City of Ottawa Kills Butternut Trees

South March Highlands

Butternut Secret

On March 28, 2010 a team of concerned citizens walked the land that is to be destroyed by the Terry Fox Road Extension. 

This team included long-time residents of the area, Kathleen Riddell, Judy Makin, Paul Renaud, as well as two-well known and highly-respected local biologists, Martha Webber and David Seburn, and an environmental photographer, Scott Newman.

 The team of Land Walkers were astonished by the discovery that, despite an attempt to mark and preserve endangered trees, the City of Ottawa has cut down two endangered Butternut Trees using an undisclosed permit obtained from the Ministry of Natural Resources to cut down canker-affected trees prior to giving them a chance to reproduce.

 This act is further evidence that the City’s hurry to fast-track Terry Fox Road expansion through this ecologically sensitive area is just plain wrong. 

The City has not performed a high-quality, comprehensive environmental assessment of the area despite warnings from Canada’s leading environmentalists that the failure to do so may lead to the eradication of the local population of Blanding’s Turtle.

 The Team also discovered a 200-year old maple tree that is in the centerline of the future roadway.  The City currently has no intention to protect it even though this tree predates the Confederation and likely even the City itself.  

Are there so many 200-year old maples in Ottawa that the City can afford to cut one down because it is in the way of  a poorly planned road?

Prior Studies

 The prior environmental assessments (EA) done in 2000 and 2007 prior to City amalgamation were poorly executed. 

The study done in 2000 failed to note the presence of endangered species at all, while the study done in 2007 notes that 3 endangered species are present but then ignores them for the balance of the assessment. 

Neither EA faithfully applies the prioritized assessment criteria that was developed during public workshops with the residents of the area (residents wanted environmental concerns to be given highest priority). 

Neither EA performed any impact assessment on the ecology of this Provincially Significant area – let alone on endangered species.

Meanwhile, protection of endangered species, such as the Butternut Tree and the Blanding’s Turtle exists at both the Federal and Provincial level.

Paragraph 32(1) Canada Species at Risk Act:  

No person shall kill, harm, harass, capture or take an individual of a wildlife species that is listed as an extirpated species, an endangered species or a threatened species.

 Paragraph 9(1)(a) Ontario Endangered Species Act:

No person shall, (a) kill, harm, harass, capture or take a living member of a species that is listed on the Species at Risk in Ontario List as an extirpated, endangered or threatened species.

The Right Thing

 It is never too late to do the right thing.  The City needs to immediately halt work on the Terry Fox Road expansion pending a comprehensive assessment of the entire ecosystem affected by this roadwork. 

This assessment can then be used to properly plan the road, its mitigation measures, and to control and guide the expansion of the urban boundary in this ecologically diverse area. 

 In the meantime, the existing federal funding for the road should be re-directed towards upgrading the relocated Goulbourn Forced Road and 2nd Line Road as well as creating an adequate ecological crossing where Kizzell Drain crosses the Goulbourn Forced Road. 

This will satisfy short-term transportation needs of both residents and animal life while a more viable longer-term plan is developed by the City.

Biologist Report

 I checked butternut trees in, and adjacent to, the section now being cleared for the Terry Fox expansion from Morgan’s Grant  to the vicinity of the railroad tracks. Butternut trees in and along the proposed route have been designated by number and fencing.

 I searched the ground around the bases of a number of the trees growing in the forest south of the cleared area, but found no remnants of shells from last year or previous years. They would have been chewed by squirrels but the hard shells take years to disintegrate.  Neither did I find young seedlings.

But at least two very old, large and still living butternut trees (trunks marked by number to designate them) were cut and piled in the section already cleared for the new highway.

Both had many live branches with healthy buds and the largest cut stump had a squirrel midden, larger than several footballs, beside the base  composed of  thousands of chewed butternut shells. 

That was the only tree in the area that I could identify to have been a major producer of  nuts through last year.  It may have been  the largest and oldest in the area, there were signs of decay in the trunk, but the tree was  vigorous and upper branches should have produced fruit for years to come.

This is the result of my sampling of the state of  butternut trees adjacent to, and within, the marked route of the Terry Fox Expansion on March 28, 2010.

Martha Webber  (


 Photos Taken by Scott Newman:

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. renaud  •  Mar 29, 2010 @11:35 am

    Evidently the City does have permission to cut some Butternut trees via a permit obtained from the MNR. This City has chosen to not disclose this permit nor the ongoing status of the project with its residents.

    Fortunately the MNR is more helpful and we have learned that the City has had a certified Butternut assessor go through and assess the health of all Butternut in the path of the road.

    Any tree deemed retainable, that is unaffected by the butternut canker or considered not severely affected, cannot be cut without a permit. The city is applying for such a permit right now.

    However, any tree that is deemed unretainable by the standardized assessment criteria can be cut WITHOUT a permit as long as it is properly assessed, marked and numbered.

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