Removal of Gatineau Park bird feeders

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Visitors have enjoyed feeding Chickadees and Nuthatches by hand at bird feeders throughout Gatineau Park. The National Capital Commission’s (NCC’s) decision to remove the feeders has become increasingly unpopular and continues to divide the opinion of local conservation groups.

Visitors have enjoyed feeding Chickadees and Nuthatches by hand at bird feeders throughout Gatineau Park. The National Capital Commission’s (NCC’s) decision to remove the feeders has become increasingly unpopular and continues to divide the opinion of local conservation groups.
The NCC, like Parks Canada, has a   mandate to encourage the public            enjoyment, understanding and appreciation of Nature. Similarly, the NCC is obliged to enhance wildlife habitat under the “compensation” requirement outlined within the former Environmental Assessment Act.
Habitat destruction by capital projects has plagued the Park since Prime Minister McKenzie King declared it a wildlife        preserve for the enjoyment of Canadians; most recently with the removal of hundreds of acres of mature forest to accommodate the four-lane A5 highway near Wakefield.
While the scientific community discourages “artificial” feeding of animals, such as wild turkeys, deer, and waterfowl, it does not apply for wintering birds. Wild bird populations are declining through-out the world. The period of highest mortality is winter. Providing bird feeders is one contribution society can make to retard this disturbing trend. Despite these facts the NCC has pulled its feeders. Why the contradiction?
The NCC is under pressure to retain ownership and control over Gatineau Park. Lobby groups press for its take-over by Parks Canada. While Parks Canada has     little interest in managing Gatineau Park, NCC administrators feel the best way to retain control is to apply Park Canada       policy inside the Park. One policy initiative is prohibiting feeding wildlife. The National Capital Act already includes a minor clause prohibiting the public from feeding wildlife.
A court case last year sent the NCC packing. A visitor who received a ticket for feeding wildlife elected sympathy from a judge who threw-out the charge. Like most myopic legal administrators, the judge failed to discriminate between pro-social feeding of winter birds and tossing “Pan-Danny” bread to nuisance wildlife such as Canada Geese.
The commission’s legal advisers realize that courts are poor at differentiation. While senior park managers may not overtly support the removal of the bird feeders, legally it appears expedient to do so.
While naturalist groups grapple with the incongruity of “ to feed or not to feed,” both visitors and wintering birds are suffering. Unfortunately, the latter involves an increase in winter mortality and reduced clutch size this spring for nesting resident birds.
While the NCC has promised capital “wildlife” enhancement projects to offset the removal of feeders, naturalist groups are divided on what this actually entails. This unpopular management decision is one of many dysfunctional judicial decisions that pervert the cause of justice and defy            scientific reasoning. Only a strong public outcry will get feeders back inside the park.
Ian Huggett
Conservation Biology /Eco-Watch
AYLMER