Volunteer officer banding peregrine falcons in the west stack nest holds a chick during the banding process, circa 2010.

In 1995, peregrine falcons (classified as “endangered” at the time) attempted to nest on the active incinerator stack at the Balzac Gas Plant. This caused serious issues for required stack maintenance (several times per year) and regulatory stack testing, with conflicting regulatory requirements regarding endangered species protection versus pollution control equipment requirements. As peregrines return to the same location annually once a nest site has been chosen, in consultation with government biologists, a nesting platform was placed on the other, inactive stack to encourage the birds to nest there instead of on the active stack.

The peregrine falcon has been on the road to recovery as a species since its dramatic decline in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Its status has improved although it is still listed as a species at risk both provincially (“threatened” species) and federally (species of “Special Concern”). The Balzac nest site resulted in the addition of 55 chicks to the species since 1996, which is significant for a provincial population count of 68 pairs in 2010. This productive nest site has definitely played a role in species recovery during a critical period.

Discussions with provincial biologists regarding Plant closure and demolition were initiated in early 2011, and have been ongoing throughout the decommissioning project. The man-made peregrine falcon nesting platform on the Balzac Gas Plant West Incinerator Stack was removed with approval from Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) as part of the 2013/2014 Plant Demolition Project. Nexen consulted with the ESRD Provincial Wildlife Status Biologist (peregrine specialist) to assist in mitigating the potential impact of the removal of a productive nest site of a species at risk. The mitigation recommendation was to fund the release of captive-bred peregrine falcons at a cliff site in a drainage basin historically occupied by peregrines, which has not yet been re-occupied since the species has begun its recovery.

Continuing the release program for three consecutive seasons provides a significantly improved chance of having the site become an established nest site, based on results of previous projects as per the ESRD Wildlife Status Biologist. This commitment was made as part of the Plant demolition project.

FURTHER DETAILS:

Project:
Peregrine Falcon Re-introduction Program (“Ecological Replacement” of Balzac Gas Plant Nest Site)

Scope Summary:
Fund external program of releasing captive-bred peregrine falcons (species at risk) to assist in “ecological replacement” of Balzac nesting site. The program is planned and executed by Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) with funding provided through the Alberta Conservation Association (ACA).

Amount of Funding:
  • Total Amount $25,000/year for three years (2014-2016) = $75,000
  • Funding is provided by the Balzac Gas Plant (Nexen and Plant Partners)

At the request of the Alberta government Wildlife Status Biologist, funding is provided through the Alberta Conservation Association to ensure it is designated specifically to the program. The Alberta Conservation Association holds a special status as a delegated administrative organization with the power to deliver responsibilities as outlined in the Wildlife Act and defined in a Memorandum of Understanding with ESRD.