Neigh­bours hope sala­man­der dis­cov­ery halts quarry project

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - LIAM CASEY

BURLING­TON — A group of Ontario res­i­dents try­ing to ward off the de­vel­op­ment of a new quarry in their com­mu­nity say they have found two en­dan­gered sala­man­ders they hope will con­vince author­i­ties to put an end to the project.

The Burling­ton res­i­dents say the dis­cov­ery of the Jef­fer­son de­pen­dant uni­sex­ual sala­man­ders should force the prov­ince to re­con­sider the de­vel­op­ment by Merid­ian Brick, which has had two ac­tive quar­ries in the area for decades.

“This is a real coup,” said Maria Ad­cock, who lives nearby and is part of the Tyandaga En­vi­ron­men­tal Coali­tion. “This is a beau­ti­ful area that shouldn’t be de­vel­oped, and this dis­cov­ery should help save the for­est.”

Merid­ian has had rights to de­velop a third quarry since 1972, but hadn’t acted on it un­til two years ago.

Dozens of res­i­dents who bought homes in the com­mu­nity ar­gue they were never warned about the pos­si­bil­ity of a quarry be­ing de­vel­oped next to their back­yards. They learned about it when the com­pany sent around a news­let­ter in 2015. That’s when the com­mu­nity or­ga­nized.

The city has said it can’t stop the project.

Mayor Rick Goldring said a re­view showed “Merid­ian Brick is within its le­gal rights” and that the prov­ince, not the city, “has ju­ris­dic­tion over this mat­ter.”

Last year, the res­i­dents set their sights on the prov­ince, ar­gu­ing the project would vi­o­late Ontario’s rules and reg­u­la­tions sur­round­ing en­dan­gered an­i­mals and their habi­tats.

And they be­lieve they found it last year, when they spot­ted a sala­man­der near the quarry site. They snapped a pho­to­graph and sent it to Jim Bog­art, a Univer­sity of Guelph pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus who has stud­ied sala­man­ders since the 1970s.

To him, it looked like an Al­legheny moun­tain dusky sala­man­der, which only has two small pop­u­la­tions in Ontario, both near the Ni­a­gara Gorge, he said, but he needed a tis­sue sam­ple to con­firm its iden­tity.

The en­dan­gered dusky is so rare that Bog­art said he’s never seen one live.

“This was very ex­cit­ing and very im­por­tant — it could be a new dusky sala­man­der pop­u­la­tion,” said Bog­art, 77. “But all I have is the pho­to­graph at this point.”

That sight­ing was im­por­tant enough for Ontario’s Min­istry of Nat­u­ral Re­sources and Forestry to put a tem­po­rary hold on the com­pany’s plans, which hoped to be­gin clear-cut­ting trees this year.

Merid­ian has since had en­vi­ron­men­tal con­sul­tants ex­am­in­ing the land for a wide va­ri­ety of en­dan­gered species, both plants and an­i­mals, in or­der to com­ply with the En­dan­gered Species Act, ac­cord­ing to the min­istry.

Bog­art, who said he is not be­ing paid by ei­ther side for his work, has found noth­ing of im­port on the prop­erty so far, but they are hard to spot.

If a dusky sala­man­der was found, it’s likely that an en­tire stream and nearby ar­eas on the com­pany’s prop­erty would be pro­tected habi­tat.

In April, Bog­art re­ceived tail clip­pings of five sala­man­ders that the Tyandaga En­vi­ron­men­tal Coali­tion said they found in the area.

He per­formed a ge­netic anal­y­sis and dis­cov­ered a dif­fer­ent en­dan­gered sala­man­der species: Jef­fer­son de­pen­dant uni­sex­ual sala­man­ders.

He said he hasn’t found any egg sacs of the uni­sex­ual sala­man­ders, but is con­tin­u­ing to search.

A Jef­fer­son sala­man­der or the Jef­fer­son de­pen­dant uni­sex­ual sala­man­ders would have its habi­tat pro­tected within a 300-me­tre ra­dius and po­ten­tially up to 1,000 me­tres if an­other suit­able breed­ing pond is found, Bog­art said.

A min­istry spokesper­son said they are await­ing re­sults of the com­pany’s re­port to re­view its plans to deal with en­dan­gered species and species at risk.

Merid­ian spokesper­son Pa­trick Kelly said the com­pany is un­der­go­ing new and up­dated stud­ies as it tries to ad­dress the con­cerns of the com­mu­nity and is “mak­ing ad­just­ments” in its plans.

TYANDAGA EN­VI­RON­MEN­TAL COALI­TION, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

This im­age of a Jef­fer­son de­pen­dant uni­sex­ual sala­man­der, an en­dan­gered species, is shown out­side the prop­erty line at Merid­ian Brick in Burling­ton.

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