The battle to preserve wildlife in l’Anse-à-l’Orme begins again

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Citizens against crooked politicians and Mafia land owners/developers.

The battle to preserve wildlife in l’Anse-à-l’Orme begins again
Source: The Gazette

It’s easy to forget you live in a big city once you venture into the rolling fields of l’Anse-à-l’Orme in western Pierrefonds, one of the last refuges of wildlife in Montreal.

There are sightings of threatened birds like the bobolink and the sound of leopard frogs croaking in the marshes. There are 50 to 60 whitetail deer that call these woods home, and somewhere in the bush are coyotes that prey on them.

Off in the distance is a clearing where you can see the rooftops of new homes that jut out into the vast stretches of greenery like intruders into Mother Nature’s den.

“Monster homes” are what long-time local conservationist David Fletcher calls the encroaching new construction, and for good reason.

If a proposed housing development of up to 6,000 more units is built in the area, as was recently announced by municipal officials, Fletcher fears for the wildlife that will be displaced, and in many cases, eradicated completely from one of the last green sanctuaries on the island of Montreal.

“If they take this, there will be nothing really left like it in all of Montreal,” said Fletcher, vice-president of the Green Coalition, which is fighting to prevent the loss of precious habitat.

“Just these fields here are a secure habitat for 10 species of birds,” he said.

Home to migratory birds like the bobolink that winters in South America but returns to these dense grass fields in the West Island each summer to nest.

“These wet meadows are perfect for ground-nesters,” said Fletcher, who has also spotted herons in the Rivière-à-l’Orme, bald eagles, hawks and other raptors.

Even the great grey owl has made an appearance, not to mention otters, beaver, muskrat, fox, porcupine and a fisher.

“A fisher is quite an aggressive predator,” explained Fletcher. “It’s in the weasel family and is the only predator known to prey on porcupine. It’s able to get to the belly on the porcupine without getting pricked with quills.”

Fletcher, a 74-year-old retired school teacher, has been fighting to preserve these and other threatened lands with the Green Coalition since the 1980s, but admits it’s been an uphill battle. He often surfs on Google Maps to see the extent of urban sprawl that continues to push other forms of life off the island.

“In southern Quebec, around Montreal, we’ve lost 90 per cent of our wetlands,” he said. “That’s astonishing. That’s a staggering amount of loss.”

The wet marches sustain life, he said. “It provides for birds, it provides for amphibians, everything that needs water.”

He said the public has been misled to believe a new residential development will pay for new infrastructure, like a much-needed north-south artery from Gouin Blvd. West to Highway 40.

“It’s a total misconception,” Fletcher said. “But people are trusting. People are disinclined to question decisions, particularly if those decisions have to do with economy.

“The population of western Pierrefonds has to be informed of what the stakes are here.”

Other nearby green spaces, like Cap St-Jacques Nature Park, are not the same thing as relatively-untouched l’Anse-à-l’Orme. “Those are groomed parks, this is a wildplace,” Fletcher said of the distinction.

And if the developers get their way in Pierrefonds again, Fletcher fears that the 180 hectares set aside as preserved land will in no way resemble what exists today, which hardly resembles what existed here 50 years ago.

“It’s essentially going to become a tree museum instead of a working ecosystem. That’s really the problem.”