Wolves can whistle in tar sands oil boom
The deliberate destruction of over 500 Canadian wolves, to protect caribou endangered by the extraction of tar sands is just one more chapter in a story of ecological vandalism in the name of greed and stupidity.
Avaaz have launched an urgent petition asking the Government not to block the EU's Dirty Fuels Directive. The EU measure would stop imports of the world's dirtiest and most environmentally destructive oil. Heavy lobbying from the energy industry and the Canadian government have persuaded the UK and French Governments to kill off these measures.
The exploitation of the Alberta Tar Sands in Canada is causing wholesale destruction of Canada's ancient forests, to extract a dirty, dangerous kind of oil. It comes out of the ground at a high energy cost and has the potential to derail efforts to stabilise the planet's climate.
The fate of 100's of wolves may seem like a minor detail of a major catastrophe but their slaughter in a doomed attempt to save Caribou threatened by habitat destruction highlights the ecological horror of the tar sands project
The Alberta tar sands and the associated works are one of the most serious threats to efforts to stabilise carbon and control climate change. With a reserve of carbon as big as the entire Saudi oil fields, hugely destructive extraction techniques, a high carbon cost and a dirty product its been the target of extensive campaigns in the USA by both the Keystone XL pipeline protesters and the well oiled corporate media and lobbying machines of the Koch Industries and Exxon petro-chemical empires
Last week Yale 360 – an on-line magazine published by Yale University – highlighted a very different take on the damage caused by tar sands extraction. The destruction of Alberta's ancient boral forest has restricted and damaged the habitat of woodland Caribou. According to Ed Struzik, who's been writing on the Arctic for three decades,
“ 34,773 wells, 66,489 kilometres of seismic lines, 11,591 kilometres of pipelines, and 12,283 kilometres of roads had been built in caribou country in west central and northern Alberta”
These developments have fractured the Caribou habitat and as a result:
“three of the province’s 18 herds are at immediate risk of disappearing because of loss of habitat. Six are in decline, three are stable, and not enough is known about the remaining six to determine how well they are doing.”
The response of Alberta Sustainable Resources Department has been a campaign of extermination against the native grey wolf population - over the past five years, the government of Alberta has spent more than $1 million poisoning wolves with strychnine and shooting them from the air – killing over 500 wolves in one area alone.
Struzik goes on to explain that while wolf extermination gives short term respite to Caribou populations the primary problem is the fragmentation and loss of habitat He goes on to cite experts on wolves and wildlife conservation who are unanimous in saying that controlling wolf populations will not save the situation – restoring habitat will.
The Canadian Government claim not enough is known about the “spatial distribution” of Caribou to identify critical habitat but despite ignorance of key data the report that opened the door to wolf eradication programs said: “human-induced habitat alterations have upset the natural balance between boreal caribou and their predators,”
and acknowledged that Caribou populations could only be self sustaining if their habitat was preserved.
Meanwhile “Richard Schneider, executive director of the Alberta Center for Boreal Research; and University of Alberta natural resource economists Vic Adamowicz and Grant Hauer have estimated that it would be possible to preserve half of Alberta’s caribou habitat while giving up less than 1 percent of potential revenues from resource development.”
The fate of the timber wolves is a side issue in the context of the massive environmental threat posed by the tar sands developments but it's also a heartbreaking symbol of how little the corporate interests who stand to make trillions care. The wolf population, the essence of our wild world, are being exterminated to save a species who fate is already sealed by a reckless disregard for environmental good practice. It's probably expecting too much of businesses that are prepared to put the world's climate system on the line to care about a few hundred wolves, so these beautiful animals are just another heartbreaking piece of “collateral damage” in the quest for profit at any price.
Greenpeace have launched an e-mail campaign to lobby Nick Clegg over the UK's refusal to support the EU's Fuel Quality Directive.
Full article: Killing Wolves: A Product of Alberta’s Big Oil and Gas Boom. Ed Struzic Environment 360
Wolf images via wikipedi creative commons - from UK Wolf Conservation Trust