Environmentalists slam McIntyre Creek study

The fight over development in the McIntyre Creek area is heating up. A wildlife assessment of the McIntyre Creek has found building housing or roads in the area “will not negatively impact wildlife, provided mitigation measures are taken.”

UPDATED VERSION

The fight over development of McIntyre Creek is heating up.

A wildlife assessment of the area has found building housing or roads “will not negatively impact wildlife, provided mitigation measures are taken.”

But the wildlife assessment is coming under fire from environmental groups, which accuse the city of designing the study to get the results they wanted.

“If you ask leading questions when you develop the parameters of the survey, you’re going to get the answers that the planners want,” said Karen Baltgailis, president of the Yukon Conservation Society. “We’ve been concerned all along that our presence on the working group would be used by the city as an example of how they’ve done proper consultation,” said Baltgailis, who also works as secretary for the Friends of McIntyre Creek.

But that’s an unfair characterization, said Mike Gau, the city’s manager of planning and development services.

Though the city set the parameters of the study, it certainly didn’t ask any leading questions, he said.

“We asked them to identify and describe the wildlife in the area,” said Gau. “That’s wide open.”

Both the conservation society and Friends of McIntyre Creek were part of the Porter Creek D Working Group, which consulted with city planners about future development in the area.

Both resigned from the group this week.

“We’ve been concerned all along that our presence on the working group would be used by the city as an example of how they’ve done proper consultation,” said Baltgailis. “Our feeling is that if the city doesn’t listen to the input that we provide then that’s really not proper consultation, and we don’t want to be used to add creditability to city plans to develop McIntyre Creek.”

They are miffed the city issued a news release about the report before the working group had a chance to review it.

But that was always the plan, said Gau.

“We told them that we had to present to city council first before we gave them a report,” he said. “Our presentation to council is done in an open public meeting and a member of the media was at that meeting writing a story on it, so there was no reason to withhold our press release.”

The study, commissioned by the city, and conducted by Environmental Dynamics Inc., stated the area is not a suitable wildlife corridor for larger animals, like bears and moose. However, for smaller animals, the lands bordering the creek do act as a corridor.

It recommends a 250-metre buffer be established around the creek so smaller animals can still get through.

But the parameters of the study were far too narrow, said Baltgailis.

“To be credible, the study should have included all four seasons and a broader cross-section of animal,” she said.

“There are at least 75 species of wildlife that use this area, including three birds that are in trouble,” said Baltgailis, “But the study didn’t even look at birds.”

That’s true, said Gau. However the reason birds weren’t included in the study was it was taken as a given the area was a habitat for many species.

The buffer on either side of the river is meant to protect the most productive bird habitat, he said.

Though both the Yukon Conservation Society and Friends of McIntyre Creek have pulled out of the working group, they do plan to send observers to the meeting on Thursday where the report will be presented.

Later in the evening representatives from EDI will be presenting the results of their study to the public.

There will also be poster boards set up representing all of the different aspects of any potential development, from recreation, to environmental considerations.

It’s all taking place at the High Country Inn from 5 to 9 p.m.

“We’re asking the public to come out and read the boards and see if we’ve missed anything,” said Gau. “And if we have please let us know,”

The city is also accepting submissions from the public for the next three weeks.

All of this will be compiled into a report that will be presented to council in December.

It’ll then be up to them to decide the future of McIntyre Creek.

Contact Josh Kerr at

joshk@yukon-news.com

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