DeSmog Investigations | Cry Wolf: An Unethical Oil Story

Fri, 2012-10-26 05:00Carol Linnitt
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No Herd Left Behind: Federal Caribou Recovery Strategy On "Collision Course with Industry," Leads to Caribou "Zoos"

This post is a part of DeSmog's investigative series: Cry Wolf.

Five years overdue in a legal sense and ten years after caribou were officially listed as 'threatened' according to the Species at Risk Act, the Canadian government has finally released its controversial Recovery Strategy for the Woodland Caribou. The report, originally released in draft form in August 2011, ignited severe public criticism for emphasizing 'predator control' options like a provincial-wide wolf cull in order to artificially support flagging caribou populations in Alberta. 

The wolf cull garnered wide-spread condemnation from the scientific community, environmental organizations and First Nations who said the province's wolves were not the cause of caribou declines. Instead, Alberta's reckless industrial development in caribou habitat was to be blamed for the near-decimation of one of Canada's most iconic species. The caribou famously adorns the Canadian quarter.
 
The new and improved federal recovery strategy seems poised to remedy that, however, with dramatic improvements made to habitat protection and restoration legislation. Under the current strategy, the oil and gas industry, and the government of Alberta must work together to ensure a minimum of 65 per cent of caribou habitat is left undisturbed for the species to survive.

At least 65 per cent of caribou habitat must be left undisturbed for caribou herds to have a 60 per cent chance of being self-sustaining. Government and industry must make immediate arrangements to remediate caribou ranges that currently do not meet that 65 per cent benchmark within the next five years.
 
But the recovery strategy does not outline how Alberta must accomplish that task, leaving the 'immediate' ground work necessary for such accomplishments undefined. And given the rate at which the tar sands are currently experiencing expansion, Simon Dyer of the Pembina Institute described the strategy as “on a collision course with industry.” 
Sat, 2012-09-29 15:15Carol Linnitt
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Death in the Woods: Canadian Federal Government Delays Release of Caribou Recovery Strategy - Again

This post is a part of DeSmog's investigative series: Cry Wolf.

Yesterday, the Canadian government told the nation's federal court that it will not release its long-awaited Woodland Caribou Recovery Strategy. The Recovery Strategy, already 5 years overdue, represents conservationists' strongest measure of defense for dwindling caribou populations in Alberta that suffer increasing habitat loss from industrial development and intensive tar sands expansion.
 
The outlook for caribou in Alberta is grim, especially as they find themselves in a stand off against industrial giants backed by a federal government in favor of increasing tar sands and other industrial activity. Habitat disruption is a crucial issue for caribou who need large buffered areas of old growth forest to survive. The majority of Alberta's 12 caribou herds currently struggle with low calf survival - an issue directly related to disturbed habitat.
 
The Canadian and Albertan governments have historically hesitated to take meaningful measures to protect Alberta's caribou herds because such measures would not only advertise the deleterious effects of tar sands development on local wildlife and their habitat, but would require setting aside protected areas made unavailable for oil and gas development.
Tue, 2012-06-26 05:00Carol Linnitt
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Maps Show Tar Sands Sprawl in Caribou Habitat: Could Resolve Problem with 1% of Industry Profits, says Scientist

This post is part of DeSmog's investigative series Cry Wolf.

Alberta’s threatened caribou herds will stand a significantly better chance of surviving the province’s development of the Tar Sands, according to a group of scientists, if the oil and gas industry is willing to spare 1 percent of its potential development profits to make it happen.

According to a recent study from the University of Alberta’s Richard Schneider, 50 percent of the caribou habitat threatened by Tar Sands development could be easily preserved if only the industry and government would be more strategic in their land use planning. But ‘strategy’ has had little to do with the way the Tar Sands region has been managed, according to Schneider, who suggests that caribou have become an unintended victim of the government’s thoughtless industrial leasing program.
 
The effort to recover caribou largely relies on securing critical habitat for the species. But habitat has proven difficult to conserve in an area like Fort McMurray where the government has leased the majority of the land to individual companies without any longterm land use strategy. 
 
To understand why caribou recovery is so difficult and why industry is so resistant to habitat protection (see our extensive coverage of this problem here), you have to understand the way oil and gas leases are awarded in Alberta, Schneider told DeSmogBlog. 
 
Tue, 2012-05-01 06:30Carol Linnitt
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Comparing Territories: Tar Sands Blanket Caribou Habitat

As the controversy surrounding Canada’s proposed wolf cull in Alberta grows, the provincial government is attempting to limit criticism directed at the country’s polluting Tar Sands – the prime driver behind the region’s rapid decline in caribou populations.  Alberta’s Ministry of Sustainable Resource Development (SRD) is the government body responsible for, not surprisingly, sustainable management of the province’s natural resources, but interestingly SRD lumps disparate things - like caribou and bitumen - together.  

As public concern increases over the SRD’s mismanagement of Alberta’s caribou herds (10 of the 13 monitored herds are experiencing decline), government spokespeople have had to work overtime to conceal the role the Tar Sands have to play in this enduring resource debacle.

DeSmogBlog has covered the extensive government-industry collusion behind Alberta’s botched caribou recovery strategies, demonstrating the extent to which the entire process is dominated by a single economic imperative – oil and gas development in, most notably, the Tar Sands. The government, however, has downplayed the role the Tar Sands have to play in the mass disappearance of Alberta’s caribou, choosing instead to place the blame squarely on the wolf.  

SRD spokesman Dave Ealey has been working the defensive for months, telling sources like the LA Times that wolf control in Alberta is unrelated to the Tar Sands. And while this argument may hold when addressing the wolf cull near Hinton, Alberta in the Little Smoky caribou range (where caribou are affected by conventional oil and gas production), it does not accurately portray the overall situation in Alberta. 
To get a feel for the overlap between caribou habitat and Tar Sands development, compare the maps (sourced from here and here) below:
Tue, 2012-04-17 11:32Carol Linnitt
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Unethicull Oil: What Alberta's Wolf Cull Plan Tells Us About Canada's Oil Addiction

DeSmog recently sent a team to the tar sands region of Alberta to investigate the proposed government plan to systematically kill off the province’s wild wolf population in a supposed effort to recover dwindling caribou herds. The proposed cull has been widely criticized internationally for placing the interests of industry above the interests of the public and the public’s stake in the responsible management of Alberta’s resources, environment and wildlife.

Along our journey we discovered the proposed wolf cull bears a striking resemblance to another ploy designed to protect the interests of the oil and gas industry: the “ethical oil” campaign. 

Here are 3 basic points of resemblance between the two:
 

1. The Bait-and-Switch: Both the wolf cull and the ethical oil campaign share a deceptive bait-and-switch strategy.

The Wolves:

For the wolf cull the bait comes in the form of the euphemistic catchall term, ‘wildlife management,’ used to discuss caribou recovery in Alberta. Sure, most people want caribou to survive and will favor a wildlife management plan designed to save the province’s caribou. Nobody likes wild species going extinct, right?

And the switch: in order for this management plan to work, we’ll have to sacrifice another of the province’s wild species, the wolf. And, as a hidden cost, we’ll be choosing to ignore more effective alternative remedies to caribou declines, like habitat protection, for instance.

Fri, 2012-04-13 05:45Carol Linnitt
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Oil and Gas Industry Refused to Protect Caribou Habitat, Pushed for Wolf Cull Instead

There’s something really wrong about the Canadian government’s recent proposal to spend millions of dollars to scapegoat Alberta's wild wolf population for the impact on caribou populations that is in fact due to industrial development wrecking wildlife habitat. (See our earlier coverage of this issue here.)

It’s not just the impractical costs of the proposal and it’s not just the needless killing of wolves. It’s the bold-faced dishonesty of this anti-science proposal in a time when industry and government are already facing a credibility crisis

The government, on both the provincial and federal level, is using numerous talking points to demonstrate the “regrettable but necessary” character of the proposed wolf cull that will claim thousands of Alberta’s wolves in coming years.

These oil-friendly politicians falsely claim that the wolf is responsible for declining caribou populations; they falsely claim that the wolf cull is designed to recover caribou; and they falsely claim that the wolf cull is temporary. 

  

But these strategic talking points are not coming from the province’s scientists, biologists or conservation specialists. These real experts are describing the government’s storyline as a bunch of public relations hogwash.

The truth is that caribou populations are plummeting due to rapid industrialization of their habitat, chiefly the timber, oil and gas industries profiting off the Alberta Tar Sands boom. 

Wed, 2012-04-11 04:50Carol Linnitt
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Cry Wolf: An Unethical Oil Story

Over the last several years, Alberta has killed more than 500 wolves using aerial sharpshooters and poisoned bait in order to conceal the impact of rapid industrial development on Canada’s iconic woodland caribou. 

Independent scientists say that declining caribou health stems chiefly from habitat destruction caused by the encroachment of the tar sands and timber industries. But in a perverse attempt to cover industry’s tracks, the Alberta government is ignoring the science and shifting the blame to a hapless scapegoat: the wolf. 

As DeSmogBlog reported earlier this year, the Alberta Caribou Committee, tasked with the recovery of the province’s dwindling caribou populations, is dominated by timber, oil and gas industry interests. Participating scientists have been silenced – their reports rewritten and their recommendations overlooked.
 
The prospect of the expansion of this unscientific wolf cull, projected to claim the lives of roughly 6,000 wolves over the next five years, has outraged conservationists and wildlife experts. While the wolves dodge bullets and poison, this scandal is flying largely under the public radar. 
 
A team of DeSmogBlog researchers traveled to the Tar Sands region to investigate the dirty oil politics behind this fool’s errand. Here is our first report: Cry Wolf: An Unethical Oil Story.

 

Tue, 2012-02-14 01:36Carol Linnitt
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Unethical Oil: Why Is Canada Killing Wolves and Muzzling Scientists To Protect Tar Sands Interests?

In the latest and perhaps most astonishing display of the tar sands industry’s attacks on science and our democracy, the government of Alberta has made plans to initiate a large-scale wolf slaughter to provide cover for the destruction wrought by the industrialization of the boreal forest ecosystem.

In the coming years, an anticipated 6,000 wolves will be gunned down from helicopters above, or killed by poison strychnine bait planted deep in the forest. Biologists and other experts say the cull is misguided, and that their studies have been ignored or suppressed. Worse, they warn that although the government is framing the wolf cull as a temporary measure, it has no foreseeable end.

The Alberta government has already initiated the wolf cull in regions of Alberta heavily affected by industrial development. In the Little Smoky region, an area heavily affected by the forestry, oil and gas industries and just a few hundred kilometeres away from the tar sands region, a broad wolf cull has already begun, claiming the lives of more than 500 wolves.

Recently the Alberta government proposed a plan to open this brutal form of 'wildlife management' to other regions, suggesting an extensive and costly cull in place of more responsible industrial development.

This is clear evidence of the fact that Alberta’s tar sands oil is unquestionably conflict oil, despite the propaganda spouted by the “ethical oil” deception campaign. Aside from its disruptive affects on wildlife, tar sands oil is dirty, carbon intensive and energy inefficient from cradle to grave.

And that’s without mentioning the role the tar sands boom has played in Canada’s slide from climate leader to key villain on the international stage. Beyond its environmental consequences, tar sands extraction has negatively affected local tourism and recreation-based economies, impacted public health and torn at the rich fabric of cultural diversity and pride among Albertans and all Canadians. 

Behind the Harper administration’s unbounded drive to drown Canada’s reputation in tar sands oil pollution lies the political corruption characteristic of the classic petro-state. Free speech is being oppressed, while respected members of the scientific community claim they are being muzzled, ignored and intimidated.

  

Conservation and environmental groups are being falsely attacked as ‘radical ideologues' and 'saboteurs'. Neighbors are pitted against each other while important decisions about the future prosperity of all Canadians are rigged to favor the interests of multinational oil companies and foreign investors.

  

The wolf cull is ostensibly designed to protect northern Alberta’s woodland caribou, a species that in recent years has become critically threatened. But scientists have ridiculed the plan, saying this sort of ‘wildlife management’ turns the wolf into an innocent scapegoat, while the real culprit – the province’s aggressive timber, oil and gas development – is spared any real scrutiny or accountability.

  

According to this strategy, caribou and wolf alike fall prey to another kind of predator: multinational corporations.