Province asked to rule on sharp-tailed snakes 

Village investigating own responsibility under Species At Risk Act

click to enlarge FILE PHOTO - Reptile ruling The Village of Pemberton is seeking the province's opinion on the ongoing issue of sharp-tailed snakes found on land slated for future development.
  • File photo
  • Reptile ruling The Village of Pemberton is seeking the province's opinion on the ongoing issue of sharp-tailed snakes found on land slated for future development.

The provincial government is expected to weigh in on the ongoing issue of an endangered snake reportedly living in the Village of Pemberton's Hillside Special Planning Area.

Currently, the Sunstone Ridge lands are the only part of the planning area where development plans are moving forward. However, the Stewardship Pemberton Society has disputed the findings of a third-party environmental assessment for the property after finding multiple den sites and specimens of the federally red-listed sharp-tailed snake during recent inventory efforts. The assessment completed by Dayesi Services Ltd. essentially states that there are no sharp-tailed snakes or habitat on the Sunstone land.

Manager of development services Caroline Lamont informed Pemberton council during a Tuesday, Nov. 5 Committee of the Whole session that the assessment has been forwarded to the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource operations to determine if any flaws exist in the information contained in the report.

One development permit condition on the Sunstone lands states that the developer must work with the village and Stewardship Pemberton on a plan to mitigate impacts on the snake species. However, it appears that the conservation group and the developer have yet to get on the same page.

Last month, Veronica Woodruff of Stewardship Pemberton told council that her organization had offered its services free of charge to the Sunstone Group to help come up with mitigation strategies, but had not received a response.

Meanwhile, a letter written by Nyal Wilcox, vice-president of Sunstone Group principal Janspec Holdings Ltd., dated Nov. 4 and circulated to council on Tuesday stated that Woodruff had not responded to Sunstone's request for a proposal detailing how Stewardship Pemberton would help out.

The impasse was further illustrated during one heated exchange during Tuesday's meeting. Mayor Jordan Sturdy threatened to remove Sunstone and Stewardship Pemberton representatives from the room after individuals from both groups spoke out of turn at the same time.

The village is also trying to determine its responsibilities to ensure it meets the requirements of the federal Species At Risk Act. The purpose of the law is to encourage a shared approach towards protection of vulnerable species, according to Lamont's report to council. Under that legislation, a "safety net order" for protection can be issued from Ottawa on "private lands if provincial legislation or other measures are not already in place to protect (a) species, and if cooperative stewardship measures fail."

Wilcox's letter also included a legal opinion, which concluded that no federal or provincial legislation provides for intervention on private land in the case of the snake. Lamont said the opinion has yet to be reviewed by the village's legal team.

Wilcox added in his letter that contacting legal counsel "should also demonstrate that we take this matter seriously and are trying to educate ourselves as to our responsibilities as a developer."

budget feedback session planned

Council had its first look at the preliminary 2014 budget during Tuesday's meeting, and the public will be invited to do the same next week.

A community consultation on next year's financial plan has been scheduled for Nov. 13 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Pemberton Community Centre.



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