Nelson Golf Club chairman denies threatened heron nests on course – Nelson Star

The president of Nelson’s Granite Pointe Golf Club says there are no heron nests in the trees on club property.

“It surprises me that we are even talking about a nest, because it does not exist,” says Am Naqvi.

But a heron biologist says there are at least two nests, which the Nelson Star photographed with two herons on the golf course on May 3.

Marlene Machmer fears the sound of a large excavator working on the golf course property has already caused herons to abandon the nest once this spring. She said they are currently trying to nest again.

This could be a good thing, according to Naqvi, who accepts that there are herons present, even if there are no nests.

“The best thing to do, in my opinion, is to make a whole lot of noise,” he said. “They (herons) should say, ‘Let’s not even build a nest here, because these people are always going to bother us.'”

The nests have been the subject of much discussion between Machmer, the provincial forestry department, and the golf club since April 2021, as the club operates part of its property near the nests. The purpose of the logging is to clear the land for two new holes to replace the existing ones which will become the site of a planned residential development on the Granite Pointe land.

In British Columbia, the interior subspecies of the great blue heron is protected as a blue-listed species and considered to be of special concern due to declining populations and sensitivity to human activities.

Since 2002, Machmer has monitored all heron nests in the Columbia Basin for the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program and the Columbia Basin Trust.

She says herons don’t build a new nest every year. They have been using the same nest for decades, renovating it every year. Granite Pointe’s nests, she says, have been there for many years in two closely adjacent trees.

In late March, she saw six herons arrive at their annual nesting site in a cluster of tall white pines on land belonging to a golf course.

“I observed them from a distance with a spyglass. They would bring sticks and renovate the nest, then they would sit on it in an incubation posture. But I didn’t approach because I didn’t want to disturb them. I interpreted this as an active nesting attempt.

The nests are located high in two closely adjacent white pines on the west side of the Granite Pointe property, at the edge of the logging area. Until last year there were three nests, she says, but one of the trees in the nest collapsed as a result of logging in the fall.

Connection in 2021

Last year, Machmer, along with registered professional forester Larry Price and Department of Forestry managers, in a number of emails and meetings, attempted to persuade the golf course that it should not log in a buffer zone of 200 meters from nesting trees.

They based the argument on Section 34 of the Wildlife Act, which prohibits disturbing the nests of specific birds, including herons. The golf club logged at the base of the nesting trees, with no further comment or action from the province.

In October, a ministry biologist told Machmer in an email that the logging was not a violation of Section 34 of the Wildlife Act because it occurred on private land. If it had been on public land, the ministry said, the province might have taken action.

Section 34 of the Wildlife Act makes no distinction between public and private lands. The Nelson Star has asked the department to explain why it made the distinction in this case, and why it failed to act to stop machinery operating near nests last year and this year.

The ministry did not respond by noon on May 6.

Forester Larry Pratt and biologist Marlene Machmer at the Granite Pointe Golf Course logging and land clearing site on May 4, 2022. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

The herons return in 2022

Following his sighting of the herons preparing to nest on March 15, Machmer says a large excavator began working in the area near the nesting trees in April. Over the next few days, the herons disappeared.

On May 3, the Nelson Star photographed two herons perched near the nests but not sitting in them. Machmer thinks that could mean they hadn’t decided to stay yet.

The next day the excavator started working again and two herons were still there.

“The fact that the herons are back now was really interesting,” Machmer said on May 4, “because there was no digging activity here yesterday and they immediately showed interest in returning to the nesting sites. And I think that shows the level of loyalty they show to these sites.They have been here for many years and they want to come back because they have managed to reproduce here in the past.

Naqvi said the excavator was not working anywhere near the nest trees. Machmer says that on several occasions in April, she and Price saw the machine within 70 yards of the nests.

Machmer says that over the past month she has contacted the ministry several times, alerting them to heavy machinery operating near nesting trees.

“The level of blatant disregard (on the part of the golf course) that I have seen over the last month and a half, with the repeated use of machinery near nesting trees with the herons trying to take up residence, is just amazing,” she said. said.

A heron in a nesting tree on the property of Granite Pointe Golf Club on May 3, 2022. A heron nest is shown at the bottom of the photo.  Photo: Bill Metcalfe

A heron in a nesting tree on the property of Granite Pointe Golf Club on May 3, 2022. A heron nest is shown at the bottom of the photo. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Financial Challenges and Offer of Help

There does not appear to be any urgent need for construction work on the property in the short term.

Naqvi said the golf club would not be able to complete construction of the two holes this year due to lack of funds. He said construction costs would be around $850,000. The plan was to make half of it from the sale of the logs and finance the other half. But logging revenue was only $150,000, he said, and financing will be difficult.

Machinery currently working at the site is carrying out preliminary smoothing of the ground, he said. This work is being funded from the golf club’s operating budget and will be coming to an end soon.

A heron nest in a white pine at Granite Pointe Golf Course on October 12, 2021. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

A heron nest in a white pine at Granite Pointe Golf Course on October 12, 2021. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Price, a consulting forester and land-use planner who lives near the golf course, told the Nelson Star that in the spring of 2021 he offered the golf course free planning assistance. He had ideas on how to design the logging to protect heron habitat and at the same time advance the golf course plans.

That would have meant forgoing cutting in the immediate area of ​​nest trees, he said, and would have allowed the golf course to be an active steward of the forest and the nests.

He thought the golf club board was open to such a project, but the logging began.

“There was no will to engage,” he said.

When asked about this, Naqvi said he decided to hire professional golf course architects instead.

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Michael C. Ford