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Steven Rockford

Steven Rockford
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FEBRUARY 20, 2012 11:00AM

Tar sands kill caribou.

Rate: 6 Flag

So, what can we do about it?

wolves 

“Kill Wolves!”

Says Canadian wildlife officials. 

Researchers at the University of Alberta have “concluded that if        (tar sand) development trends continue, within 30 years the caribou herd on the east side of the Athabasca River will be no more.”  Rather than protecting the caribou habitat, however, government officials have resorted to culling the indigenous gray wolf packs.  According to the National Wildlife Federation (NWF): 

“As the Obama administration decides whether to give the go-ahead to the 1,700-mile Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to Texas, wildlife biologists have sounded a new alarm: expanding oil and gas production is contributing to the decline of caribou herds in Alberta 

Incredibly, Canada’s proposed solution to habitat destruction from tar sands development is to destroy the wolves that prey on caribou, instead of protecting their habitat. 

Two particularly repugnant methods of destroying wolves – shooting wolves from helicopters and poisoning wolves with baits laced with strychnine – would be carried out in response to the caribou declines.  

Strychnine is a deadly poison known for an excruciating death that progresses painfully from muscle spasms to convulsions to suffocation, over a period of hours. Wildlife officials will place strychnine baits on the ground or spread them from aircraft in areas they know wolves inhabit. In addition to wolves, non-target animals like raptors, wolverines and cougars will be at risk from eating the poisoned baits or scavenging on the deadly carcasses of poisoned wildlife”.  

Canadian wildlife officials have been under pressure from the oil and gas industry for quite some time to use the culling of wolves as a way to offset the caribou loses caused by tar sand development.  Only recently has this position been officially endorsed by the Canadian government.  The NWF stated earlier this month:   

“Late last week, internal documents went public showing Canada is fretting over its sullied reputation for unfettered fossil fuel development, while resorting to poisoning wolves rather than fixing the problem.” 

As Paul Paquet pointed out in The Guardian last September: 

“Egged on by a rapacious oil industry, the federal government has chosen to scapegoat wolves for the decline of boreal caribou in a morally and scientifically bankrupt attempt to protect Canada's industrial sacred cow: the tar sands. Yet, the ultimate reason why the caribou are on the way out is because multiple human disturbances – most pressingly, the tar sands development – have altered their habitat into a landscape that can no longer provide the food, cover and security they need.” 

This environmental nightmare for Canada may soon become a nightmare for the United States if the Keystone XL Pipeline project is allowed to proceed.  This 1,700 mile long pipeline will bring the heavy oil from the Alberta tar sand fields across the American plain states to U.S. refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. 

Unlike light crude oil pumped from the Texas oil fields, the Keystone XL Pipeline would carry tar sands sludge and bitumen.  According to the NWF,Bitumen (is) a substance more corrosive than crude oil that is thinned with other petroleum condensates and pumped at high pressure and at a temperature of more than 150 degrees through the pipeline.”  

 An accident waiting to happen?

The Canadian tar sand development, as well as the U.S.-Canadian Keystone XL Pipeline project, has become a flashpoint in the debate between environmentalists and the energy industry.  In Canada, it appears that the energy companies are winning this debate, with the support of political leadership.  In the U.S., the Obama administration has stopped the Keystone XL Pipeline development (at least temporarily).  However, House Majority Leader John Boehner has made it clear that the pipeline project has top priority in Congress this year. 

Brad Carson, the Director of the National Energy Policy Institute, a DC energy industry lobbying group, summed up the short term argument for the tar sands development (and the pipeline project) in an interview with Living on Earth last year:  

"The larger debate [...] is whether we need to wean ourselves off of oil in the near term, period.  And that is a debate worth having.  But so long as we’re an oil addicted economy, the tar sands [and the pipeline] I think can play an important role in the world oil market."  

Time will tell whether the deep-pockets of the energy industry will win out over the Friends of the Earth on this issue.   

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Comments

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Thanks for this report, Steven. I had not heard anything about it.
The environmental impact of the tar sands development has not received much media attention in the U.S.

We have, however, been focusing on the Keystone XL Pipeline project lately. Hopefully this will bring this North American environmental issue into better public focus.
I sure wish you had named those "researchers at the University of Alberta." Or provided a link to one of the papers they'd have published.

Instead you quote the "opinion" of any number of fellow travellers in the Eco-Movement and some American Organizations that are blatantly unfriendly to any intrusion of mankind onto "wildlife habitat". You don't even quote any such organizations that exist here in Canada.

I think this is nothing more than a bad propaganda piece. It is unsupported by any decent evidence and fails to even mention that the caribou herds' major habitat is much further north and west of the Athabasca River and only a tiny fraction of all caribou even could be affected, IF ANY ARE AT ALL!

Please quote from Canadian researchers and give links to their research papers. You might ask for any or all of the environmental impact studies that were sponsored by the Canadian government prior to permission to develop the tar sands was given as well as the numerous studies conducted by accredited universities on an ongoing basis since that project began. Without that information all you are offering is so much hot air.
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Sky,

The three points I made in regard to the tar sand development were:

1. The oil and gas developments in the tar sand regions of Alberta are destroying the habitat and hence killing off the caribou herds.

2. Canadian wildlife officials have agreed to help maintain the caribou population by establishing a program of killing wolves.

3. The strychnine poisoning method of culling the wolf packs is extremely inhumane.

If you follow the links I provided, I believe you will find adequate evidence to support these points.

If you have other sources of information that can support contrary opinions, please let me know.
Steven,
Not one of your links goes to actual research papers or the institutions that initiated them.... NOT ONE!!

Do you think that sending people to read the opinions of Eco-Movement proselytizers is offering "documented evidence?"

And, once again, it is not up to me to disprove any claim that you may chose to make. Even you know that. It is ALWAYS incumbent upon the maker of any claim to prove his claim. I ask for proof of your claims. Proof, sir, not propaganda.
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Sky,

If you look into the University of Alberta Site or into the background provided by the National Wildlife Federation, you’ll find substantial evidence to support the three points I noted above. If you Google “Tar Sands, Canadian reports, pro-environment” you’ll find nothing that refutes the three points I noted above.

Try again Sky.
No Steven. I gone around in circle with you endlessly before now. I already know that you are a "true believer" and consider others to have the obligation of refuting your claims and yourself to have no responsibility to offer support for them beyond your, and others of your group's claims that they are factual.

PS - The University of Victoria just released a report that states that the environment offered by the Tar Sands development is so small as to be negligible. It compared it also to the damage to the environment of the American use of coal, which is hundreds of times greater. If you have the guts to look beyond your narrow eco-religion you might want to go to cbc.com and check the news stories of the day.

(* no Steve, not even a nice try, just puerile*)

;-)
That should read:
No Steven. I've gone around in circles with you endlessly before now. I already know that you are a "true believer" and consider others to have the obligation of refuting your claims and yourself to have no responsibility to offer support for them beyond your, and others of your group's, claims that they are factual.

PS - The University of Victoria just released a report that states that the environmental damage offered by the Tar Sands development is so small as to be negligible. It compared it also to the damage to the environment of the American use of coal, which is hundreds of times greater. If you have the guts to look beyond your narrow eco-religion you might want to go to cbc.com and check the news stories of the day.

(* no Steve, not even a nice try, just puerile*)

;-)
.
PS
If I read Waiting For Godot I'll not find anything that "refutes" your claims either. I'll also not find anything that supports them either, now will I?

Next you'll be going, "Awwwww look at those cute little seals!"
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Sky,

I could provide link-after-link to support my views, but it has become apparent that you will only counter with meaningless garble, along with a few ad hominem comments.

Am I confusing you with logic?

As you can see, I am “Pro-Earth” on environmental issues. It appears that you are not.

We can only concur on one aspect of this environmental issue. That is that we agree to not agree.

Let’s leave it at that.