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Regulatory Heating Project Threatens Endangered Bird Spe...

Regulatory Heating Project Threatens Endangered Bird Species in Montreal, Canada

Who would have believed it? The new regulatory project on burning wood in the City of Montreal could represent a threat to certain birds. The Chimney Swift, a migratory bird designated as an endangered species in Canada, nests in chimneys. However, the number of chimneys likely to welcome this bird could diminish with the banning of

by Bora Mici January 15, 2015

Chimney Swift bird

Who would have believed it? The new regulatory project on burning wood in the City of Montreal could represent a threat to certain birds.

The Chimney Swift, a migratory bird designated as an endangered species in Canada, nests in chimneys. However, the number of chimneys likely to welcome this bird could diminish with the banning of non-certified wood stoves starting in 2020, fears the Regroupement QuébecOiseaux (RQO).

In December 2014, the City held consultations on its newly reformulated regulation on heating appliances, and more than 20 or so memos were filed on this occasion.

The regulatory project, if it is adopted, will ban the use of wood stoves with the exception of certified appliances that do not emit more than 1.3 g/hour of fine particles into the atmosphere.

Even though it is for the reduction of fine particulate emissions, the RQO is concerned about the impact of the regulation on the Chimney Swift population. According to the Regroupement, the regulation could push owners to withdraw or replace their heating appliances.

Consequently, they could be tempted to modify their chimneys - install a fireguard, a "hood" or a metallic sheath in a chimney that prevents the swifts from residing there, informs the Regroupement.

Species in Peril

Chimeny Swifts nesting in chimney

The chimney swift, a species in decline, is protected through the law on endangered species. Between 1970 and 2010, the number of these birds has gone down by 92% in Canada. Before the arrival of the Europeans, they nested in the cavities of dead trees, but with deforestation, they adopted chimneys.

In its memo, the RQO describes in detail the specifications for the chimneys that accommodate the Chimney Swifts. For nesting, these should have an internal opening of at least 28.5 cm, they specify. "The chimneys that attract the Chimney Swift have been built before 1960 for the most part," note the RQO.

According to the organization, one should not fear that a Chimney Swift's nest would obstruct a chimney. A single couple occupies a chimney, and its nest is small. What's more, the bird leaves Quebec during the cold season while the chimneys are at work.

Why should people concern themselves with the swift? "The swift eats insects. Thus, it exercises certain control over this population," explains Biologist Genevieve Perreault. "But it is enough to recall that each species has a role in the environment and ecosystem. The disappearance of a species will lead to all kinds of consequences that we cannot always predict."

Therefore, the Regroupement suggests that a statute of "natural heritage" is attributed to those chimneys propitious to the Chimney Swifts and that restrictions are applied while the modifications are happening to these structures. The organization also recommends that the sweeping of masonry chimneys not be permitted between May 1st and September 1st on an annual basis.

Certified Stoves

Wood Pellet Heater

Several memos filed before the commission of the City support the new regulation, but some groups, among them the Association of Heating Professionals (APC) and the Quebec Association for the Fight Against Atmospheric Pollution (AQLPA), have asked that the City be less restrictive. They suggest the City authorize the installation of wood stoves that respect the EPA norm of 4.5 g/hour, and this should happen from 2015, rather than restricting the demand for emissions of 1.3 g/hour to 2020.

Authorizing the 4.5 g/hour norm would allow for a reduction of 94% of fine particulate emissions and for accelerating the replacement of outdated and polluting fireplaces that are not certified, reminds the APC. The organization is very happy that the City has given up on banning all the wood stoves, even the highest performing ones, like it had done in its regulation adopted in 2009, which only authorized electrical, gas or wood pellet appliances.

"People insist on having extra heating, and many of them want wood heating. What's good is that a new technology exists," indicates the General Director of the APC, Chantal Demers.

The AQLPA believes that the City should stop promoting the use of natural gas, a fossil fuel energy, as a replacement for wood or pellets. The new regulation should be adopted later this year.

What can we do to learn more about how our energy policies impact ecosystems? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments below.

Original article, originally published in French, here.

Credit: Data and images linked to sources.

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Bora Mici has a background in design and online writing. Most recently, she has worked as an online contributor for DC Mud, Patch.com, GoodSpeaks.org and WatchingAmerica.com, covering urban planning and visual and performing arts in the Washington, D...

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