On Tuesday April 27, I read a petition in the Legislature which calls on the provincial government to deny a request to put a gravel pit on land which is ecologically sensitive, has endangered and threatened wildlife species, significant archeological findings and is on an important wildlife corridor. The petition is below.
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Mr. Deputy Speaker, I wish to present the following petition to the Legislative Assembly.
The background to this petitions is as follows:
A conditional-use application has been filed in relation to a proposed gravel pit, or aggregate quarry, located at SW 11-12-21 west of the primary meridian in Riverdale municipality. Many local residents have concerns about the proposed gravel pit, which are not being addressed.
The site has an extensive forest of oak, ash, poplar, saskatoon, chokecherry, pin cherry and two kinds of hazelnut trees. It also has a considerable grassland area with significant unplowed areas of extensive native prairie grasses and flowers, including numerous prairie crocuses, Manitoba's provincial flower.
The site is in the centre of an ecologically sensitive area of approximately 1,500 acres, which is an important habitat for wildlife and may be a significant elk-calving area. Other species include, but are not limited to, white-tailed deer, black bears and many migrating and breeding birds in summer and varied winter-resident species, including bald eagles.
The area also has species listed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada as endangered, red-headed woodpeckers; threatened, loggerhead shrikes and bobolinks; or species of concern, short-haired owls and Baird sparrows.
Local landowners rent the Crown land within this area and have been stewards of the Crown land and their adjacent privately held lands for many years. The forested land has been used for decades by local hunters.
The site is located within an important wildlife corridor, extending from Riding Mountain National Park along the Little Saskatchewan River to the Assiniboine River in the south. Such corridors are absolutely critical to preserving animal species in their natural habitat.
The site has been identified by Manitoba Sport, Culture and Heritage under section 12(2) of The Heritage Resources Act as having potential for both known archaeological sites and human burials, as well as unknown heritage resource sites.
The proposed pit is located on the edge of a large glacial meltwater channel. Numerous archaeological sites exist in the immediate area, including pre-contact Indigenous settlements with intact teepee rings and other stone features, as well as historical cart trails and human burials.
The drainage from the site is initially west-north-west, and then southwest into a series of springs, small ponds or lakes, in a coulee leading down to the Little Saskatchewan River. This is a pristine waterway and offers habitat to a variety of native plant, bird, animal and invertebrate species.
A quarry would gather water and interrupt this critical water flow with serious implications for the habitat on the 1,000 or more acres downstream, an area that includes grazing land for two cattle herds.
There are existing wells downstream from the quarry location. Quarries often disrupt the existing movement of surface water and ground water, as they interrupt natural water recharge and can lead to reduced quantity and quality of drinking water for residents and wildlife near or downstream from a quarry site.
Many other quarries exist in the southwest Manitoba region, including four existing gravel pits within a few kilometres. These have extensive reserves, reducing and making unnecessary any need for gravel from the proposed aggregate quarry at SW 11-12-21 west of the primary meridian.
The value of property decreases significantly within the immediate vicinity of a quarry. The effects are also felt several miles away. Home values within a quarter mile of the proposed site are expected to drop by approximately 30 per cent.
The community is concerned about an expected rise in silicosis, an interstitial lung disease caused by breathing in tiny bits of silica, a common mineral found in many types of rock and soil. Over time, exposure to silica particles causes permanent lung scarring called pulmonary fibrosis.
We petition the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba as follows:
To urge the provincial government to deny the conditional use application for mining on SW 11‑12‑21 west of the primary meridian because of the adverse impact it will have on important ecological and archaeological treasures in this area, and because there are alternative sites for obtaining the gravel and/or rock needed from this site.
To urge the provincial government to protect the habitat on all quarters of 11‑12‑21 west of the primary meridian and to undertake to develop a shared stewardship approach which preserves traditional uses for the Crown and private lands in this ecologically sensitive area.
Signed by Shelley Foster, Gary Pomeroy and Jana [phonetic] Hubbard and many, many others.