In the fall of 2009, plans to deepen Burnaby Lake threatened to kill endangered Western painted turtles. The dredging project was set to commence just as the turtles sought wintering habitat in the shallow lake bottom.

Why was Ecojustice involved?

The painted turtle is an endangered species listed under the federal Species at Risk Act and on B.C.’s Red List.

When the Lower Mainland’s largest and only known viable population was at risk of being killed by a dredging project, Ecojustice and Wilderness Committee brought attention to the plight of the at-risk turtles. We warned the City of Burnaby and the B.C. government that legal action was an option if the turtles were not safely removed before dredging.

The action worked. B.C.’s Ministry of Environment took notice of our concerns and refused to issue a salvage permit to the City of Burnaby. The withheld permit was motivation enough for the municipality to come up with a safer approach to the project.

What does this victory mean?

The City was required to use technology to locate hibernating turtles, which ultimately caused them to delay the project until the turtles emerged from hibernation. Not only were the turtles saved from the dredging equipment, a joint initiative has been launched to protect and restore their nesting habitat.