David Fletcher of the Green Coalition led about 30 participants on a nature walk through a small, threatened wooded area at the corner of Anselme Lavigne and Richmond Streets in Pierrefonds on May 16. Within minutes of starting his tour, Fletcher pointed out rare black maples (Acer nigrum). “There are hardly any black maples in Quebec, but five-acre woodland is full of them. In the Quebec Biodiversity Atlas, black maple is the number one species designated for protection.”
Black maples are common in other parts of the continent, but in Quebec can be found basically only on Montreal and Laval (Jesus) Islands and nearby. Even here they are quite rare. Fletcher pointed out other endangered species from the Quebec Biodiversity Atlas, including white trillium, bellwort, wild ginger, and bloodroot. He said that wild leeks grew there, too. “But Pierrefonds-Roxboro borough council allowed a special-care home project to clear-cut part of the woodland in April–and this despite 2010 being the International Year of Biodiversity. The borough council wants to develop the whole woodland and refuses to recognize that there are any species worth saving here; I don’t think there is anything worth saving on Pierrefonds borough council!”
(Mayor Monique Worth has made the “nothing worth saving [in Anselme Lavigne Woods] quote to CBC radio on April 27 and has since repeated it to the West End Times.)
Fletcher stopped near the end of his walk to point out two mature maple trees growing side by side, but with very different bark. “The one on the right with rough bark is a sugar maple,” he explained. “The smoother-barked tree is a black maple. How clear does this need to be?”
Fletcher, a retired high school teacher, recounts leading class biology trips to this woodland over past decades, giving his students valuable hands-on learning experience. Over that time, he also watched the woodland behind Pierrefonds Polytechnic shrink drastically in size. Now a steam shovel prominently stands beside newly-poured foundation walls of the special-care home in the last 5-acre remnant of the woodland. Last Sunday, a former student whom Fletcher had not seen for 30 years joined him on the walk.
Fletcher refutes conventional wisdom that it makes economic sense to build more houses on the last remaining wild lands around Montreal, claiming that if left as green space, these areas add value to adjacent housing. He also points out that Montreal Island has a great abundance of “brown lands” or former industrial sites that are relatively easy to decontaminate and build on. “They shouldn’t be building here,” asserts Fletcher.
There are also significant health benefits from saving green spaces according to Montreal physician, Stephen Vida who emailed us. “Recent studies from Holland, England, Japan and other countries have found better health measures, including better self-reported health, fewer mental and physical symptoms, fewer documented health problems, less obesity, and even decreased mortality among urban populations who live near green spaces than among those who do not. This seems especially true among socio-economically and educationally disadvantaged populations. Researchers in England have even suggested that urban green space may help decrease some of the health inequalities that are associated with socioeconomic factors. These and other studies bring forward important health reasons why green space should be a major priority in any city’s urban plan.”
Pierrefonds-Roxboro councillor Bert Ward previously told The Gazette that “there were more thick bushes than trees” on the area that was clear-cut last month although that remark seems to have no bearing on species protection. Ward also said that some measures were taken to preserve trees on the property, but there was no mention of protecting rare understory plants.
More information on this issue can be found at The Pierrefonds-Roxboro Proprietors & Residents Association blog: http://aprpr.org/?cat=54