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LETTER: Exploration road work must stop while impact on endangered lichen is studied

The area of the mineral access road, as originally proposed by Eagleridge International in the registration for environmental assessment with the province in September 2013.
The area of the mineral access road, as originally proposed by Eagleridge International in the registration for environmental assessment with the province in September 2013. - Contributed

In response to the Big Triangle Pond road development and planned mineral exploration activities of Eagleridge International Limited within the central Avalon Peninsula region, we at the Newfoundland and Labrador Chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS-NL) are concerned about the lack of appropriate assessment of environmental impacts. In particular, we are troubled by the lack of due diligence exercised by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador to oblige Eagleridge International to develop a management plan that would mitigate their impacts on one of the most endangered lichens in the world, Boreal Felt Lichen (Erioderma pedicellatum). We believe that Eagleridge has underestimated the impacts of their activities on this region’s valued ecological components.

Historically, Boreal Felt Lichen was abundant in the forests of Norway, Sweden, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland.

Due to land use changes, including forestry activities and road development, and declining air quality, populations of Boreal Felt Lichen have disappeared from most of Europe and North America.

The island of Newfoundland contains the largest known populations of Boreal Felt Lichen in the world.

Today, Boreal Felt Lichen is red listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and considered “critically endangered,” one listing away from “extinct in the wild.”

As well, Boreal Felt Lichen is designated by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada and listed by the Federal Species at Risk Act as Special Concern in Newfoundland and Labrador and Endangered elsewhere in Canada.

Although Boreal Felt Lichen is not afforded additional protections under the N.L. Endangered Species Act, it is irresponsible to ignore opportunities to protect important habitat and to employ current best available practices for protection.

If conservation mishaps have taught us anything is that to conserve a species we need to protect important habitat properly. This last remaining Boreal Felt Lichen habitat on the Avalon Peninsula is critical to the global survival of the species.

The legalities of how Eagleridge International Limited, since 2014 and across two different provincial governments, was released from an Environmental Impact Statement for this project are questionable.

Most urgently, there is a need to re-examine the work outlined in the 2015 Lichen Survey Report supplied by Eagleridge in their Environment Protection Plan document. At the time, Eagleridge’s methods followed an accepted standard survey protocol.

Since then, however, new methods have been developed that increase the probability of detecting Boreal Felt Lichen.

Current research published in the peer-reviewed journal Forest Ecology and Management compared different survey methods of detecting Boreal Felt Lichen. Notably, the methods used by Eagleridge had considerably less effective detection rates compared to new methods. The 2014-2015 lichen surveys performed by Eagleridge along the 11 km proposed road located five individuals of Boreal Felt Lichen in nine days.

In comparison, using improved survey methods in 2019, researchers from Memorial University of Newfoundland located an additional three individuals of Boreal Felt Lichen along the road in only three hours.

We urge that Eagleridge extend their proven track record of meeting and exceeding environmental guidelines and standards, and responsibly re-survey the area for Boreal Felt Lichen using current best practice methods.

Given Boreal Felt Lichen is an endangered species throughout most of the world, and that insular Newfoundland contains some of last remaining populations and habitat, the utmost attention to protection is warranted, and we should employ the latest survey methods for lichen detection.

We urge the provincial government to enact precautionary measures that limit the impact of Eagleridge International Limited on Boreal Felt Lichen habitat.

More specifically, we think all road construction and mineral exploration work should halt until a comprehensive survey using new methods for the detection of Boreal Felt Lichen is completed.

Travis Heckford

CPAWS-NL Director

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LETTER: Province needs to push for review of mineral exploration access road

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