Great blue herons get a break in B.C. city as council asks developer to plan for their protection

Bird-lovers in Vernon, B.C., gained a victory this week when city council ordered a company planning to build apartments near a decades-old heron rookery to ensure the birds will not be disturbed.

More than 100 residents attended a three-hour public meeting in the north Okanagan city before council made the unanimous vote Monday evening.

It requires Scotland Constructors — the owner of the 3,800-square-metre parcel of land located at 5000 20th Street — to hire a qualified environmental professional who can provide a protection and mitigation plan for the great blue herons that nest and raise their chicks on trees adjacent to the property.

The company must submit the environmental report before receiving the development permit to transform the farmland into a low-rise apartment complex.

This is good news for Jane Weixl, a member of the Vernon Heronry Protection Society, who has been advocating for protection on the heronry.


 “I was thrilled to hear [the] council say that they voted unanimously to support the herons,” she said.

More than 100 majestic birds have been nesting in the cottonwood trees for more than three decades on the land now owned by Rita Bos. He signed an agreement with the North Okanagan Regional District not to cut the trees down.

The City of Vernon held a public hearing Monday on rezoning a property next to the heronry before council passed a resolution calling for a plan to protect the birds. (City of Vernon)

“Every time I see them fly over the lake or over my house when I am at the beach, I just stop dead and go ‘Wow,’ ” Weixl said.

Weixl said the North Okanagan Naturalists’ Club has planted a new stand of cottonwood trees in the Swan Lake Nature Reserve — five kilometres north of the rezoned property — for the herons, but the trees are not yet big enough to host all the birds and their nests.

The great blue heron is a species of special concern in Canada.

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