The Friends of the UNB Woodlot to Caution Municipality of the Consequences of Development of University of New Brunswick’s Forested Wetlands
Fredericton, N.B., Canada October 15, 2008 – On Wednesday, October 15th, concerned Fredericton citizens will be presenting arguments to Village of New Maryland Councilors that the University of New Brunswick’s planned development of its publicly owned forested wetlands will very likely have detrimental effects on the New Maryland water supply.
The UNB Woodlot is a 3800-acre forested wetland situated at the top of Fredericton and spans the entire length of the New Maryland Highway on both sides to the boundary of New Maryland. At four (4) times the size of Stanley Park in Vancouver, the size of the UNB Woodlot is immense; it is larger than the area of New Maryland and it is also equal to the area of the southside Fredericton and Lincoln in the valley below.
“These forested wetlands contribute to our groundwater aquifer – the water supplies for the City of Fredericton and the Village of New Maryland,” cautions Charlene Mayes, a UNB biologist and Friend of the UNB Woodlot.
“Rain captured by the forests of the UNB Woodlot feed 4 major watersheds and several smaller watercourses that flow through Fredericton and towards New Maryland, “she adds. These include Garden Creek and Baker Brook watersheds on the New Maryland side of the UNB Woodlot, and Corbett Brook and Phyllis Creek watersheds on the Fredericton side of the UNB Woodlot. Only when you look at the sheer magnitude of these watersheds on a map do you get a real sense of their importance to our aquifers.
Mayes and Friends of the UNB Woodlot spokesperson, Mark D’Arcy, will explain at the October 15th meeting how UNB’s forested wetlands are critical to both water capture and in preventing excess rain from overwhelming watercourses.
“The UNB Woodlot is our insurance policy. Without forested wetlands working as natural sponges, rainwater capture and run-off control will be seriously compromised,” Mark D’Arcy. “We will be presenting arguments that as development of the UNB Woodlot destroys the soil and the natural drainage, the taxpayers of Fredericton and New Maryland will be saddled with flooding costs and water shortages from wells.”
An acre of forested wetland will hold a million to a million-and-a-half gallons of rainwater. There are approximately 1900 acres of UNB’s woodlot slated for development over the coming years. Unfortunately early development has already compromised some of these wetlands. As well, lands set aside by UNB for conservation are comprised exclusively of wetlands and streams with thin buffer zones, causing upland areas to be isolated from their adjacent riparian and wetland areas, which leads to no meaningful conservation of wildlife, wetlands, or forest ecosystems. This current development strategy by UNB must be re-assessed.
“It seems to me that, despite what experts in its own faculties are saying, UNB administrators would rather ignore the fact that if you clearcut swaths of a forested wetland, you’re going to have some problems,” says D’Arcy.
Friends of the UNB Woodlot raised their concerns recently with the Department of Environment which contends its hands are tied. Environment officials confirmed that the huge watershed of the UNB Woodlot is not protected under either their Wellfield Protection Program or their Watershed Protection Program. As a result of what the group calls weak provincial environmental legislation, UNB can avoid triggering a comprehensive environmental assessment of the land by not registering its entire land management plan with the Department – even though the Department of Environment has requested this several times.
“By persisting in the tactic of submitting development plans in a piecemeal fashion, UNB has successfully evaded a process which no doubt would reveal what every biologist knows – that the wetlands are part of a complex and interconnected ecosystem, critical to our water supply and, for all our sakes, must not be developed in this patchwork fashion,” says Mayes.
“The public does not want our government departments to hide behind a smokescreen. “ says D’Arcy. “Taxpayers just want to know why their watersheds do not fall inside the boundaries of the Wellfield Protection Area for Fredericton, or the Wellfield Protection Area for New Maryland, and why they are not designated a Watershed Protection Area that currently protects 30 watersheds in 21 municipal water supplies in this province.”
Urban forested wetlands are well worth preserving. Our governments have an obligation not to pay for inferior solutions when nature provides a priceless solution for free. Drainage planning, watershed-based source protection planning, and comprehensive land use planning will protect our drinking water and homes for future generations.
The Friends of the UNB woodlot has also offered to present their case to Fredericton’s City Council.
“Since the Department of Environment can or will do nothing about this debacle, it’s up to the municipalities and the general public to put pressure on UNB to submit the land to comprehensive environmental assessment,” says D’Arcy. “If this is not addressed in the short-term, we’ll all pay the price in the long-term.”
The Walkerton Inquiry recommended on page 94, “Drinking water sources should be protected by developing watershed-based source protection plans.” Part Two Report of the Walkerton Inquiry: A Strategy for Safe Drinking Water. May 23, 2002. Chapter 4: The Protection of Drinking Water Sources. – https://ospace.scholarsportal.info/handle/1873/7856
The Ducks Unlimited Canada “Beyond the Pipe” Report recommended on page 42, “stringent wetland protection strategies in areas where wetlands are closely linked to drinking water sources”. Beyond The Pipe. The Importance of Wetlands & Upland Conservation Practices in Watershed Management: Functions & Values for Water Quality & Quantity.” Institute for Wetland and Waterfowl Research, Ducks Unlimited Canada and Department of Economics, University of Toronto. March 2001. – http://www.ducks.ca/aboutduc/news/archives/2001/010402.html
For more information, contact:
Mark D’Arcy, The Friends of the UNB Woodlot
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