Endangered owl protection sought

Foothills development threatening habitat of Western screech owl

Demands are being made to save an endangered species at threat of being pushed out by development.

Tania Heaton, a geologist by trade, says the western screech owl has been spotted in the Vernon area over the years, and now the broad-leaf habitat that this endangered species lives in could be destroyed.

“Although the owl itself is protected under the Species at Risk Act, there is currently no law protecting its habitat on privately owned land,” said Heaton.

Yet, suitable habitat for the western screech owl (along with other species) has been identified in private land in the Foothills.

While it hasn’t yet been developed, work is creeping closer along Blackcomb Way and Heaton fears the owls will soon be forced out of their homes to make way for human homes.

“Once it’s gone, it’s gone,” she warns.

There are currently no development applications submitted for the lands north of Blackcomb Way, according to the City of Vernon. But there are plans for it.

“The Foothills neighbourhood plan shows future residential development in this area, but before that development can take place, the owner/developer would be required to conduct a detailed environmental impact assessment (EIA),” said Cleo Corbett, Vernon’s long range planner.

“The EIA would assess the property and identify any highly sensitive areas, including any species at risk, and make recommendations for how to mitigate the impacts of development and protect sensitive areas. The development proposal and design of infrastructure would be guided by the EIA work.”

But Heaton can’t understand why the city would allow such a thing in the first place.

“They put out this Foothills neighbourhood plan and it shows the high sensitive ecosystems with roads going through it,” said Heaton.

“Which of course would permanently destroy this very rare habitat.”

In an attempt to preserve the endangered animal’s home, Heaton has started an online petition at https://www.change.org/p/city-of-vernon-mayor-akbal-mund-save-the-habitats-of-vernon-s-endangered-species-from-development. It has already gained 921 signatures in support. For more information contact Heaton at tcheaton@yahoo.com

She is urging the city to do its part.

“They can do it, they have the power to do this.”