In January 2021, the province of BC issued a permit to a gravel mining operator to remove a rare Peregrine Falcon nesting site at Sumas Mountain in Abbotsford.
The Wild Bird Trust of BC (WBT) is deeply disappointed by this decision. WBT campaigned virtually to raise awareness of the issue in December and is one of at least 10 organizations that sent a letter to BC’s FLNR Ministry, pressuring the province to reject the permit.
Mountainside Quarries received a general operations permit from the province in April of 2020, despite known opposition from Sumas First Nation, as expressed in a letter signed by the Chief in 2016. For safety reasons, the operator also required a general wildlife permit to remove the falcon nest, a permit type that is “only available in special circumstances.” The province has now granted that permit to destroy the Peregrine Falcon nest.
The nest at the Abbotsford quarry is an integral breeding site, as it is the only known active nest between Hope and Port Mann Bridge south of the Fraser River. Since at least 2015, the quarry nest has been successfully producing juvenile Peregrine Falcons each year. The American Peregrine Falcon subspecies (F.p. anatum) is red-listed in BC and recognized as a species of special concern under the federal Species at Risk Act.
BC protects Peregrine Falcon nests year-round, regardless of whether they are occupied, under Section 34 of the Wildlife Act. But the new permit grants the operator permission to override that legislation.
Mountainside Quarries has stated it will create new nest ledges at the site and add nest boxes for the falcons. They also agreed to help facilitate a study on a pair of breeding falcons from the site using satellite transmitters to track the pair.
The quarry cliff is also a site of seasonal migration for a bountiful colony of Cliff Swallows, a migratory bird species that has been experiencing population declines across BC and Canada over the past two decades. Cliff Swallows are federally protected under the Migratory Birds Convention Act. The site is also home to the Phantom Orchid, a white flowering orchid species, which is also red-listed in BC.