Diana McQueen and Slow Death of Lake Urmia

This week on the show, we investigate land in Alberta and water overseas. We speak to Alberta Environment Minister Diana McQueen about the impacts of the new Lower Athabasca Regional Plan on the area’s land and people. Then we speak to members of Azerbaijani communities in Edmonton and Vancouver to find out why they’re moved by the slow death of Iran’s Lake Urmia. As always, we wrap our stories around the week’s top environmental news and events.

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Alberta Environment Minister Diana McQueen speaks from a podium

Alberta’s Environment Minister spoke to Terra Informa about the Lower Athabasca Regional Plan’s impacts on First Nations, wetlands, and oil sands projects. Photo Credit: PremierofAlberta

Alberta Environment Minister Diana McQueen on Lower Athabasca land use plan

The Lower Athabasca region is ground zero for Alberta’s oil sands. Huge tracts of land have been consumed by mining pits and tailings ponds. For years, industry, First Nations, and environmental groups have been asking the province to clear the air on its long-term plans for how the land there should be used, so when the Alberta government released its land use plan for the Lower Athabasca in August, everyone from Syncrude to wetlands ecologists were watching. Terra Informa’s Chris Chang-Yen Phillips asked Alberta Environment Minister Diana McQueen will mean for the area’s land and people. We reached her by phone in Drayton Valley.

More on this story: Vue Weekly, The Tyee, The Globe and Mail, Government of Alberta

Featured Music: Lay Me Down by Zed Hume

The Slow Death of Lake Urmia

Lake Urmia is one of the largest salt lakes in the world. Located in Iran, between the provinces of East Azerbaijan and West Azerbaijan, it is a breeding ground for flamingos and one of the largest habitats of a salt-water shrimp. Lake Urmia is a UNESCO Biosphere reserve, and a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. It plays a crucial role in the economic, ecological and social health of the region. Currently, the lake is in danger of drying up. More than just an environmental problem, the deterioration of the lake could impact the 13 million inhabitants of the region. From our archives, Terra Informa correspondent Kathryn Lennon spoke to some members of Azerbaijani communities in Edmonton and Vancouver to hear their concerns.

More on this story: Campaign to Save Lake UrmiaLake Urmia appeal by the Association for Defence of Azerbaijani Political Prisoners in Iran (ADAPP)


New Life in Alberta’s Richardson Forest

Life has returned to the site of the Richardson wildfire that burned north of Fort McMurray in May of 2011. Now, just one year after the fire, jack pines can be found springing up between the black and burned remains of the backcountry’s boreal forest.

More on this story: Edmonton Journal, Fort McMurray Today, Global Edmonton

Tahltans Set Up Roadblock To Oppose Red Chris Mine

Members of the Tahltan Nation are concerned about the impacts that the Red Chris mine would have to their traditional territories, located in northern British Columbia, south of Dease Lake. They have set up a road block on Highway 37 and will be handing out information to passers-by in order to educate people about the critical issues the Tahltan Nation is facing.

More on this story: Intercontinental Cry, Indigenous Peoples Issues and Resources

Japanese Beetle found in Newfoundland

The Japanese beetle, a lawn and garden pest, has been discovered in St. John’s and Little Rapids Newfoundland. The insect, which can be identified by its metallic green color, wreaks havoc on home gardens by feeding on fruits, foliage, and even grass roots in its larval state.

More on this story: The Telegram, CBC Newfoundland, Landscape Newfoundland and Labrador

Yanomami community feared dead

An entire community of Yanomami Indigenous people in the Venezuelan state Amazonas is feared dead, a result of an alleged massacre by gold miners. Only 3 survivors have been accounted for, of a community of 80 people.

More on this story: Intercontinental Cry, Associated Foreign Press

Yukon Peel Watershed Staking Ban Extended

The ban on mineral staking in the Yukon’s Peel River watershed has been extended until May of 2013. The territory’s environment minister, Currie Dixon, told the Whitehorse Daily Star that the government would like to see a land use plan in place before the extension expires.

More on this story: Whitehorse Daily Star, CBC News North, Peel Watershed Planning Commission

Athabasca Chipewyan Preparing for Jackpine Mine Hearings

The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation is preparing for the Jackpine Mine Expansion Environmental Hearings, which will begin October 29th in Fort MacMurray, Alberta. The First Nation is opposing the project and is concerned about how the Jackpine Mine will impact and infringe their rights.

More on this story: First Nations Perspective (Press Release)

New Enbridge Pipeline Approved in Alberta

The Energy Resources Conservation Board has approved an application by Enbridge to construct and operate two pump stations and a pipeline that would transport bitumen from Fort MacMurray to Sherwood Park, Alberta. The proposed pipeline route is 385 km long and is proposed to carry 400 000 barrels per day of undiluted bitumen.

More on this story: Edmonton Journal, ERCB

BC Unitarian Church Dumps Enbridge Stocks

A Unitarian church in Vancouver has divested its Enbridge stocks and is urging its 400 members to do the same. The chair of the Unitarian Church of Vancouver’s Environmental Committee says the church has opposed fossil fuel use since 1993 due to the risk of increasing global warming.

More on this story: Metro, The Vancouver Courier

What’s Happening

First off, on Friday September 21, an event called “She Speaks: Indigenous Women Speak Out Against the Tar Sands” will take place at the Aboriginal Friendship Center at 1607 East Hastings St (corner Commercial) in Vancouver, Unceded Coast Salish Territories. Doors will open at 5:30pm and the evening will feature dinner and a line up of speakers including: Ta’Kaiya Blaney, a Sliammon Nation youth, Eriel Tchekwie Deranger, the Communications Coordinator for Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Suzanne Dhaliwal is the co-founder of the UK Tar Sands Network, and Melina Laboucan-Massimo, who is Lubicon Cree from Northern Alberta and working with Greenpeace as a tar sands climate & energy campaigner. The event is free and childcare will be provided.

More on this story: Indigenous Environmental Network

Coming up next month, PowerShift 2012 will take place in Ottawa, on Algonquin territories.

Climate change is the greatest challenge of our time. PowerShift 2012 is a youth-led conference seeking to tackle the root causes of climate change head on, end fossil fuel subsidies in Canada, and empower youth to build just and sustainable communities from the ground up. PowerShift will be held from October 26-29 in Ottawa. Join organizations like the Ecology Action Centre,, CLASSE, and the Canadian Federation of Student in the movement for climate justice.

Anyone interested in attending can go online and register now!

More on this story: PowerShift

The 5th Annual Vancouver Island Traditional Food Conference will be held Sept. 28th and 29th in Port Alberni on Nuu-chah-nulth Territory. The conference is hosted by Tseshaht First Nation, Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities Indigenous Foods Network and the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council. The conference is open to all and will feature a look at the sustainability of traditional foods.

More on this story: Ha-Shilth-Sa

Sea Shepherd & Tar Sands Pollution

A new documentary chronicling the life of Sea Shepherd’s founder has just been released, titled Eco-Pirate: The Story of Paul Watson. So for anyone who’s thinking about seeing the film, we thought we’d give you a little background.

The federal government has just released its proposed environmental monitoring plan for the tar sands. The plan may have been developed in less than a year, but for critics of the industry it has been a long time coming. For years, scientists and environmental groups had heaped criticism on the monitoring systems tasked with overseeing the tar sands industry. Last fall the release of two reports by renowned ecologist Dr. David Schindler marked a tipping point. They clearly linked pollution of the Athabasca watershed to tar sands extraction — a claim both industry and the Alberta government had long denied.

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Image from the film Eco Pirate: The Story of Paul Watson

Water World

Most people take safe drinking water for granted; but just how clean is our municipal water? Modern water purification does a great job of removing viruses and bacteria, but now concerns are starting to surface about a different type of contamination. Increasingly, trace amounts of pharmaceuticals are being found in water. Our correspondent Steve Andersen talked to water expert Dr. Greg Goss to learn more about the risks and what we can do to reduce them.

One of the most prominent environmental issues in Canada is development of the oil sands. Oil sands extraction requires large quantities of water which has generated much controversy, and plenty of films and documentaries also. A new addition on this topic is “White Water, Black Gold.” Terra Informa correspondent Dana Harper reviewed this latest effort to shed some light on the debate of water versus oil.

The Federal Government released its budget last week, but the document was soon put to one side after opposition parties forced a vote of no confidence in the parliament. So Canada heads to the polls but in the meantime, an Ottawa think tank has released what they call Canada’s Alternative Federal Budget. It contains their ideas of how society and the environment can be improved, and is divided into some key themes. This week’s show is dedicated to water issues, so we had a close look at the Water Chapter which was authored by the Council of Canadians. To help us understand the ideas the alternative budget contains, Terra Informa correspondent David Kaczan spoke to the Council of Canadian’s National Water Campaigner, Emma Lui.

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Still from the documentary “White Water, Black Gold”