By Steven Fouchard, Army Public Affairs
The Connaught Ranges and Primary Training Centre (CRPTC) in Southwest Ottawa is a major hub for military and police firearms training.
With that in mind, CRPTC probably sounds less than hospitable to wildlife, but it is actually a safe haven for a wide range of plant, animal and insect species designated by government authorities as endangered or on the cusp of becoming so.
That is thanks to the Department of National Defence (DND) and its federal government colleagues at Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) who work closely together to ensure compliance with legislation that protects those species – ranging from butternut trees and monarch butterflies to snapping turtles and bald eagles.
In fact, explained Paul Haight, a PSPC Environmental Advisor responsible for environmental support to the DND-owned facility, safety concerns at CRPTC ensure human activity on the site is so limited that much of it is more ecologically diverse than Gatineau Park, one of the most popular wooded recreational areas in the capital region.
‘Good neighbour’ policy
“DND lands are home to an abundance of different species, thanks in part to the limited human activity on the sites,” he said.
“You don't get a lot of human activity at Connaught besides routine maintenance and/or DND training, so there is a back area that is pretty pristine. And we have this ‘good neighbour’ policy of trying to meet or exceed federal, provincial, and municipal regulations at all of our sites.”
PSPC acts as property manager, among other roles, for federal government departments and operates at CRPTCunder a memorandum of understanding with DND.
Mr. Haight joined PSPC in 2001, after spending much of the 1990s working as an environmental advisor and consultant in the private sector. The impetus for his current work was provided by Canada’s Species at Risk Act, which was adopted in 2002.
PSPC, previously known as Public Works and Government Services Canada, responded with the creation of programs to assess species at risk on government lands. A thorough survey of CRPTC – just over 1,000 hectares of land – was completed in 2014 and will be updated in 2019.
“It is an area that is thriving with species,” Mr. Haight said. “We found 22 species at risk.”
PSPC’s response has included making improvements to animal habitats and creating management plans with a communication brochure to keep all occupants aware of the species on the site and working together to help protect them.
“One of the issues was turtles coming from the Ottawa River making their way in for nesting would end up going onto the range,” he added. “We actually created a turtle nesting area as a buffer between the river and the range. We brought in a biologist who planned the area. You'll still see them at Connaught walking along the roads, so we've posted turtle crossing signs trying to make people aware.”
PSPC and DND took a similarly hands-on approach with bat species calling the facility home – one that also has health benefits for the human population.
“We installed bat houses to protect and promote habitat,” said Mr. Haight. “Bats, as you know, eat a lot of mosquitoes. We do treatment for West Nile virus and having more bats means reducing the mosquito population.”
Looking ahead, Mr. Haight said PSPC is contemplating an assessment of butternut trees in the area. The species is listed as endangered in both the federal Species at Risk Act and Ontario’s Endangered Species Act. A recovery action plan could also have long-lasting benefits for 30 other species of conservation concern.
“We may take samples of them as a genetic marker because a lot of them are being affected by disease,” Mr. Haight added. “If we have a healthy population of trees we may be able to grow them and then replant them elsewhere to re-establish a population.”