wetlands

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)

News

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, 350.org, 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

Terra Informa March 14, 2010

Terra Informa March 14, 2010 (Listen /Download)

This week on Terra Informa Dave Kaczan and Steve Smiley look into whether Canada is getting good value for its petroleum resources and what effect resourse dollars are having on our democracy. Matt Israelson has a review of Andrew Nikiforuk’s book “Tar Sands”. And Rebekah Rooney brings us another of her Science Shorts, this time looking at effects of urban habitat on amphibians.

Here is this week’s selection of environmental new stories, brought to us by Eric.

A proposed plan to preserve, protect and restore Alberta’s wetlands has been scrapped by the Alberta government, according to a lobby group representing oil and other resource companies. Conservationists are alarmed by a statement released by the Alberta Chamber of resources which says that it has convinced the government to reverse a plan to require oilsands and mining companies to fully restore the wetlands they mine. Alberta currently has no regulations for how companies use wetlands after they mine it. The proposed “no net loss” policy was supposed to go in effect last April. Environment Minister Rob Renner says he hasn’t made a decision yet on the subject. (article by John Cotter [CP])

The Alberta government is cutting royalty rates for conventional oil and gas. Premier Ed Stelmach announced on Thursday that rates for oil and gas will be cut as much as 20%. Oilsands projects are not included in the change. The move has had mixed reactions from the opposition. NDP Leader Brian Mason suggested that Stelmach is reacting to pressure from the oil and gas sector, but Wild Rose Alliance Leader Danielle Smith argued that Stelmach owed Albertans an apology for increasing the rates in the first place. The reduction in royalties will cost the government $828 million over the next three years. (Edmonton Journal article)

The judge preciding over Syncrude’s trial for the infamous duck incident has ordered that statements made by Syncrude be examined for legal admissibility before they are allowed as evidence. Calling a Voir Dire, Judge Ken Tjosvold decided that statements made by more than 20 employees during the weeks after the April 28th incident must be examined by the court. Syncrude has pleaded not guilty to charges under the Alberta Environmental Protection Act, and the Federal Migratory Birds Convention Act. It could face up to $800,000 in fines and its executives could spend up to six months in jail if the company is found guilty. (Edmonton Journal article)

Related to the trial, on Wednesday, Greenpeace activists presented Premier Ed Stelmach’s Spokesman with two blown up photos of ducks from the tailings pond incident. The photos have been entered as evidence at the trial against Syncrude. During a press conference on Monday, Stelmach said he had not seen the pictures. NDP Leader Brian Mason also tabled photos of the Ducks “mostly for the benefit of the premier” in the legislature. (Edmonton Sun article)

A study lead by the University of Calgary has concluded that Carbon Capture Technology is indeed possible. But in a strange twist of fate the only way it will be economically feasible is if the government imposes a large carbon tax. Managers of the study concluded that they could safely inject Carbon dioxide into rock formations on a large scale. But the cost of doing so means it would only happen if there was a significant price on carbon. Authors of the study listed prices ranging from $50-$100 per tonne. The current price on carbon is a $15 per tonne, which is not enough to warrant the expense of CCS, say the study’s authors. (Calgary Herald Article)

Youtube videos (above) launched by the satirical lobby group “No more grizzlies”, which depicts grizzly bears destroying cities with laser vision, among other things. The campaign was launched by the Alberta Wilderness Association as a way to spread the message that Alberta’s grizzlies are in trouble.The campaign was launched after sustainable resources minister Mel Knight suggested he was open to allowing a limited grizzly bear hunt in the future. No grizzly bear hunts will be permitted in 2010.

Energy and resources, especially oil, drive the Western Canadian Economy. We hear a lot about the environmental damage that results from this, but today we investigate the possible political and economic implications of such dependency. What does Canada have to show for its fossil fuel wealth compared to other oil rich countries? And is there a danger that oil wealth is distorting sectors of our economy, not to mention our democracy? To answer these questions, Terra Informa’s David Kaczan spoke to Dr. Gordon Laxer, director of the progressive think tank the Parkland Institute, based in Edmonton.  Gordon Laxer is a Political Economist and has written extensively on such topics for both an academic and broader audience.

Check out the Events featured on the show here.

Terra Informa March 14, 2010 (Listen /Download)

A proposed plan to preserve, protect and restore Alberta’s wetlands has been scrapped by the Alberta government, according to a lobby group representing oil and other resource companies. Conservationists are alarmed by a statement released by the Alberta Chamber of resources which says that it has convinced the government to reverse a plan to require oilsands and mining companies to fully restore the wetlands they mine. Alberta currently has no regulations for how companies use wetlands after they mine it. The proposed “no net loss” policy was supposed to go in effect last April. Environment Minister Rob Renner says he hasn’t made a decision yet on the subject. (article by John Cotter [CP])

The Alberta government is cutting royalty rates for conventional oil and gas. Premier Ed Stelmach announced on Thursday that rates for oil and gas will be cut as much as 20%. Oilsands projects are not included in the change. The move has had mixed reactions from the opposition. NDP Leader Brian Mason suggested that Stelmach is reacting to pressure from the oil and gas sector, but Wild Rose Alliance Leader Danielle Smith argued that Stelmach owed Albertans an apology for increasing the rates in the first place. The reduction in royalties will cost the government $828 million over the next three years. (Edmonton Journal article)

The judge preciding over Syncrude’s trial for the infamous duck incident has ordered that statements made by Syncrude be examined for legal admissibility before they are allowed as evidence. Calling a Voir Dire, Judge Ken Tjosvold decided that statements made by more than 20 employees during the weeks after the April 28th incident must be examined by the court. Syncrude has pleaded not guilty to charges under the Alberta Environmental Protection Act, and the Federal Migratory Birds Convention Act. It could face up to $800,000 in fines and its executives could spend up to six months in jail if the company is found guilty. (Edmonton Journal article)

Related to the trial, on Wednesday, Greenpeace activists presented Premier Ed Stelmach’s Spokesman with two blown up photos of ducks from the tailings pond incident. The photos have been entered as evidence at the trial against Syncrude. During a press conference on Monday, Stelmach said he had not seen the pictures. NDP Leader Brian Mason also tabled photos of the Ducks “mostly for the benefit of the premier” in the legislature. (Edmonton Sun article)

A study lead by the University of Calgary has concluded that Carbon Capture Technology is indeed possible. But in a strange twist of fate the only way it will be economically feasible is if the government imposes a large carbon tax. Managers of the study concluded that they could safely inject Carbon dioxide into rock formations on a large scale. But the cost of doing so means it would only happen if there was a significant price on carbon. Authors of the study listed prices ranging from $50-$100 per tonne. The current price on carbon is a $15 per tonne, which is not enough to warrant the expense of CCS, say the study’s authors. (Calgary Herald Article)

Youtube videos (above) launched by the satirical lobby group “No more grizzlies”, which depicts grizzly bears destroying cities with laser vision, among other things. The campaign was launched by the Alberta Wilderness Association as a way to spread the message that Alberta’s grizzlies are in trouble.The campaign was launched after sustainable resources minister Mel Knight suggested he was open to allowing a limited grizzly bear hunt in the future. No grizzly bear hunts will be permitted in 2010.