• John Jantak

‘Mise en demeure’ orders Pincourt not to cut down trees in Rousseau Forest


PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK

The Rousseau Forrest is currently home to nesting woodpeckers and falcons, salamanders and frogs, as well as squirrels and chipmunks. Pincourt citizens want the town to reconsider allowing a residential development to proceed in favour of preserving the woods.

Rumours late last week of a tree-cutting operation that was apparently about to take place in Rousseau Forest, one of the last remaining wooded lots in Pincourt, prompted a legal firm to issue a ‘mise en demeure’ – a formal notice – demanding the town not allow any trees to be cut.

The notice was sent to the town by lawyer Serena Trifiro from the legal firm Colby Monet last Friday, May 25, Town Manager Michel Perrier told The Journal during a telephone interview about the situation on Tuesday, May 29.

It stems from a complaint made by a resident who reportedly saw work crews and heavy equipment near the entrance to the woods at Rue Laflèche, a dead-end street just off of 19th Avenue, and assumed they were going to enter the woods to begin cutting trees.

Migratory birds act

The complaint was based on the assumption that if the tree-cutting operation began, it would be in violation of the federal Birds protected under the Migratory Birds Convention Act, which forbids the destruction of natural habitat during the annual nesting season that lasts until at least mid-August within the region.

“The mise en demeure is to stop the cutting down of the trees that contain bird’s nests,” said Trifiro. “It has nothing to do with the development of the land or the Rousseau Forest. It’s strictly asking the city to respect the migratory birds act and provisions that protects birds’ nests from being destroyed or disturbed in any way.”

Town denies insinuation

It’s an insinuation the town denies. “They basically accused us of being in default of the federal migratory bird act as we apparently destroyed or disturbed the habitat of protected migratory birds and proceeded with some tree cutting,” said Perrier.

Perrier attributes the misunderstanding to someone who wrongly assumed the work crews and heavy equipment would enter the woods when they were actually continuing the infrastructure upgrade on Rue Laflèche as part of the major overhaul of 19th Avenue that began last fall.

“There was mobilization of heavy equipment but if they would have taken a closer look, they would have seen the equipment and company that was mandated by the town was actually working on the rehabilitation of 19th Avenue,” said Perrier.

Retraction demanded

“We already responded to the law firm saying we wish they would verify the facts before they accuse us of anything,” said Perrier. “We actually demand they retract themselves. We are fully respecting all of the federal regulations. There was nothing done in the forest and nothing will be done before mid-August.”

Perrier told The Journal after the May 8 council meeting that no work would go ahead in the woods until the developer complied with all the municipal requirements necessary to fulfill the preliminary infrastructure requirements before a development permit is issued.

“As for the provincial requirements, the developers already have the necessary authorization. It is the town’s mandate to make sure they respect not only the provincial and federal laws, but also our municipal regulations,” said Perrier.

He was also displeased a false accusation was made against the town. “These people are overreacting and they should look at all the facts before they throw rocks in our direction. We’re a law-abiding municipality and that won’t change. That’s the way it is,” said Perrier.

PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK

Gary Spiller (left), Denise Goudreau, Jim Harris and Shelagh McNally look for bird species in a wooded area referred to by some Pincourt residents as Rousseau Forest, on May 25.

Conservationists disappointed

The proposed development of the forested lot has become a contentious issue. Many of the 40 residents at the May 8 council meeting said they were disappointed the town was going to allow a developer to build 45 single-family homes.

Determined residents are banding together to try to preserve the land. A Facebook page titled Sauvez Rousseau Forest features an online petition that has garnered 1,384 signatures. On May 25, a group of four residents – Gary Spiller, Denise Goudreau, Jim Harris and Shelagh McNally – were documenting the various plants and wildlife in the forest.

“The forest has an ecological significance that’s worth protecting,” said Spiller, a biologist and environmentalist. “We’ve identified 15 species of birds that are here. If they wipe out the whole forest as planned, it’s about 7.5 hectares. It’ll be a major loss not only for the community but also for the wildlife.”

‘Baseless project’

David Fletcher, Vice-President and spokesperson for the Green Coalition, who toured the woods last Saturday with another group of residents, also opposes the proposed development.

“I think it’s extraordinarily stupid,” he said. “It’s an absolutely baseless project. There’s no justification for doing this given what you’re sacrificing. This is a rich place for the intellectual, psychological and social development of children. This is an important living system that contributes to our wellbeing. Everybody who has a voice should make the case to preserve these woods,” said Fletcher.

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