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unEARTHED. The Earthjustice Blog

Protecting Caribou, Migratory Birds From Tar Sands

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21 September 2011, 3:10 PM
Earthjustice petitions to compel analysis of threat to wildlife
Whooping crane.

You can’t get something for nothing—there is always a trade-off, always a catch. In the case of Canada’s tar sands crude oil project, what’s being sacrificed in the name of the United States’ oil addiction are the lives of stoic woodland caribou and majestic whooping cranes.

Earthjustice filed a Pelly petition today with the U.S. Department of the Interior, asking Secretary Ken Salazar to investigate Canada’s destructive tar sands mining and examine how the mining is hampering international efforts to protect endangered and threatened species. The petition documents how tar sands mining and drilling in Alberta is harming threatened woodland caribou and at least 130 migratory bird species, including endangered whooping cranes.

The Pelly petition calls on Salazar to promptly investigate and determine whether tar sands activities are weakening treaties that protect endangered and threatened species. If Salazar’s investigation finds that tar sands activities are weakening those treaties, then he is required to report those conclusions to President Obama. The vast majority of Canada’s tar sands crude is exported to the United States.

Earthjustice is concerned because tar sands activities are destroying critical wildlife habitat in Alberta, and killing birds that land in toxic wastewater pits, mistaking them for freshwater ponds. Endangered whooping cranes are particularly vulnerable to the risk of landing in a tailings pond, as the entire global population of wild, migratory whooping cranes migrates through the tar sands region twice annually.

The caribou herds of the tar sands region have already declined more than 50 percent over their last three generations. Habitat disruption and fragmentation—due in large part to tar sands activities—are the driving forces of the population’s decline.

The species at risk are protected under the Convention on Nature Protection and Wild Life Preservation in the Western Hemisphere, and the Migratory Bird Convention.

  Read Press Release:   Conservation Groups: Canada's Tar Sands Extraction Violates International Wildlife Treaties

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I just read about the the new legislation regarding taxing of the wealthiest 0.3%. Laudable efforts. That coupled with slashing the $457,000,000,000.00 to the same 0.3% we give all of our money to (i.e. the oil and sugar foreign interest destroying florida's environment) would free up a lot of funds that can be used to save public lands and preserves from the axe. Hopefully some of my tax money can go to paying the loggers in Alaska to not cut down the forest, instead of subsidizing them to do the exact opposite of what we ought to be subsidizing. Last I heard there was a carbon crisis, not a matchstick crisis. Or maybe we should just drill in the everglades, the tar pits, and mine for uranium on the Roanoke and ruin all of the fresh water in the U.S... Then what? It turns out, we are expanding the everglades drilling projects also. Which scientist said that sounds like a good idea? Surely, none of the ones I have met at UF, UM, or FAU. Or maybe it is one of the dead scientist like in the oil spill response plan all of the political leaders signed off on. Maybe someone is putting words into a corpses mouth again; apparently the oil industry thinks the only good biologist is a dead biologist. I am proud to be an American where I at least have an opportunity to help, even if it is just destined to be helping to delay the inevitable. As opposed to the environmentalist being murdered by thugs and an industry gone mad in South America.

Compromising on the clean air act and clean water act is tantamount to a crime against humanity; especially with the knowledge of peoples deaths premeditated; or at least predicted and accounted for in the budget; just like the non renewable old growth forests and irreplaceable water sheds our feds are profiting in the destruction of. Valuing the ecosystem doesn't mean cheating the system; yet at UF I have met more people with family who make money destroying the environment; as opposed to people whose families are aiding and coping with the present environmental meltdown. The epitome of regulatory capture is Fukushima and the workers there; that is a smoking gun to the industrial onslaught of unregulated industries, the result of regulatory capture, tycoons mad with money and industries completely spiraling out of control for lack of strong leadership and necessary regulation. We saw it in America when the sugar cane industry killed 95% of our reef system, we saw it with the deep horizon oil spill, and we are seeing occur with the tar sands and arctic plans. We, the citizens paying the cost, that the industry leaders have so predictably passed on, while profiteering. More people need to be educated; to say the least. Yet I know a teacher who just transferred to a new school and wants to go to the doctor but can't because she can't afford to, and is waiting two more months for her health insurance to kick in. A result of compromising with the 0.3% I am tired of compromising with the 0.3%. Or the fraction there of that oppose this new legislation. Especially when we are being asked to compromise health and our right to life. Laudable efforts, that is why I vote democrat; really though, if we allow the environmental meltdown to proceed that will not matter, there will be none left to read who won the next election.

I totally agree with all you have stated in your letter. And yes, we do need to educate much more widely concerning environmental issues, and the web of life in which we all are a part. And that this web has been evolving since the beginning of time as we know it, and is delicately balanced. If we care about life itself-about our beautiful home we call Earth, the only home we have, if we care about our children, we must all act today to speak out, and to each do our part to "walk softly on the Earth."

We are all connected together on this planet and we need to take care of our home.

I think the "Oilsands" is a real environmental nightmare. They have these watery, oily ponds, where ducks land in and die, along with other birds, perhaps even whooping cranes. Bears and other land animals die there too.

I have suggested to Canada's environment Minister that they cover these ponds. They never wrote back. They could design these ponds so that they could cover them. They are just too lazy.

They have the biggest in the world trucks and excavators to fill those trucks. They could have the world's largest covered waste ponds too, if they were not so lazy and cruel towards wild life.

Wake up Canada and World — This is a disaster just waiting to happen. It is proven these oily ponds kill animals.
What is it — Canada is just too lazy to cover the oily ponds? Largest shovels and trucks in the world but who cares about the animals. Is that what Canada & USA politicians want to become known for? Or, are the "Payoffs" just too big for the politicians to not take for the greed in them. Think about the future generations that will be exterminated by the practices that you authorize today!
Wake UP Canada & USA! (Lets not put the blame solely on Canada as USA is as involved just as heavily as Canada!

I have seen the moon scapes these tar sands create.......the before and after is absolutely sickening. The before shows a beautiful forest....and the after shows a wiped away forest....replaced with a dark, dreary moon scape with tar ponds....and equipment bulldozing all over the far as the eye can see......Basically they turn a forest paradise into a living HELL. People need to wake up and care about where their energy comes from and if they dont like it....speak up......This is as bad or worse than mountain top coal mining and very destructive. If this was happening down the road from your house...You would be screaming and marching on the government. I cant understand why more Canadians arent trying to shut this down. Why?

Good comment Mike. I write and complain a lot. It doesn't seem to do any good. I am glad there is Earth Justice working on this nightmare of an oil field, Some people in politics are jerks.

Tar sands are destructive to ecosystems. Fracturing the ground below us is not following the precautionary principal. The greatest remote sensing equipment in the world can hardly penetrate the earths surface, and scientist can not guarantee any location or exact quantity of groundwater. Probing the earth for its last bits of oil is not going to solve the energy crisis either, someday there will be no material to stand on. Stop denying the inevitable and start promoting renewable energy.

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