Nelson Golf Club develops land on protected heron nesting site – Coast Mountain News


A Nelson biologist says the Granite Pointe Golf Club ignored his advice on how to protect two heron nests in an area the club has exploited southwest of its golf course.

“They ignored all of the written material and verbal directions they received in phone calls and interactions with ministry biologists from Cranbrook and Nelson, and they ignored my advice,” says Marlene Machmer. “They ignored my volunteer attempts to help them in April develop a free prescription for this heron nesting area.”

She says the club did not leave a buffer zone, per provincial guidelines for this species required by provincial law, around the trees when the area was cut down this fall.

Machmer is sensitive to blue herons and their habitat because since 2002 she has been monitoring all heron nests in the Columbia Basin for the Fish and wildlife compensation Program and the Columbia Basin Trust.

In April, when she learned that the club would be mining the land, she informed the club and contacted biologists at the Department of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources and Rural Development (FLNROR) in Nelson. and Cranbrook.

The purpose of logging the golf club is to create new fairways to replace existing ones that will become the site of a project housing development on the grounds of Granite Pointe.

Am Naqvi, president of the Granite Pointe Golf Club, declined to comment when contacted by the Nelson Star.

In British Columbia, the interior subspecies of the great blue heron is a blue list species, due to declining populations and sensitivity to human activities.

In April, the Granite Pointe board of directors received an email from FLNROR biologist Irene Manly, who explained that there were three active blue heron nests in two trees on a property the club was planning. to cut down.

“Herons are nesting right now and are extremely sensitive to disturbance,” Manly wrote, citing section 34 of the BC Wildlife Act. “Heron nests and nesting trees are protected year round whether the nest is currently active or not.”

Manly then asked the club to mark a 200-meter buffer zone around the two nesting trees and not to make logs there.

In his email, Manly included links to a provincial guide on the development around the nests of blue herons, and to a document of best practices for species at risk.

The nesting trees at the edge of the Granite Pointe lot are two tall white pines very close to each other in a forest southwest of the current golf course. The nests are, according to Machmer’s estimate, nearly 50 meters above the forest floor – so high that they are difficult to see clearly from the ground.

In an April email to Granite Pointe, Machmer wrote: “Just leaving a small buffer zone (eg 25m as you suggested) is not adequate for herons. They require much larger, wooded, mature to old buffer zones around their nesting sites to avoid disturbance, nest abandonment, and breeding failure.

Herons are likely to thrive near their nests, she says, and will usually abandon them if disturbed. She says she and a local forester offered to help Granite Pointe develop a logging plan and mapped buffer zone that would minimize the impact on the nests.

“You can’t cut down a heron’s nest when it’s occupied or for five years after the last known occupation because they might come back,” she says. “And that’s because they’re perennial breeders. They come back to the same sites year after year, as long as they’re not disturbed.

In addition to the British Columbia Wildlife Act, two other laws apply to heron nests.

The federal Migratory Bird Act prohibits the destruction or disturbance of nests.

The Kootenay-Boundary Wildlife Characteristics Order refers to heron nests as a feature of wildlife habitat and states that “forestry and rangelands activities must not damage or ineffective any feature of wildlife habitat”. The order prescribes buffer zones for blue herons depending on the level of disturbance, in this case from 200 to 300 meters.

A heron’s nest in a white pine on a golf course, barely visible from the ground, taken with a telephoto lens on October 12. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Machmer says the number of active heron nests in the Columbia Basin declined 40 percent between 2003 and 2017, from 286 to 173. She says this is due to the development of a disturbance.

Herons compete with other nesting birds (bald eagles, ospreys, cormorants) for breeding sites and gradually find themselves stuck in smaller and smaller areas, she says. Herons settle in an area and then the area is developed and they have to move on as they are sensitive and cannot compete.

“It’s like musical nests, they get chased in the landscape. They can never settle down. This affects their reproductive success and has led to population declines.

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The two baleen white pines hold three blue heron nests nearly 50 meters above the ground in the forest near the Granite Pointe golf course.  Logging in the background extends to the base of the trees.  Photo: Bill Metcalfe

The two baleen white pines hold three blue heron nests nearly 50 meters above the ground in the forest near the Granite Pointe golf course. Logging in the background extends to the base of the trees. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

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