February 10, 2012

Tar Sands destroying caribou and wolf populations

Canada's caribou population are in steep decline.  That's due in part to the destruction of habitat through logging, expanding tar sands production, and other industrial development in the province of Alberta.

But rather than focus on habitat conservation efforts to protect threatened caribou populations in the province, Canadian officials are poisoning and shooting wolves that prey on caribou.

The practice is not new in Alberta. But the stunning decline in Caribou herds is forcing the Canadian government to ramp up culling efforts around Alberta's oil sands — potentially resulting in the death of 6,000 wolves over the next five years, according to the Pembina Institute, a Canadian environmental think tank.

Government officials didn't confirm those figures, but one Canada's environment minister admitted it would be "very large numbers."

Environmental organizations are hammering the Canadian government over the killing of wolves, saying that it is proof of the cascading environmental impacts of tar sands production. 

According to a report from the Alberta Caribou Committee, it is very possible that increased industrial activity in Alberta — much of it driven by expanding tar sands mining — will cause the complete collapse of caribou populations living in the Boreal forest:
Boreal caribou will not persist for more than two to four decades without immediate and aggressive management intervention. Tough choices need to be made between the management imperative to recover boreal caribou and plans for ongoing bitumen development and industrial land-use.
The Canadian government agrees that caribou populations around Alberta and British Columbia are "very unlikely" to survive due to decades of sustained industrial development in fragile habitat. The dramatic expansion of tar sands is becoming a key driver of this habitat loss.
But rather than slow this type of environmentally-destructive activity to prevent Caribou (and now wolves) from being eviscerated, the Canadian government only plans to continue aggressive expansion of tar sands.

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