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Endangered frogs in Hwy. 99 construction path


Conservationists are suggesting another of nature's species in need of protection is cause to rethink Hwy. 99 expansion plans.

This time, the blue-listed Rana Aurora, or the red-legged frog, is in danger if road construction progresses in the Larson Creek wetlands.

Earlier this summer, conservationists convinced the province to delay blasting south of Lions Bay so a pair of eagles could raise eaglets in a nest near Ansell Place.

Researchers now believe there are no eaglets in the nest and the pair using the nest won't produce any offspring this season.

According to a news release from the Coalition to Save the Eagleridge Bluffs, construction of the highway route will disrupt frog habitat.

The coalition wants the Ministry of Transportation to provide an Environmental Management Plan that will protect the frog habitat.

"The Coalition is committed to doing whatever it takes to save the bluffs and wetlands and therefore now advocates that the government consider other options such as paving the existing railway bed or putting in a third lane on the existing route," said Bruce McArthur of the coalition. "This would be consistent with the plans further up the highway and allow substantial cost savings until the actual increases in capacity are required in 2026."

Peter Milburn, the Sea-to-Sky Highway Improvement Project executive project manager, said this week small frog tunnels will be constructed under the highway if it is found that the highway route goes through the frog's habitat.

The coalition tried to save the bluffs by filing a lawsuit challenging the highway plans, but the decision handed down by the courts didn't prevent the province from moving ahead with its plans.

Members of the coalition have said in the past that they believe a 1.4 kilometre, four-lane, divided tunnel at the south end of Hwy. 99 is a better option for the expansion of Hwy. 99 than the province's planned overland route.

"Our goal is to save the bluffs and the sensitive ecosystems in the area," said Coalition secretary Heather Drugge. "While the tunnel is unquestionably the right long-term approach, if the government insists on looking only at costs, why not save the bluffs and at the same time save money by looking at lower-cost alternatives to the overland route."

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