As Alberta’s population continues to increase, and the economy continues to grow, so too do concerns about the future availability of water, particularly in the semi-arid south. How the government deals with the critical issue of water allocation in the province will have significant consequences not only for the province’s population centres, but also for the province’s water-intensive agricultural industry, economic growth and the long-term sustainability of critical provincial eco-systems.
Developing this kind of policy is most effective when accompanied by an informed public debate of all the pertinent issues and a consultation process that allows for genuine expression of the needs and priorities of all stakeholders, including the environment, followed by thoughtful consideration of a broad range of alternatives.... Read more »
Over the last six weeks, Albertans have had a rare opportunity to shape the environmental management of the oilsands by commenting on the provincial government's draft plan for the Lower Athabasca region.
The plan is an important first step, as Albertans have consistently demanded improvements in oilsands environmental management. But as that window of opportunity closes, the question is whether the province will take the public's input into account by making much-needed improvements to the draft plan before it goes to cabinet next month.
While it is now widely acknowledged that Alberta needs a plan to guide oilsands development, it is clear the current draft won't meet the provincial government's own vision for the plan, which is in part to ensure that the "region's air, water, land and biodiversity support healthy ecosystems and world-class conservation areas."... Read more »
Reuters is reporting a heavily lopsided panel in favor of approving controversial tar sands pipeline will largely tell members it’s okay to skirt environment and safety reviews called for by conservationists. Only NWF’s Jeremy Symons testimony will offer some balance.
Questions remain about House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton’s motives. His Michigan district saw the worst U.S. tar sands spill ever last year but he persists in moving legislation ASAP to clear the pipeline despite safety concerns that could lead to another tragic spill. His bill will likely also RAISE gas prices in his state. (The Chairman has also drawn criticism in his district for pushing anti-Clean Air Act legislation. In a district poll, his own voters say it’s a bad idea.)
Read the entire article and the testimony at the link below.
Recently members of the Cold Lake First Nation (CLFN) set-up a cultural camp to prevent the construction of an RV park on their traditional territory. The area slated for construction holds tremendous cultural and historical significance for the CLFN. It is locally known as Berry Point and the Denesuline have lived, hunted, fished and gathered food and medicine since time immemorial. The area also contains gravesites, which are of utmost cultural importance to CLFN members.
Although a small campground has existed since the 1950’s, in the past few years the Province of Alberta has commenced operations to expand the existing campground into a larger and more extensively developed campground suitable for large recreational vehicles (RVs). This would include extensive surveying of the area, further removal of natural resources such as trees, plants and wildlife, the creation of a modern road into the area, large gravel pads and paths throughout the park as well as any other number of disturbances which may arise from the expansion. The Province will also impose barriers upon the Denesuline. For instance, fire bans will interfere with smoke houses; gates and fences will physically restrict Denusline access; and payment of fees may be required. Some consultation with the local people was done, but discussions were cut off before any real progress was made and development seems to be continuing without regard to the needs of the Denesuline people.
Members of the Cold Lake First Nation are requesting your support for their concerns!
Please take a moment to send an email and make a phone call to the Minister of Tourism, Parks and Recreation. Let them know that you respect Cold Lake First Nations right to full consultation for any development project on their territory especially one as culturally significant as this one.
CONTACT the ALBERTA GOVERNMENT!
Phone: (780) 427-2251
MInister of Aboriginal Affairs
Len Webber... Read more »
ACTION ALERT! The Lower Athabasca Region cannot be a sacrifice zone for further tar sands destruction!
Tell the Alberta government the Athabasca Region deserves better!
Just before the Federal Election, the Alberta government released a draft of the Lower Athabasca Land Use Plan (LARP).
The LARP fails to address local social and environmental needs, and is based on a projection of continued tar sands extraction and a six-fold increase in production. This would decimate this fragile region and the people and species living in it. As usual, the Alberta government is prioritizing the interests of big industry over the voices of local residents and the needs of the environment. At the very least we need an independent review of this land-use plan!
Opportunity for public input will continue until June 6th - Please take a moment to take one of the actions listed below and make your concerns heard!
Some key problems with the LARP (feel free to print off and use at the public meetings!):
· The Alberta Government is only proposing the protection of 16% of the entire Lower Athabasca region. Over 85% new protected areas are located in areas with no oil and gas, tar sands or commercial forestry potential. These areas are mostly in the Canadian Shield –rocky land in the extreme north. While it’s good these areas are being protected, areas that lie on top of bitumen deposits are simply sacrificed.
· Environmentally Significant Areas (ESA’s) are largely not protected. It is apparent that this information was not used in identifying sites to protect. Sites like McClelland Lake Fen and the Athabasca River Valley receive no protection. The vast majority of caribou habitat in the lower Athabasca is not protected, and no complete range is protected, essentially undermining the future of the species in the region.
· LARP will allow development of existing oil and gas dispositions in all new protected areas. Some also allow forestry. It will also put parks right next door to tar sands and proposed uranium mining operations.
· The amount protected is less then half the amount recommended by the industry-stacked Regional Advisory Council (RAC), and much less the standards demanded by First Nations.
o LARP offers no protection for the Athabasca River during low flow periods, providing no thresholds to ensure a high quantity of water for the river. The study “As Long As The River’s Flow,” released in November 2010 found that Treaty 8 Rights are significantly undermined as approximately 80% of Dene and Cree territory in the Athabasca River watershed is un-accessible due to record low water levels resulting from increasing extraction of freshwater – something that is happening today with current water withdrawls. The River’s Flow study recommends an “Aboriginal Baseline Flow (ABF) and an Aboriginal Extreme Flow (AXF)” to reflect protective and mitigation measures in the Athabasca River and adjacent streams where ACFN and MCFNcan maintain their Treaty rights and fully access their territory.
o The LARP does not identify pre-development baselines or ecological thresholds for water quantity and quality. A recent study by Dr. David Schindler and Dr. Erin Kelly have found a numerous cases of deformed fish and elevated levels of heavy metals and carcinogens, suggesting limits to pollution are needed to ensure serious environmental and human health harm is prevented.
o Despite the fact that relatively little is known about the regional groundwater supplies and quality, the LARPdoes not make it a strategic priority to determine how much groundwater can be safely withdrawn or contaminated by industry without harming regional supplies of groundwater or surface waters.
o LARP does not propose clear solutions or intentions to improve upon the monitoring of the air quality exceedances (limits) on pollutants from the tar sands industry.
o According to data gathered from 14 air-monitoring stations throughout the Athabasca River watershed, the Wood Buffalo Environment Association (WBEA) has noted a rapid increase of air pollutant exceedances from 47 in 2004 to 1,556 in 2009. These pollutants include particulate matter, nitrogen and sulphur dioxides, including hydrogen sulphide and volatile organic compounds (“VOC’s”), including benzene, one of the many carcinogens linked to leukemia and blood cancer.
Violations of Indigenous Rights:
o At a community meeting held with the Government of Alberta in Fort Chipewyan on January 18th, 2011, the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation membership unanimously agreed that the consultation on the LARP process did not represent them nor respect their voices. Leslie Cardinal, another ACFN member, states:
“The government of Canada formally endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in a manner that is consistent with Canada’s Constitution and laws. The UN Declaration is clear that Indigenous people have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinctive spiritual relationship with their traditionally owned or otherwise occupied and used lands, territories, waters and other resources and to uphold their responsibilities to future generations. The LARP is not consistent with the international or Canadian laws.”
o Both the Mikisew Cree and the ACFN are left wondering how they will sustain their traditional livelihood and protect their cultural existence. According to Chief Allan Adam of the ACFN, the LARP represents “…an economic assimilation of our people. How can we maintain our culture, protect our livelihood and continue practicing our treaty rights under these conditions. LARP is an infringement of our Rights and the government has a duty and obligation to ensure that we have the ability to practice and maintain those Rights now and into the future.”
FYI**The Pembina institute also released a report titled: Solving the puzzle: environmental responsibility in oilsands development that outlines 19 specific solutions available to help the Alberta government adequately address the environmental impacts of oilsands operations.They hope this report informs the Lower Athabasca Integrated Regional Plan (LAIRP) consultations that are underway. A checklist of the Pembina Institute's key recommendations and the full report are available online **
WE NEED YOUR VOICES TO LET THE GOVERNMENT KNOW THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE!
**Please take a moment for one or all of the following actions!**
SIGN THIS PETITION! Members of the Mikisew Cree, the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations and Metis communities, including other impacted First Nations/Metis and settler community residents in the Lower Athabasca Region, are calling on local residents and Allies from around the world to add their name to their petition to ensure protectiions for the Athabasca Region!Sign the Petition Here!
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