Proposed by Dr. Rob Butler
Pacific Wildlife Foundation, PO Box 1-12, 850 Barnet Highway, Port Moody, B.C. V3H 1V6
The proposed changes to Iona Island Wastewater Treatment Plant offer a unique opportunity to create a bird sanctuary on Iona island of world class proportions. The Fraser River Delta has long been recognized as a premier bird habitat in Canada. Among the many designations of the delta are the premier Important Bird Area in the 700 sites recognized in Canada, a Hemisphere Reserve in the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network, and a Wetland of International Importance under the UN Ramsar Convention. Iona Island is one of the best locations to see birds in Canada – nearly 300 species seen there to date. The proposal would require no changes to the current plans and instead build on to them to showcase the Fraser River Delta as one of Canada’s premier bird habitats. Several opportunities have converged to make a sanctuary proposal viable.
Birdwatching has grown immensely with an estimated $41B being spent on birding in the US and $11M on the Fraser River Delta. Vancouver Bird Week now includes Greater Vancouver and a national celebration is being discussed. The BC Bird Trail sponsored by Richmond Tourism includes Iona island as a destination.
The proposed Bird Sanctuary already falls within the Important Bird Area and Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve designations, and the neighbouring intertidal lands are part of the Sturgeon Banks Wildlife Management Area.
No changes other than some signage is envisaged to overall existing plans as described in the Iona Island Wastewater Plant Project. Designating the area as a sanctuary would provide a vision in support of the proposed ecological and habitat plans.
Birds Canada has expressed interest in establishing a presence at the new public building. Their national profile would become a central focus for the sanctuary and encourage opportunities for Metro Vancouver and neighbouring communities to hold events.
The sanctuary could provide a vehicle for cultural exchange through birds with the Musqueum and Greater Vancouver residents.