Conservation Groups Say No to Tar Sands Mine Expansion
Conservation groups from Canada and the U.S., represented by Earthjustice and Ecojustice, have submitted a letter to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency asking its Joint Review Panel to decide that Shell Canada's proposed Jackpine Mine Expansion project in Alberta, Canada should not proceed as it will cause significant adverse effects and will not be in the public interest. The agency will hold its hearing on Oct. 29. The letter describes how tar sands operations are harming at least 130 migratory bird species, including endangered whooping cranes, as well as threatened woodland caribou herds. The letter also highlights shocking data from a recent report, produced by Shell, which determined there will be severe impacts on wildlife habitat if tar sands operations expand as planned in the region.
“It's critical that the Canadian government consider that Shell itself recently concluded that if the Shell Jackpine Mine Expansion project and other proposed projects are approved, woodland caribou would lose a staggering 47 percent of their high quality habitat, as compared to pre-industrial conditions," said Sarah Burt, an attorney at Earthjustice. “Such negative impacts greatly undermine international protections and conservation efforts."
The Shell report also identified at least two bird species protected under the Migratory Bird Convention that would be severely affected: horned grebes would lose 26 percent of their high quality habitat as compared to pre-industrial conditions, while olive-sided flycatchers would lose 13 percent.
“Considering the cumulative impacts that the Shell mine expansion would exacerbate, we urge the review panel of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to conclude that the Shell mine expansion would have significant adverse effects, and is not in the public interest," said Melissa Gorrie, staff counsel with Ecojustice.
“We know that tar sands mining permanently damages the environment and destroys forests and wetlands with vast infrastructure, open pit mines, and toxic wastewater ponds up to three miles wide." said James Murphy, senior counsel at National Wildlife Federation. “Waterbirds mistake those tailings ponds for natural ponds. They land in the contaminated water and get coated in oil and other toxins. They often drown, die from hypothermia, or suffer from ingestion of toxins."
“We are facing the extinction of most of Alberta's woodland caribou herds and the loss of millions of migratory birds in the tar sands region in the next few decades," said Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, director of the International Program at Natural Resources Defense Council. “Whooping cranes are particularly vulnerable to the risk of landing in a tailings pond. The Shell mine is in the migratory flight path of the entire global population of wild, migratory whooping cranes—only 400 are left. Expanding tar sands mining in the region increases risks for this remarkable endangered species."
“Tar sands are a massive source of greenhouse gas pollution that will increase wildfires, droughts, and vegetation shifts in Alberta's boreal forests and contribute to rising seas and severe storms in the U.S.," said Devorah Ancel, attorney at the Sierra Club. "Mining tar sands in Canada also has significant downstream impacts, including risks of catastrophic spills and air quality degradation because tar sands are transported to the U.S. for refining. The Canadian government must take action to prevent mining from expanding as proposed."
The letter marks the one year anniversary of the submission of a similar petition to the Secretary of the Interior of the U.S. calling for the certification of Canada regarding Canada's failure to prevent takings of woodland caribou and migratory birds, including whooping cranes, which result from large-scale tar sands development in Alberta. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service forwarded the petition to the Canadian government but has not received a response. U.S. officials state they cannot move forward on the petition without a response from Canada. The coalition is now addressing these issues directly with the Canadian government by issuing this letter.
Conservation groups that signed the letter include Center for Biological Diversity, Council of Canadians, Environmental Defence, Forest Ethics, Friends of the Earth, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club.
- Redwoods are the world's tallest trees.
- Now scientists have discovered they are even bigger than we thought.
- Using laser technology they map the 80-meter giants.
- Trees are a key plank in the fight against climate change.
They are among the largest trees in the world, descendants of forests where dinosaurs roamed.
Pixabay / Simi Luft<p><span>Until recently, measuring these trees meant scaling their 80 meter high trunks with a tape measure. Now, a team of scientists from University College London and the University of Maryland uses advanced laser scanning, to create 3D maps and calculate the total mass.</span></p><p>The results are striking: suggesting the trees <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">may be as much as 30% larger than earlier measurements suggested.</a> Part of that could be due to the additional trunks the Redwoods can grow as they age, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a process known as reiteration</a>.</p>
New 3D measurements of large redwood trees for biomass and structure. Nature / UCL<p>Measuring the trees more accurately is important because carbon capture will probably play a key role in the battle against climate change. Forest <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2020/09/carbon-sequestration-natural-forest-regrowth" target="_blank">growth could absorb billions of tons</a> of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year.</p><p>"The importance of big trees is widely-recognised in terms of carbon storage, demographics and impact on their surrounding ecosystems," the authors wrote<a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank"> in the journal Nature</a>. "Unfortunately the importance of big trees is in direct proportion to the difficulty of measuring them."</p><p>Redwoods are so long lived because of their ability to <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cope with climate change, resist disease and even survive fire damage</a>, the scientists say. Almost a fifth of their volume may be bark, which helps protect them.</p>
Carbon Capture Champions<p><span>Earlier research by scientists at Humboldt University and the University of Washington found that </span><a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378112716302584" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Redwood forests store almost 2,600 tonnes of carbon per hectare</a><span>, their bark alone containing more carbon than any other neighboring species.</span></p><p>While the importance of trees in fighting climate change is widely accepted, not all species enjoy the same protection as California's coastal Redwoods. In 2019 the world lost the equivalent of <a href="https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/deforestation-and-forest-degradation" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30 soccer fields of forest cover every minute</a>, due to agricultural expansion, logging and fires, according to The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF).</p>
Pixabay<p>Although <a href="https://c402277.ssl.cf1.rackcdn.com/publications/1420/files/original/Deforestation_fronts_-_drivers_and_responses_in_a_changing_world_-_full_report_%281%29.pdf?1610810475" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the rate of loss is reported to have slowed in recent years</a>, reforesting the world to help stem climate change is a massive task.</p><p><span>That's why the World Economic Forum launched the Trillion Trees Challenge (</span><a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a><span>) and is engaging organizations and individuals across the globe through its </span><a href="https://uplink.weforum.org/uplink/s/uplink-issue/a002o00000vOf09AAC/trillion-trees" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Uplink innovation crowdsourcing platform</a><span> to support the project.</span></p><p>That's backed up by research led by ETH Zurich/Crowther Lab showing there's potential to restore tree coverage across 2.2 billion acres of degraded land.</p><p>"Forests are critical to the health of the planet," according to <a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a>. "They sequester carbon, regulate global temperatures and freshwater flows, recharge groundwater, anchor fertile soil and act as flood barriers."</p><p><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor">Reposted with permission from the </em><span><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor"><a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/03/redwoods-store-more-co2-and-are-more-enormous-than-we-thought/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</em></span></p>
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