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Ecology

What is Our Land For?

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By Jill Richardson
OtherWords

Should we graze it, log it, drill it, and mine it? Or should we preserve it, study it, recreate in it, and revere it?

Mojave Trails National Monument

Mojave Trails National Monument

The Trump administration accidentally released documents showing that they intentionally underestimated the value of national monuments while emphasizing the land’s value for logging, ranching, and energy development. Oopsie.

National monuments are federally protected lands that differ from national parks in a few important ways. Whereas only Congress can create a national park, the president can create a national monument with the stroke of a pen. Many national parks were national monuments first.

The Grand Canyon is an example. You might think the Grand Canyon would be among the most obvious slam dunk places to make a national park in the United States. Alas, it wasn’t.

Private interests initially prevented Congress from creating Grand Canyon National Park. President Teddy Roosevelt protected the Grand Canyon as a national monument in 1908, and it took Congress 11 more years to make it a park.

The Antiquities Act gives the president unilateral power to create national monuments, and Trump generally loves executive power of all kinds. However, in this case, he likes using his power to shrink existing national monuments.

The Trump administration recently reduced the size of two national monuments in Utah — Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. Bears Ears in particular contains land sacred to Native Americans. The coal and oil industries were behind the decision to shrink the two monuments.

The newly — accidentally — released documents show that the Trump administration intentionally hid evidence that would bolster the case for leaving the monuments at their present size, such as tourism revenue and archaeological value.

At the heart of the matter, in addition to a story about a corrupt and inept government, is a conflict between Americans about the proper relationship between people and the land.

What is our land for? Should we graze it, log it, drill it, and mine it? Or should we preserve it, study it, recreate in it, and revere it?

Presumably, we need a happy medium of both.

Unless we find a way to run our economy without fossil fuels, or the entire nation goes vegan, or we stop using wood and paper, we can’t curtail all drilling, grazing, and logging. And obviously America isn’t going vegan, no matter how much certain animal rights groups think we should.

Whatever one’s opinion of extractive industries, they’re the basis for the economy and the way of life in much of the Old West. It’s a way of life that’s rugged and difficult and, increasingly, threatened by a trend of rural gentrification.

On the other hand, nature has intrinsic value. The beauty of our wild lands forms part of our identity as Americans and enhances quality of life. Intact ecosystems contribute to clean air and water, which we all need. And desecrating the sacred land of Native Americans is morally repugnant.

Additionally, tourism to national monuments pumps dollars into the economy and creates jobs.

Both land uses provide jobs and other benefits. Each is valued by a different group of people.

The Trump administration doesn’t appear interested in any sort of reasoned discussion that recognizes the merit of each side. This only serves to anger and entrench each side in the conflict instead of working toward compromise.

Perhaps someday we can find a solution that provides economic prosperity in America’s rural areas but doesn’t destroy the land in the process. Unfortunately, it won’t be while Trump’s in office.

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

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Ecology

Today’s letters: ‘Visionary’ plans don’t always work in Ottawa

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The opinion piece written by Tobi Nussbaum, CEO of the NCC, declares that a “bold, visionary transit plan” would showcase the capital.

As a long-term resident of Ottawa, I’ve had it with visionary plans. In the 1950s, the streetcars serving Ottawa so well were sent to the scrapyards. In the early ’60s, Queensway construction bulldozed established neighbourhoods and ripped the city apart. Later in the decade, the downtown railway station, which could have formed the hub of a commuter network, was relocated to the suburbs. These actions, in the name of “progress,” were undertaken with the “vision” to make Ottawa a car-reliant city.

Now we have an LRT, built just in time for most people to realize that they do not have to go downtown as they can work from home.

Current thinking is pushing a new “link” between Ottawa and Gatineau, with yet more expensive and disruptive infrastructure projects being touted, including a tramway or another tunnel under the downtown core.

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Ecology

That was then: Biggest earthquake since 1653 rocked Ottawa in 1925

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A regular weekly look-back at some offbeat or interesting stories that have appeared in the Ottawa Citizen over its 175-year history. Today: The big one hits.

The Ottawa Senators were playing a Saturday night game against the Montreal Canadiens at the Auditorium, the score tied 0-0 halfway through the second period. Sens’ rookie Ed Gorman and the Habs’ Billy Boucher had just served penalties for a dustup when the building began to make “ominous creaking sounds.” A window crashed to the ground.

Nearby, at Lisgar Collegiate, all eyes were on teenager Roxie Carrier, in the role of Donna Cyrilla in the musical comedy El Bandido. She had the stage to herself and was singing “Sometime” when the building rocked, the spotlight went out, and someone in the audience yelled “Fire!”

At a home on Carey Avenue, one woman’s normally relaxed cat suddenly arched its back, rushed around the room two or three times, spitting angrily, and climbed up the front-window curtains.

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Ecology

Ottawa delays small nuclear reactor plan as critics decry push for new reactors

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TORONTO — Canadians will have to wait a little while longer to see the federal government’s plan for the development of small nuclear reactors, seen by proponents as critical to the country’s fight against global warming.

Speaking at the opening of a two-day virtual international conference on Wednesday, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of natural resources said the plan will lay out key actions regarding the reactors. Its launch, Paul Lefebvre said, would come in the next few weeks.

“We’re still putting the finishing touches on it,” Lefebvre said. “The action plan is too important to be rushed.”

Small modular reactors — SMRs — are smaller in size and energy output than traditional nuclear power units, and more flexible in their deployment. While conventional reactors produce around 800 megawatts of power, SMRs can deliver up to 300 megawatts.

Proponents consider them ideal as both part of the regular electricity grid as well as for use in remote locations, including industrial sites and isolated northern communities. They could also play a role in the production of hydrogen and local heating.

“SMRs will allow us to take a bold step of meeting our goal of net-zero (emissions) by 2050 while creating good, middle class jobs and strengthening our competitive advantage,” said Lefebvre.

Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan had been scheduled to speak at the conference but did not due to a family emergency.

Industry critics were quick to pounce on the government’s expected SMR announcement. They called on Ottawa to halt its plans to fund the experimental technology.

While nuclear power generation produces no greenhouse gas emissions, a major problem facing the industry is its growing mound of radioactive waste. This week, the government embarked on a round of consultations about what do with the dangerous material.

Dozens of groups, including the NDP, Bloc Quebecois, Green Party and some Indigenous organizations, oppose the plan for developing small modular reactors. They want the government to fight climate change by investing more in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

“We have options that are cheaper and safer and will be available quicker,” Richard Cannings, the NDP natural resources critic, said in a statement.

Lefebvre, however, said the global market for SMRs is expected to be worth between $150 billion and $300 billion a year by 2040. As one of the world’s largest producers of uranium, Canada has to be part of the wave both for economic and environmental reasons, he said.

“There’s a growing demand for smaller, simpler and affordable nuclear technology energy,” Lefebvre said.

Joe McBrearty, head of Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, told the conference the company had signed a host agreement this week with Ottawa-based Global First Power for a demonstration SMR at its Chalk River campus in eastern Ontario. A demonstration reactor will allow for the assessment of the technology’s overall viability, he said.

“When talking about deploying a new technology like an SMR, building a demonstration unit is vital to the success of that process,” McBrearty said. “Most importantly, it allows the public to see the reactor, to kick the tires so to speak, and to have confidence in the safety of its operation.”

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