Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

"Northern conservation could be paralyzed during Environment Canada review"

This is sadly one of those articles that cannot be published uncommented. The mad rush towards the north for Uranium, oil & gas, coal, Coalbed Methane, diamonds and more-- has already been basically handed to the federal government by those who have advanced much of the protected areas strategy. If you put down a handful of cherries you have picked from a tree, and you want to make certain that you get the right cherry for you and your family, the first thing you do is try to identify which of the cherries is the healthiest, plumpest and most likely to be gobbled up should there be no arguments. But the problem is that the PAS in the north does the opposite-- grabbing the whithered, no value, dried up and shriveled cherry and then telling us we have preserved great fruits.

But if you want to see certain cherries saved, you have to fight to control the cherries, or at least to stop others from determining who can and cannot say what cherries are eaten. If you can get the best cherries put under democratic control, you can certainly have the rotten ones, too.

But for some reason, that logic is seldom applied to the land, perhaps because the funding for such such comes from the CBI, WWF, Ducks Unlimited and a host of other Pew-sponsored organizations. So when it is advanced that the cuts that may be coming are coming at the worst possible time, it should be noted that the Federal Government is clearly trying to do what they can to clear the path for MASSIVE industrialization of the NWT and more. To have ANY chance to defend the land from industrialization, we must instead of looking to clean up after the industry's attempts to build a crappy designation of areas here and there, be willing to SET THE RULES, by not playing these games.

Cooperation with industry has taken us to the global brink. Let us see those who would pave the planet as those who threaten our families. Because that is indeed what they are, and we all know it.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government is continuing to chop up the pathetically small areas that were already outlined. This now includes staff of the very smoke and mirrors programs themselves.


Northern conservation could be paralyzed during Environment Canada review


Environmentalists fear conservation in the Western Arctic has been paralyzed by a federal review that has frozen spending at the Canadian Wildlife Service - just as the northern area comes under increased pressure from energy and mining claims.

"The existence of a review or a restructuring couldn't happen at a worse time, when we're trying to accelerate and embed conservation preparedness into northern development plans," said Pete Ewins of the World Wildlife Fund.

But a government source at Environment Canada told The Canadian Press that work at the service is continuing during the department's funding reallocation, although spending is being scrutinized more closely.

The Canadian Wildlife Service is the federal agency responsible for national wildlife areas. It conducts research to understand and identify crucial habitat and is the first step in the bureaucratic process that creates protected areas.

Earlier this week, it was reported that the wildlife service has had its entire $1.9-million budget for such work frozen. Nobody from the service was available for interviews, but the government source confirmed overall environmental spending is shifting to climate change programs.

Many wonder where that leaves long-standing promises to protect culturally and environmentally significant areas in the Northwest Territories.

The Canadian Wildlife Service is involved with three such areas:

-The 25,000-square-kilometre Horn Plateau near Fort Simpson is a key habitat for migratory songbirds, moose and caribou. It is also a cultural heartland for Dehcho and Dogrib communities.

-Sambaa K'e, about 10,000 square kilometres near Trout Lake, contains many burial sites and is an important harvesting area.

-The Ramparts near Fort Good Hope encompasses 15,000 square kilometres of wetland and other habitat for birds, including peregrine falcons. It contains many archeological sites and is considered sacred ground.

The service is also studying another seven areas in the N.W.T.

"We are worried because there are things that have stalled," said Larry Innes of the Canadian Boreal Initiative. "The departments are not yet giving us straight answers."

Most of the regions proposed for protection lie in areas of intense interest for mineral and energy development. In 1999, the federal and territorial governments, as well as local communities and aboriginal groups, pledged to insulate several crucial regions from such development.

"Our intention is to get as much conservation work as possible done in advance of development," said Ewins.

But no protected areas have yet been created, despite a "personal commitment" last January from federal Environment Minister John Baird to move quickly.

Dennis Bevington, NDP MP for the Western Arctic, said all travel for Canadian Wildlife Service staff is on hold and some studies that were planned are being reviewed.

"This is going to slow the whole process down," he said.

The longer conservation takes, the less land will be left unstaked, Bevington suggested.

"There is some sense that the federal government will lose control over these lands. Once you open up that door and say, 'It's fine for you to explore,' how do you close that door when somebody comes back and says, 'I want to open a mine?"'

Another delay in protecting areas just creates more uncertainty for everybody, he added.

The Conservatives have committed about $375 million for conservation, said Baird's communications director Garry Keller.

"Our government considers conservation to be a top priority," he said.

The government source also said some departments within Environment Canada have overspent and the report about the frozen budget may have come from someone at the wildlife service trying to use media coverage to shake loose more money.

So give it to them, said Bevington.

"Scientific research of our flora and fauna suffered tremendously under the previous Liberal government and I see this starting up again," he said.

"You can't ignore other parts of the environment because you're putting a little more effort into climate change."

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