The fate of the Fraser River delta

A booming economy, a thriving community, a healthy environment — can Vancouver have it all?


  • a great blue heron skims across the water, with Roberts Bank port in the background;

    A great blue heron skims across the water, with Vancouver’s Roberts Bank port in the background. (Photo: Ben Nelms/Canadian Geographic)

With photography by 

Birds packing high-tech gear help scientists understand the migratory mysteries and dangerous life of the red knot

Photo by Yves Aubry ECCC

From Arctic breeding grounds to the farthest tip of South America, this bird has one of the longest voyages in the animal kingdom. Now, decline of habitat and a key food source on the trip are making the endangered species’ travels even more hazardous. Canadian-U.S. researchers are going along for the virtual ride to learn how to help.

Continue reading . . .


B.C. port project could have ‘adverse effects’ on birds headed to Alaska


Western Sandpiper slurping up biofilm that appears critical for their migration to Alaska. Photo by Tomohiro Kuwae

By MARGARET MUNRO — Special to The Globe and Mail

A proposed port expansion south of Vancouver has the “potential for significant adverse effects” on migratory birds that stream north from South and Central America en route to their breeding grounds in Alaska, according to the federal environment department.

Western sandpipers, which touch down on the Fraser River delta in the spring to feed on energy-rich “biofilm” on the tidal mudflats, are most at risk and could suffer “species-level consequences,” says a submission from Environment and Climate Change Canada to the panel reviewing the $2-billion Roberts Bank Terminal 2 project.  Continue reading . ..

Amidst Vancouver’s Paving Spree, a Corner ‘Rewilds’


By Margaret Munro,

The Scouts are working up a sweat digging holes for young cedars and vine maples, while the Starbucks baristas are on their knees planting ferns.

The “rewilding” of Everett Crowley Park, in the southeast corner of Vancouver, aims to make more space for wild things in the city’s increasingly concrete landscape. Or, as the [Vancouver] park board recently said, the project is part of its “vision for an urban environment in harmony with nature.”

It’s hard to imagine a more unlikely place.

Everett Crowley Park, which the board now describes as a “biodiversity hotspot,” is home to one of the most abused chunks of real estate in Vancouver – the old city dump. Continue reading . . . 

Clearcut city? Rise of Condos Means Razed Trees, Bird Evictions

DSCN7326 (1).jpgVancouver has lost hundreds of hectares of canopy in just two decades.

By Margaret Munro,

The logging crew made short work of the forest, tearing down the trees, yanking out the roots and feeding the branches — just coming into bud — into a shredder.

The forest, clearcut this spring to make way for the massive River District development in southeast Vancouver, was a wild tangle of cottonwoods and shrubs that made ideal habitat for woodpeckers, chickadees and hummingbirds.

The birds scattered as the trees fell. And migrating songbirds, such as the yellow warblers featured in the River District’s promotional materials, now arriving in “bird friendly” Vancouver will have to look elsewhere for food and nesting sites. Continue reading  . . .

Unmuzzling government scientists is just the first step

Scientists rallied on Parliament Hill on Sept. 16, 2013. (Sean Kilpatrick CP)

Scientists rallied on Parliament Hill on Sept. 16, 2013. (Sean Kilpatrick CP)

By MARGARET MUNRO, Special to The Globe and Mail

As prime-minister-designate Justin Trudeau and his Liberals take control of the federal government, Ottawa’s media managers are sure to line up to defend the virtues of media control. After almost 10 years under Stephen Harper, the managers have honed the art of controlling and blocking access to federal researchers, crafting “media lines” that seldom answer the questions asked and frustrating journalists.

Mr. Trudeau has vowed to reopen the lines of communication and take the “muzzle” off federal scientists. Even a modest improvement in communication would be welcome. But a return to more open government will require not only new policy, but also a new mindset in the bureaucracy the Conservatives have left behind.  Continue reading . . .