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Minister rejects call to reduce light from greenhouses, protect birds

The British Columbia agriculture and lands ministry considered and rejected the idea of protecting migratory birds by regulating light from greenhouses, the minister responsible said yesterday.

Steve Thomson was responding to questions about his ministry's budget from independent Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington, who had raised similar questions in the fall but had not received a response.

“The lights have a huge social, health and environmental impact on the community,” Huntington said. “The environmental impacts are far greater than just light pollution, because we live in a migratory bird flyway, so there are impacts on the waterfowl and on the raptors.”

Thomson said the ministry investigated after Huntington raised questions in the fall, but having consulted with the municipality decided the industry's standards are good enough. “The local government and municipality advised us that they felt that that standard was acceptable and was being worked with,” he said.

“We did consider the potential of a ministry standard, but given the fact that the local government felt that the industry standard that the industry had developed and works with met their concerns, we did not move forward with the idea of a ministry standard.”

Huntington said people in Delta would be surprised to hear the minister's response. “The only standard that I am aware of in terms of the greenhouse lights in Delta is that they are turned off between six and ten or midnight,” she said. “ They were at one time required to shield the side of the buildings, but even that seems to have gone the way of the blue-footed booby.”

(For the record, blue-footed boobies are alive and well, though their tropical and subtropical range does not extend to Delta.)

The ministry seems hesitant to impose an added cost on the greenhouse growers, she said. “I think the ministry has to look beyond just the Greenhouse Growers Association's attitude towards the cost.”

The industry standards aren't strong enough, she said. “When you see the sky glowing, completely glowing, every night in the winter and there is no darkness in a community, then something's wrong.”

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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