Concerns have escalated about a rare peregrine falcon nest at an Abbotsford quarry that is currently undergoing “emergency work” approved by the city.
An Instagram page titled “Save BC Falcons” says that a pair of peregrine falcons have returned to the site and are currently nesting there, just as blasting work is set to take place Thursday (May 13).
The page indicates that the birds returned to the quarry – located at 40251 Quadling Rd. in northeast Abbotsford at the base of Sumas Mountain – when operations stopped there for several days last week.
Mountainside Quarries is currently responsible for the site’s operation.
One of the permits to do the work at the quarry sets a 50-metre no-disturbance buffer around the nest, but opponents say that, although the blasting is set to occur within 100 metres of the nest, it will have an impact within the 50-metre zone.
“The blasting will disturb the nesting on the site and pressure waves from the blast will likely damage any eggs in all of the nests,” the Instagram post states.
“These peregrine falcons are just trying to live their lives and the quarry is making it impossible for them to live in peace.”
A spokesman with the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) said Wednesday that Mountainside is permitted to do blasting outside of the 50-metre zone.
“FLNRORD representatives have required Mountainside to not blast within 100 metres, as per recommendations of their Qualified Environmental Professional, although this is not a requirement,” the spokesman said in an email to The Abbotsford News.
“FLNRORD has also notified Mountainside that they must take all necessary precautions to ensure that blasting outside the 50-metre buffer does not cause disturbance within the buffer (e.g., due to debris from blasting or movement of rocks from blasting vibrations).”
The current “emergency work” at the quarry was approved by the city and includes construction of an access road to complete required scaling and site stabilization.
Mountainside plans to remove 450,000 cubic metres of rock over seven years.
Concerns from opponents first arose when Mountainside indicated in 2019 that it wanted to resume operations on the quarry. The site was abandoned in 2012, when a stop-work order and bankruptcy brought operations to a hasty end.
But the company said operations need to resume because massive rocks bounce down the cliff and into the public right-of-way, threatening the safety of anyone using Quadling Road, including those who park on the road of access a nearby boat launch.
The proposal drew staunch opposition from people concerned about the location of the peregrine falcon nest at the base of the mountain.
The birds are on the province’s “red list” for threatened or endangered species, and the provincial Wildlife Act specifically protects the nests of peregrine falcons, along with five other prominent birds. Biologists believe only a couple dozen of the birds live in the Lower Mainland. They say the Abbotsford pair produce “above average” numbers of fledglings and are the “most successful” from Hope to the Port Mann Bridge.
The province issued a mine permit for the quarry in the spring of 2020, but, in order for activity at the quarry to restart, a permit was also required for the removal of the nest.
That permit was approved by FLNRORD in January 2021.
Among the conditions of the permit is that Mountainside was to create new on-site nest ledges and establish new nest boxes and monitor them for five years.
A FLNRORD spokesman said at the time that “the mitigation to be completed is reasonable to address the relative risks to these falcons and the local species population.”