An exceptional refuge for many species

Barn swallows are one of the species calling the Munitions Experimentation Test Centre home. Photo: Andrea Linja, Pixabay. *** Le hirondelle rustique est un de les espèces en peril vivant au le Centre d’essais et d’expérimentation en munitions de Nicolet. Photo: Andrea Linja, Pixabay

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27By Lidia Capece, Assistant Environment Officer–Montreal Garrison, Resource Conservation Branch, 2nd Canadian Division

Trois-Rivières, Quebec — Amateur ornithologists set up nearby, equipped with cameras with telephoto lenses, in the hope of taking the best picture of a migratory bird in flight. The view of Lake Saint-Pierre is magnificent, and you can observe a variety of wildlife and plant species. No, it is not a national park, but the Munitions Experimentation Test Centre (METC). What a great place to work for environmental specialists!

The METC is located on the south shore of Lac Saint-Pierre, about ten kilometres southwest of Trois-Rivières and about two kilometres west of Nicolet. It covers an area of about 20 km2.

This site has been used for ammunition certification tests before their use in military operations since 1952. At first, the projectiles tested were fired into Lac Saint-Pierre. Since 2000, for safety reasons, the projectiles have been fired at five stop butts. Work began in 2016 to remove unexploded munitions from Lac Saint-Pierre.

The use of this site by the Department of National Defence (DND) has helped to preserve the natural state of the property. Over time, the METC site has obtained various types of environmental protection status.

For example, the Nicolet METC property was designated in 1982 as a migratory bird sanctuary. In 2000, a large portion of the site was considered an international natural heritage protected area and was recognized as a World Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). In addition, on the far west side of the property are ponds developed by Ducks Unlimited Canada that are the critical habitat of the endangered Least Bittern, a species at risk.

The site is home to many species of plants, trees, amphibians, fish, mammals, reptiles and birds, some of which are at risk. DND has a legal responsibility to protect species at risk present or likely to be present on its properties under the federal Species at Risk Act. The 17 species at risk in the METC include: the butternut, barn swallow, little brown bat, northern myotis and bobolink.

The majority of the METC region is composed of wetlands that are also protected under the Federal Policy on Wetland Conservation.

Considering all the environmental components to be protected, the infrastructure projects of the Montreal Real Property Operations Section at the Nicolet METC necessarily involve the participation of environmental services. Whether it is during the planning, design or implementation of projects, various steps are taken by the Montreal Garrison’s environmental section to ensure that projects are carried out in compliance with all environmental regulations. Co-operation with the section allows and will continue to allow the preservation of the plant and animal species of this exceptional site.

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