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Council swoops in to ensure future habitat for bank swallows in Byron Gravel Pit

(Source: MikeLane45/iStock/Getty Images Plus) (Source: MikeLane45/iStock/Getty Images Plus)
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A colony of about 2,000 bank swallows will not be evicted from the Byron Gravel Pit when the property is redeveloped.

On Tuesday, council unanimously (14-0, McAlister absent) supported an amendment by Coun. Skylar Franke to ensure the rare migratory birds will always have habitat on the property.

“Making sure that somewhere at this location there is habitat for the bank swallows,” Franke urged colleagues as she introduced her amendment.

Specifically, it directs city staff to, “Ensure that future background studies supporting the development of a Park Master Plan for the Byron Gravel Pit investigate the creation and inclusion of artificial habitat or an alternative location for the Bank Swallow, if such needs are required due to planned relocation of the habitat.”

The direction was added to council’s approval of the Byron Gravel Pit Secondary Plan, which lays the groundwork for redeveloping the property into high-rise residential near its perimeter and a natural public greenspace at its centre.

Bank Swallows migrate north each summer to raise their young inside burrows they dig into sandy cliff faces.

The beneficial birds are ravenous eaters of insects and large colonies have become tourist attractions for bird watchers.

However, the Canadian population has fallen by 98 per cent over the past 40 years.

Remediation of the Byron Gravel Pit to permit future residential and recreational uses might require backfilling along the steep cliffs where bank swallows raise their young inside burrows each summer.

Concern was raised about conflicting provincial regulations regarding the remediation of gravel pits (Aggregate Resources Act) and regulations protecting the bank swallow habitat (Endangered Species Act).

Franke’s amendment urged, “That the bank swallow habitat is not lost or forgotten in the quagmire of competing provincial legislation”

She emphasized that ensuring habitat for bank swallows in the Park Master Plan will not slow the approval process for the residential portions of the site.

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