Ottawa Wildlife Construction Protocol

From Amy MacPherson, 12 Jan 2015:

Hello everyone,

Attached is the DRAFT Protocol for Wildlife Protection During Construction for your review and comment before February 8, 2015.

The draft protocol addresses sensitive timing windows for clearing, pre-stressing, site clearing, construction site management, wildlife encounters, and wildlife-proofing.  It also provides guidance to developers on how they can help reduce post-construction conflicts between residents and wildlife, using wildlife-proofing measures and owner awareness packages.

The draft is based on staff’s review of the comments we received from key stakeholders over the summer>.  A summary of what we heard is available on the City’s web site. The draft Protocol will be posted for public review later this week.

Please send your comments to me no later than February 8, 2015.  If you would like to discuss the draft protocol with me, please phone or e-mail me to arrange a mutually suitable time.

Regards,

Amy

Amy MacPherson

Natural Systems Planner

Policy Development & Urban Design

Urbaniste, Systèmes naturels

La politique de développement et de design urbain

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Comments on first draft of the Protocol

The deadline for comments was pushed back to March 6, 2015.

On February 16, the Greenspace Alliance sent in the following comment:

Hello Amy,

Congratulations to staff for expressing common sense rules which construction personnel should abide by in the interest of protecting wildlife for which the construction site was habitat.  We wholeheartedly agree with its Conclusion on page 13 that “By following this protocol, developers should be able to reduce construction-related impacts on Ottawa’s wildlife, and help the future occupants of their buildings to avoid problems with wildlife in the longer term.

We do note that, if endangered species are not present, respecting the rules is only required “where possible.”  As in so many other instances, interpretation of the rules during the review process and enforcement of the rules afterwards are key. The appropriate allocation of City resources needs to accompany the approval of this Protocol, including training of planning staff.  Staff has to have the capacity to ground-truth a proponent’s existing conditions report and in doing so should invoke the assistance of local residents who often have an intimate knowledge of the area involved.  Proponents should be encouraged to do likewise.

Also accompanying approval of this Protocol should be an information campaign aimed at the general public so people know what to do if they observe something amiss.

We especially commend the “nudge” to the construction industry to better wildlife-proof buildings (para. 2.7) and to prepare an Owner Awareness Package (para. 2.8).

Additional comments:

On the process:

+ We trust that the consultation process on this Protocol will proceed and be reported on in a transparent manner.  Weighing of considerations by stakeholders who do not express their comments on the record is not consistent with the City’s policies as we understand them and are in any case not consistent with principles of a democratic society.

+ We understand that this Protocol is destined for Planning Committee and we agree with that, given that the key strength of this Protocol is that it will become part of the development review process.  We understand it may also be sent to Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee.  While of course some construction takes place in rural areas, the large majority of situations where this Protocol would come into play is typically within the urban boundary.   Still, that may be enough ground to send it to ARAC for consideration.  Above all, however, this Protocol is a wildlife protection issue and should also be considered by Environment Committee.

On the substance:

+ The Protocol should also apply to City projects.

+ The “sensitive timing windows” are provided for guidance only (p5-middle) and Table 1 does identify the general breeding and hibernation periods.  We suggest that, in addition, the protocol explicitly state that animals cannot be disturbed when in hibernation or accompanied by young.  Given the drawn-out schedule of a typical development process it should be quite feasible for developers to select the appropriate window (late summer to early fall) to clear a site of wildlife.

+ On p9-middle, it may be wise to specify what the “applicable laws” are that govern relocation of wildlife.

+ In the spirit of section 3(5) of the Planning Act (*), it would seem possible to have the Protocol apply to projects that have already been draft-approved, since final approval has yet to be given.  If the PPS can be applied retroactively, so should City policies.

+ Reading para. 2.8 it is not clear why, earlier in para. 2.1, it is stated that the Draft Owner Awareness Package is part of the Wildlife Mitigation Plan “where required.” It appears to be always required, regardless of who will occupy the building.

+ While we agree with the scope of the application of the protocol as stated in para. 1.1, we suggest that, in para. 2.4 (p9), the scope may be stated too loosely where it says that “Any occupied (or potentially occupied) trees/features should be flagged…”  Clarification of “potentially occupied” would resolve the ambiguity.

Regards,

Erwin Dreessen,

for the Greenspace Alliance of Canada’s Capital

(*) Section 3… (5) A decision of the council of a municipality, a local board, a planning board, a minister of the Crown and a ministry, board, commission or agency of the government, including the Municipal Board, in respect of the exercise of any authority that affects a planning matter,

(a) shall be consistent with the policy statements issued under subsection (1) that are in effect on the date of the decision; and

(b) shall conform with the provincial plans that are in effect on that date, or shall not conflict with them, as the case may be. 2006, c. 23, s. 5.

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Wildlife Protocol: Comments by the O-C Wildlife Centre a.o.

The Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre sent in several comments:

January 22                   March 5

Lorne Peterson sent in a letter, February 4.

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Wildlife Protocol: Final Draft

June 5, 2015 – Amy MacPherson writes: “Here is the revised draft protocol [1.3 MB] for your review.  A summary of the changes that have been made, based on feedback received from stakeholders and the public, is provided below.  If you have any further comments, please provide them to me no later than Friday June 19.  I will be preparing the final draft and staff report to Committees and Council shortly thereafter, for their consideration this fall.

Her summary of changes from the original draft:

  1. The document has been re-framed as a compilation of best practices, for reference by City staff, consultants and applicants during the preparation of Environmental Impact Statements or Tree Conservation Reports.  A new Preamble has been added to outline how the protocol should be used.
  2. No new requirements or standard conditions of approval are proposed.  References to such requirements (i.e., Wildlife Mitigation Plans, Construction Site Management Plans) have been removed, along with the proposed Wildlife Mitigation Plan template in Appendix 1.
  3. A new Section 1.3 has been added to identify sources of wildlife expertise.
  4. Section 2.1 has been substantially revised.  It now addresses cases where project-specific wildlife protocols may be recommended.
  5. Section 2.2 and Table 1 have been revised to clarify how sensitive timing windows should be considered in project  planning, and to respond to specific comments made.
  6. Section 2.3 now includes guidance on determining how much pre-stressing may be needed (formerly found in the Wildlife Mitigation Plan template).
  7. Sections 2.4 and 2.5 have been edited for clarity.
  8. Section 2.6 has been revised to respond to specific comments.  A new paragraph has been added to provide guidance on encounters with young mammals and birds.
  9. Section 2.7 includes a new paragraph on reducing risks to birds through building design.
  10. Several new resources have been added to Section 4.
  11. Minor edits have been made to the example reference handout, now in   Appendix 1.

In a meeting with the Greenspace Alliance, Amy also indicated that she is completing work on a large document (70pp+) that will show all comments and staff’s responses.  No promise that we’ll get our hands on that more than the week before this will go on the agendas of ARAC and Planning Committee in the Fall.

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Wildlife Protocol: Comments on final draft

The Greenspace Alliance sent in the following comment on the revised draft Protocol for Wildlife Protection during Construction:

Hello Amy,

The Greenspace Alliance is quite concerned that this document has been watered down to a best-practices guideline in which the word “requirement” is banned.  We look forward to seeing what cogent arguments have been brought forward to justify such weakening.  We see none.  The advice contained in this document continues to be based on common sense, showing respect for living things as much as the City’s Tree Conservation Report Guidelines impose respect for trees.

We now have an inversion of word use: The Tree Conservation Report Guidelines, like the Environmental Impact Statement Guideline, contain requirements:

EIS Guideline, 2nd edition, 2012 (underlining added)

This guide outlines the process and content required for the completion of an EIS under Section 4.7.8 of the Official Plan. The aims are to provide a consistent approach to assessing impacts, to increase efficiency in report preparation and review, and to improve communication between the agencies and individuals involved.

Tree Conservation Report Guidelines (2009) (underlining added)

·         The Tree Conservation Report is required for all Plans of Subdivision, Site Plan Control Applications, Common Elements Condominium Applications, and Vacant Land Condominium Applications where there is a tree of 10 centimetres in diameter or greater on the site.

·         A Tree Conservation Report is also required for the removal of trees over 10 cm in diameter on properties over 1 ha in the urban area of Ottawa when there is no development application associated with the proposed removal.

but this Protocol for Wildlife Protection during Construction has none — it is just a guide. The relevant Merriam-Webster definition of protocol is (underlining added):

a system of rules that explain the correct conduct and procedures to be followed in formal situations

We suggest that this document also be called a Guideline. At the next review of the Official Plan, it too, like the EIS and TCR Guidelines, could be anchored into the OP.

(The previous Protocol, issued by the Regional municipality, did not quite deserved the name either, being vague and quite brief.  It seems the recommendation in the Wildlife Strategy and this document simply inherited the term.)

Nothing in law prohibits the City of Ottawa from going beyond the strict legal requirements that related to protection of species at risk. The widely professed policy, to commit to wildlife-friendly planning, implies as much.  All wildlife is precious.  Ottawa’s high ranking as a “green” city (which may be due more to its endowment and the National Capital Commission than to the City’s success in protecting our natural heritage) challenges Council to rise to the opportunity to adopt a progressive wildlife-friendly policy. We understand there are lessons to be learned from Oakville, London and other cities.

If the word “requirement” (for the proponent) is banned, then the burden of implementation falls on development review staff to use the guidelines spelled out in this document to specify requirements in the context of an EIS and/or TCR, adapting recommendations or conditions to the situation at hand.

We would begin to believe that adoption of this document is more than empty rhetoric if it is accompanied by a commitment to a) train development review staff on these recommended “protocols” and b) provide the necessary resources to work with proponents and other planning staff to ensure that these common-sense actions take place.

This might therefore be a good time to recognize that the City is in need of a Wildlife Biologist as recommended in the April 2013 Wildlife Strategy.

Recall that, in support of its recommendations on a construction protocol, the Wildlife Strategy stated (p19 – underlining added):

It has been suggested that the City should develop a … guideline and condition of approval to protect mammals during the hibernation and birthing seasons, when their mobility becomes severely restricted. This suggestion should be considered during the development of the proposed guideline for urban wildlife.

As for the new paragraphs added to the text (section 1.3 on Expertise, in section 2.3 on timing and frequency of pre-stressing activities, in section 2.6 on young birds and mammals, and in section 2.7 on buildings and birds), they all make this a better document. So does adding the words “and planning ahead for wildlife protection” in the conclusion. The additional resource references are also welcome.

Despite the disappointment expressed, we look forward to the report’s acceptance by the Standing Committees and Council.

Regards,

Erwin Dreessen

Co-chair,

Greenspace Alliance of Canada’s Capital

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Wildlife Protocol: Other comments on the revised draft

Here are the comments by the Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre on the revised draft Protocol.

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Wildlife Protocol up for approval

Planning Committee on September 22 will have on its agenda approval of final draft Protocol. 

The final version of the Protocol is here (924 KB).

The Greenspace Alliance sent in the following comment today:

To : Members of Planning Committee, and Melody Duffenais, Committee Coordinator

Cc: the other Members of Council, and Dawn Whelan, Council Coordinator

Re: Planning Committee, Item 5, Agenda 14, 22 September 2015 – PROTOCOL FOR WILDLIFE PROTECTION DURING CONSTRUCTION – UPDATED

Dear Councillors,

We decline to appear before you in person as a form of protest against the absolutely unacceptable way in which public input is reflected in the report before you. It displays the height of opaqueness and does not in any way contribute to civic discussion of this important topic.

What did the GOHBA have to say?  Who are the “Representatives from the construction and environmental consulting industries”?  What did the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry have to say?

We will simply restate what we said in our comment on the revised draft:

– As the staff report acknowledges, this is no longer a Protocol.  It is a Guideline, like the EIS and Tree Conservation Report Guidelines.  To add to the confusion, the latter contain “requirements” — a word that has been banned from this so-called “Protocol.”

– ” We would begin to believe that adoption of this document is more than empty rhetoric if it is accompanied by a commitment to a) train development review staff on these recommended “protocols” and b) provide the necessary resources to work with proponents and other planning staff to ensure that these common-sense actions take place.  This might therefore be a good time to recognize that the City is in need of a Wildlife Biologist as recommended in the April 2013 Wildlife Strategy.”

We look forward to seeing a Budget 2016 allocation for such a position, if not earlier.

Regards,

Erwin Dreessen

Co-chair,

Greenspace Alliance of Canada’s Capital

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Wildlife protocol: What happened on Sep 22 & Oct 1

Here is Dona Dubreuil’s report on how the item fared at Planning Committee on September 22, 2015:

I’m attaching the comments I made on the WCP at Planning Committee on Tuesday, September 22nd.   The two aspects it focuses on are i) the lack of an implementation plan and the need for a Wildlife Resources Officer (or similar position) to ensure that the ‘best practices’ are actually put in place and adhered to ii) the lack of a fair and transparent process.  Pretty similar to the comments that GA sent.

Councillors Leiper and Brockington directed questions to me with regards to implementation and both drilled staff on this aspect after my presentation.  Tim Tierney asked more general questions of me, conveying that wildlife issues were a concern in his Ward but wondered whether the Construction Protocol would help with the concerns in an established neighbourhood.  Shad Qadri also expressed a general interest in the Protocol, making reference to the Site Alteration By-law which he conveyed is coming to committee soon.

There was a lot of discussion about the Wildlife Resources Officer position, with several councillors asking that the terms of reference for the position be provided them.  Staff insisted that the Wildlife Resources Officer (one of the recommendations in the Wildlife Strategy approved in 2013) was never intended to help with the WCP but rather it was proposed as an operations position to deal with various wildlife concerns, large mammal response, coyote issues, etc. This might be true but I can’t understand why, when there is a need for wildlife expertise, it can’t be extended over a number of silos at the city.   Jan Harder indicated that the Wildlife Resources Officer position was defeated in 2013. Although she was corrected in that it was deferred to the current term of Council, she kept on repeating it was defeated.

Marianne Wilkinson is not on Planning Committee but came to the meeting. She was the most vocal person on the need for the Construction Protocol, asking some very hard nosed questions of staff about implementation and enforcement.

There was no uptake on the concerns either GA or the Centre expressed about the lack of a real report on the public consultation results.  The only person who got close was Qadri who asked staff whether I, as a stakeholder, had had a chance to see the revised report.   It skirted the real issue, of course, of there not being a public record of any responses, for or against, in the report before Planning Committee.

Emma Jackson’s September 23 report in the Metroland weeklies is here. It includes comments by John Smit denying that the “protocol” was ever meant to be more than a guideline and conceding that enforcement could be a problem even if it is part of the conditions of approval.

The same staff report also went to Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee on October 1.  Here is Donna’s submission to these Councillors wherein she challenges the Greater Ottawa Home Builders Association to be first, not last in line to adopt best practices.  She cites Edmonton as an example.  The item was approved without discussion.

Next step: Council on October 14.

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Wildlife Protocol: Blog post

Donna Dubreuil wrote an October 6 blog post on StittsvilleCentral.ca: “Watered-down Protocol lacks teeth.”

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Wildlife Protocol now online

The City today announced that the so-called Protocol for Wildlife Protection during Construction is now available on its web site:

In English: http://documents.ottawa.ca/sites/documents.ottawa.ca/files/documents/construction_en.pdf

In French: http://documents.ottawa.ca/sites/documents.ottawa.ca/files/documents/construction_fr.pdf

21 October 2015