Conservation groups threaten to sue Ottawa for protection of Quebec’s chorus frog – Coast Mountain News

Two environmental groups say they are ready to sue the federal government if it fails to protect a population of tiny brown frogs that they say are threatened by a road expansion project south of Montreal.

The two Quebec-based groups are calling on Ottawa to issue an emergency decree to protect a population of western chorus frogs they say is threatened by the city of Longueuil’s plan to expand a large boulevard through one of the few amphibian habitats in the province.

Geneviève Paul, director general of the Center québécois du droit de l’environnement, declared that the federal Minister of the Environment, Jonathan Wilkinson, has an obligation to recommend that an order be issued “to intervene in this situation in order to protect critical habitat for the frog ”. Paul said the groups are ready to take the case to Federal Court if Wilkinson does not recommend such an order by Wednesday.

In an emailed statement Friday night, a spokeswoman for Wilkinson’s office did not confirm whether the recommendation would be made.

“The Minister’s decision will be informed by the best information available, including scientific evidence, collected and provided by Environment and Climate Change Canada,” wrote Joanna Sivasankaran, who added that the office recognized the need to “make decisions in accordance with timely “.

The Western Chorus Frog breeds in small, often temporary wetlands that are increasingly threatened by agriculture and urban sprawl. Adults reach a maximum length of less than four centimeters. Although numbers of the species are secure globally, the Great Lakes / St. Lawrence population in Canada. The St. Lawrence and Canadian Shield region has been listed as threatened since 2010, and current estimates suggest that up to 90% of its habitat has been lost in recent decades.

The federal government issued an emergency decree in 2016 to protect a population of western chorus frogs threatened by housing development in La Prairie, Quebec, another Montreal suburb not far from Longueuil. The developer sued and the case went to the Supreme Court of Canada, which ultimately refused to hear the landowner’s appeal.

Paul said the groups had no choice but to appeal to Ottawa because the Quebec government failed in its duty to protect the frog, due to both a lack of will and lack of will. a regulatory framework that limits interventions on private land.

Alain Branchaud, head of the SNAP Quebec conservation group, called the Coalition Avenir Quebec government an “authorization regime” that rarely refuses to approve a project. Instead, he said, he will ask for “mitigation measures” which are ultimately inadequate.

The City of Longueuil indicates on its website that the expansion of the road by 300 meters has been requested by citizens for years and has received the green light from the provincial authorities. He says he takes biodiversity into account, including frogs.

He notes that the project includes a large concrete tunnel under the new road aimed at allowing frogs to pass safely between the two parts of their habitat cut in half.

Branchaud says the passage of wildlife is insufficient because it does not stop the destruction of the ponds that the frogs need to reproduce. He said the construction itself will damage water levels and vegetation, and the city will likely end up building housing along the new boulevard.

“The essence of its habitat will be completely destroyed, so we will pass a tunnel from one side where there are no more frogs to the other side of the boulevard where there will be no more frogs,” he said. -he declares.

Branchaud said he hopes the federal government moves forward on its own, but if not, the groups will go to court to protect the amphibians.

Despite the previous high-profile legal battle over frogs, he says it’s wrong to think they’re having a widespread impact on construction south of Montreal.

He also says the idea of ​​balancing frogs and developers is ludicrous when frogs have already lost 90 percent of their habitat and continue to lose about seven percent of what’s left each year.

“Nature has already made huge compromises,” he said. “Maybe it’s our turn to do it.

Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press

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