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Ecology

One of Our Last Links to the Wild World is in Danger

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By Dan Ritzman
OtherWords

Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of the world’s last intact ecosystems, but dangerous oil exploration could soon spoil it.

arctic-methane-sea-ice-524bI can still remember the first time I saw tracks left behind by seismic testing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

It was the mid-1990s and I had been guiding a group of people on a float trip across the coastal plain of the refuge towards the Arctic Ocean. After seven days of traveling through the wildest country I’d ever seen, I was out on a late evening walk and I saw what were clearly tire tracks crossing the tundra.

I couldn’t believe it. We were hundreds of miles from the nearest road or motorized vehicle, but there they were.

For those who’ve never been to the Arctic Refuge, it can be hard to imagine a place so far removed from the busy streets and office buildings most of us encounter every day.

One of the world’s last intact ecosystems, the Arctic Refuge is home to some of the most abundant and diverse wildlife anywhere in the world, including more than 200 wildlife species. Its coastal plain is where the porcupine caribou herd travel to birth their young and is the most important denning site for polar bears in the United States.

The 19 million acre refuge is one of the few places in the United States that has never seen the impact of Western society. There are no roads, buildings, or permanent structures of any kind there. For decades, this special place has been protected from industrial activity.

And yet, to this day, tracks left from seismic exploration that took place in the 1980s are still visible. Seeing this damage was jarring, to say the least — and it could soon get much worse.

After Congressional Republicans passed legislation opening up the refuge for oil and gas drilling last year, the Trump administration has rushed to sell off the coastal plain to the industry on an accelerated schedule.

The good news is that this push has been met with near-universal resistance. Hundreds of people turned out to protest the Department of the Interior’s hearings on the plan, and hundreds of thousands more submitted public comments opposing drilling.

This spring, a group of some of the world’s most significant investors urged oil and gas companies and major banks not to initiate any oil and gas development in the Arctic Refuge. And legislation has already been introduced in Congress to walk back this dangerous plan.

Actual oil development in the Arctic Refuge could be years away, if it happens at all. But in the meantime, the administration is already getting ready to approve a permit for destructive seismic exploration, which could start as soon as December of this year.

Allowing this seismic testing to go forward would do severe and permanent damage to this sensitive wilderness before a single drill rig has ever been permitted.

Not only would it leave lasting scars on this treasured landscape, seismic activity would also threaten critical habitat for polar bears. The extensive noise, vibration, and disturbance could cause mother bears to flee their dens, leaving cubs to starve to death and this already threatened population to decline even further.

The Arctic Refuge is one of our last links to the unspoiled natural world and a source of hope for future generations — even for those who may never set foot there. I’ve been lucky to spend time in this one-of-a-kind place, and it’s given me a first-hand understanding of all that’s at stake in this dangerous push to open it up to the fossil fuel industry.

Time is running out to protect the Arctic. We must all speak out to ensure that this administration’s greed and recklessness don’t leave permanent scars in America’s refuge.

Dan Ritzman directs the Sierra Club’s Lands Water Wildlife Campaign. He’s been leading rafting trips through the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for 25 years. Distributed by OtherWords.org.

This article is licensed, by OtherWords, under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative 3.0 License.

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Ecology

Yukon and Northern BC First Nations tackle climate change using Indigenous knowledge and science

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YUKON, June 18, 2021 /CNW/ – The Government of Canada is working together in partnership with Indigenous and Northern communities in finding solutions to adapt to the impacts of climate change in the North.

Today, Minister of Northern Affairs, Daniel Vandal, along with Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages (Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency), Larry Bagnell, highlighted progress on three unique, Indigenous-led projects that are helping communities in Yukon and Northern British Columbia adapt to the challenges posed by climate change.

The Minister and Parliamentary Secretary met virtually with Carcross/Tagish First Nation (C/TFN) to learn about their community-led climate change monitoring program. C/TFN has partnered with Tsay Keh Dene Nation (TKDN) and Chu Cho Environmental of Prince George, British Columbia, to build a community-led monitoring project that examines environmental data and Indigenous knowledge to create a holistic picture of how the climate is changing across C/TFN and TKDN traditional territories. The project combines tracking of current and historical climate trends with knowledge shared by Elders while also providing opportunities for youth mentorship and climate change awareness.

The Taku River Tlingit First Nation (TRTFN) is also leading a unique project to assess the impacts of climate change within their traditional territory. Climate change is causing many of the culturally significant ice patches to melt, exposing organic artifacts to oxygen and leading to rapid deterioration. The TRTFN ice patch mapping project will involve performing archaeological assessments to prevent the degradation of artifacts. Research will be guided by traditional knowledge, Elders and oral histories, when available, and heavily involve community, Elders, youth and Knowledge Keepers.

The Pelly Crossing Selkirk Development Corporation is leading the Selkirk Wind Resource Assessment project through the installation of a Sonic Detection and Ranging (SODAR) system. The initiative includes a feasibility study leading up to the construction of a renewable energy facility, including wind, solar and battery energy storage. Expanding clean energy within the region will have direct benefits for communities, including reduced reliance on diesel, job creation and revenue generation for Selkirk First Nation. 

These projects are delivering important environmental, social and economic benefits that lead to healthier, more sustainable and resilient communities across Yukon and Northern British Columbia. They also build community clean energy capacity and help to avoid the impacts of climate change.

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Ecology

Atlantic Provinces Ready For Aquaculture Growth

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Aquaculture is an important economic driver for rural, coastal and Indigenous communities, and Atlantic Canada is well positioned to increase aquaculture production as global demand for sustainably sourced seafood grows.

That is why the ministers responsible for aquaculture in the Atlantic provinces have agreed to the ongoing development and management of their industries based on common principles. A new memorandum of understanding has been signed by the four ministers, which extends the previous agreement signed in 2008.

“In a time when food security is especially important, it is good to see our aquaculture industry has grown steadily and is poised for continued growth in 2021 based on environmentally responsible, science-based policies and practices,” said Keith Colwell, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture for Nova Scotia. “Our Atlantic partnership continues to help the industry grow sustainably.”

Cooperation between the provinces and the aquaculture industry has led to improvements in pest management, environmentally sustainable aquaculture methods, aquatic animal health and policies to support the shared use of marine and freshwater resources. It also aims to align regulation and policy between the provinces to make the regulatory requirements easier to understand by industry and the public.

Each province has a comprehensive and robust legislative and regulatory framework to ensure environmental sustainability, economic prosperity and public accountability. The provinces update their legislation and regulations regularly. Nova Scotia revamped its regulatory framework in 2015; New Brunswick received Royal Assent for a new Aquaculture Act in 2019 and is working on the supporting regulations; Newfoundland and Labrador completely revised its aquaculture policy in 2019; and Prince Edward Island has recently drafted a new Aquaculture Act.

The ministers have agreed to continue to use science-based evidence for management decisions, thereby increasing public and investor confidence in the Atlantic Canadian aquaculture industry.

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Ecology

COMING SOON: A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy 2.0

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We all want the same thing: a clean and responsible energy future for our children and future generations while continuing to enjoy a high standard of living.

On December 11, 2020, the Prime Minister announced a new climate plan which he claimed will help achieve Canada’s economic and environmental goals.

The proposed plan by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) entitled “A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy” will have an initial investment of $15 billion of taxpayer’s money. It is built on 5 pillars of action:

  1) Making the Places Canadians Live and Gather More Affordable by Cutting Energy Waste

2) Making Clean, Affordable Transportation and Power Available in Every Community

3) Continuing to Ensure Pollution isn’t Free and Households Get More Money Back

4) Building Canada’s Clean Industrial Advantage

5) Embracing the Power of Nature to Support Healthier Families and More Resilient Communities  

In my paper, “A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy 2.0” I will objectively critique each pillar in the government’s new climate plan and provide alternative solutions to the same issues.

  This is an alternative plan that supports workers, protects lower income earners and creates economic growth while respecting the environment and focusing on the dignity of work.

  This plan abandons virtue-signaling projects and relies on Canadian ingenuity to build our economy and restore Canada’s role of responsible leadership in the world.

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