Caribou Extinction Is The Latest Environmental Threat To Oil Industry
Released on: July 27, 2010, 4:57 am
Author: The Co-operative Group
The possible extinction of the woodland caribou in Alberta,
Canada is the latest environmental disaster threatening to disrupt the
oil industry, according to a new report issued today (15/7/10) by The Co-operative.
Woodland caribou, once common in the boreal forest of Alberta, are now threatened
with extinction in the region by rapidly expanding developments extracting oil from
the tar sands.
Under Canadian law the government has a duty to protect the habitat of woodland
caribou; however, to date, next to no action has been taken. In response Cree
indigenous communities living in the area are now calling for an immediate
moratorium with immediate effect, on all new industrial developments in those areas
within caribou habitat.
This would have major consequences for oil industry expansion plans for the tar
sands, including BP’s recently announced Kirby tar sands project which would lie
within critical habitat.
As part of its Toxic Fuels Campaign as well as other environmental campaigns such as Climate Change Facts, The Co-operative is working with the Beaver Lake Cree Nation, a
small indigenous community in northeast Alberta whose traditional territories cover
30 per cent of all existing Albertan tar sands operations.
An expert study by Dr Stan Boutin of the University of Alberta and funded by The
Co-operative, looked at the two caribou herds within the Beaver Lake Cree’s
traditional territories, an area the size of Switzerland. It found that only 175 –
275 caribou remain, down 10 fold on historic numbers, and that these herds are
facing extinction by 2025 without immediate habitat protection.
Current tar sands production within Beaver Lake Cree traditional territories stands
at 546,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd), with plans to increase production to 1.75
million bpd over coming years. The Co-operative’s report finds that 99 per cent of
these expansion plans are within or near caribou critical habitat and are at risk
from protection measures.
Using evidence from the expert study, the Beaver Lake Cree and other First Nations
in the area are calling upon the Canadian Government to make an emergency order
under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). This order would need to instruct the
protection of remaining caribou habitat and introduce a moratorium, with immediate
effect, on all new developments within those areas. Under SARA the government was
required to implement a recovery plan that protected critical habitat for this
threatened species by 2007, but to date next to no action has been taken.
Paul Monaghan, Head of Social Goals and Sustainability at The Co-operative, said: “Should the Canadian Government carry out its legal obligations then the oil
industry’s massive expansion plans for the tar sands would be severely curtailed.
This timely report shows how perilous the Caribou‘s continued existence is in
Alberta, and is a real slap in the face to those that say the tar sands can be
extracted in an environmentally friendly way.
“These creatures are tough, at times surviving on small patches of lichen which they
can smell through inches and inches of snow. However, the dissection of the boreal
forest by tar sands developments completely undermines their ancient strategy of
spatial separation, whereby they steer well away from predators such as wolves. This
report provides the hard data to back up what First Nations people have been saying
for years: the caribou are dying.“
Chief Al Lameman of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation, said: “It is difficult for me to
express the anger I feel at the loss of this noble animal in our territory. And the
situation is getting worse and worse all the time. Our traditional land is
dwindling. We need habitat for our animals like our caribou to ensure there is a
healthy surplus. These animals sustain us and as they die, our future becomes
uncertain. We must act now to take care of Mother Earth.”
“We are calling on government to immediately call a halt to the destruction of our
lands, the land that sustains our caribou and our people. We want a moratorium on
all development within and adjacent to woodland caribou ranges that overlap with
Beaver Lake Cree Nation’s traditional territory.”
The full report ‘Save the caribou – stop the tar sands’ and new ‘Save the caribou’
viral game can be accessed via: www.goodwithmoney.co.uk/beaverlakecree
Notes to editors:
1. Woodland caribou normally exist at low densities in very large range areas, they
are found in undisturbed old growth boreal forest and forested peatlands; they avoid
young forest and shrub rich habitats that support higher densities of moose and deer
and in turn wolves. The ranges of the two woodland caribou herds cover 35% of the
Beaver Lake Cree’s 38,972 km2 of traditional territories. The report finds that tar
sands related disturbance, such as well pad clearings, clear cut seismic exploration
lines and pipelines have had a significant impact upon these ranges, degrading the
habitat value of 66% of the East Side Athabasca River herd range and 51% of the Cold
Lake herd range. The two herds have respectively declined by 71% since 1996 and 74%
2. Protection of caribou habitat within the Beaver Lake Cree’s traditional
territories would impact upon the following major new tar sands developments and
expansion plans: BP and Devon’s joint Kirby project (plans to produce around 105,000
bpd); Statoil’s Kai Kos Dehseh project (plans to produce 240,000 bpd); Cenovus’
Christina Lake, Narrows Lake and Foster Creek projects (plan to expand production
from 131,000 bpd to 549,000 bpd); and MEG Energy’s Christina Lake project (plan to
expand production from 25,000 bpd to 210,000 bpd).
3. To coincide with the new report, The Co-operative has launched a new online viral
game called ‘Save the caribou’. The aim of the game is to get the caribou through
the tar sands developments to the safety of undisturbed forest, avoiding the lakes
of toxic waste, diggers, pipelines, processing plants and traffic in the process.
4. Tar sands are a complex mixture of bitumen, sand, water and clay. The production
of dirty oil from tar sands is a polluting and energy intensive process, emitting on
average three times more greenhouse gases (GHGs) than conventional oil production.
Canada has 175 billion barrels of proven oil reserves in tar sands deposits; this is
second only to Saudi Arabia’s conventional oil reserves. Average tar sands
production in Alberta, Canada, currently stands at 1.3 million barrels of oil per
day. The Canadian Government has granted licenses to increase production to 7.0
million barrels oil per day. Every major oil company has existing or planned
operations in Canada’s tar sands, including Shell, BP, Exxon Mobil, Total,
Conoco-Phillips and Chevron. In July 2008, the Co-operative and WWF-UK published a
report ‘Unconventional oil: scraping the bottom of the barrel’, which found that
exploiting the tar sands would increase atmospheric CO2 by up to 12 parts per
million, enough alone to take us to the brink of runaway climate change.
5. The Co-operative has been supporting the Beaver Lake Cree as part of its Toxic
Fuels campaign since February 2009. In response to their traditional territories
being destroyed by tar sands developments, in violation of their constitutionally
protected treaty rights, the Beaver Lake Cree have commenced a legal challenge to
protect their environment and halt new developments. The Co-operative and its
members and customers have donated more than £200,000 to support the legal challenge
to date. For more information see: www.goodwithmoney.co.uk/beaverlakecree
Contact Details: Dave Smith
The Co-operative Group
0161 827 5614
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