating.  The City at the very least must survey for the species at risk, and if necessary, protect their habitats.  The furred, feathered, and scaled residents of Hawthorne Park are our esteemed relatives, neighbours, and fellow residents on Mother Earth.  We owe them a duty of love and respect, the opportunity to live their lives in peace, raise their young, and flourish for generations to come!

Towards a world where all lives are equal, and accorded with respect and love by all.  Our collective biodiversity is the most valuable asset we can leave for our future generations - be we mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, insects or fish...all deserve a home on this earth.


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