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UPDATE: Visit forest that could be lost to Highway 5 extension, Jan. 8

A young activist begins the climb up the tree.

If you are near Wakefield, Quebec tomorrow (Sunday, from 12 pm to 3 pm or from 7 pm to 10 pm), I would encourage you to go see a 300-year-old white pine tree that is scheduled to be cut down within the next couple of weeks due to the extension of Highway 5. An experienced climber – Jamie Robertson – will be there and you can wear a harness and climb up 25 feet or more of this 100 foot tree.

In August 2009, Prime Minister Stephen Harper stated, “The Government of Canada is taking extraordinary and unprecedented action to stimulate the Canadian economy in this time of global economic instability. The extension of Highway 5, the largest infrastructure project in the Outaouais, will help the region’s economic development, create high-paying jobs and greatly enhance the quality of life and safety of residents of the Outaouais region. This project has been made possible through the cooperation of the governments of Canada and Quebec.”

But now the effort to protect this tree and the wider forest from being cut down for the highway has received extensive media coverage over the past two days from CBC Radio, Radio Canada, the Ottawa Citizen, the Ottawa Sun, and Le Droit, http://www.a5x.org/news.html. A short news-video can be seen at http://www.ottawacitizen.com/travel/Protesters+gather+year+tree+path+extension/5953542/story.html. As noted in the news articles, there are plans to occupy the tree to stop the highway construction.

The highway will also require the blasting of rock in a water recharge area very close to where the 300-year-old tree stands. This has led to concern that the Valley Drive Spring, a popular water source in Wakefield, could be contaminated. The West Quebec Post has reported, “A federal assessment (which approved the extension) acknowledged (that no one knows the exact source of all the spring water and) did not require public consultation. …The 1986 Quebec consultation did not look at hydrology.” And CBC has reported, “Transport Canada performed a preliminary assessment and determined that the project – which would involve lopping off a nearby hilltop – could contaminate the aquifer.” More than 3,000 local residents depend on the spring for their drinking water needs year round, while an additional 2,000 people use the spring seasonally.

The Council of Canadians has been following this issue since May 2010, http://canadians.org/blog/?s=%22highway+5%22. On February 20, 2011, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow spoke against the environmental destruction that would be caused by the highway at a public event in Wakefield.

For directions to the tree and more, please see http://www.a5x.org/save-the-ancient-trees-events.html.