‘Deliberate extinction’: extensive clear-cuts, gas pipeline approved in endangered caribou habitat

Scientists warn another B.C. caribou herd could disappear as the provincial government approves 78 new logging cutblocks in critical habitat for the Hart Ranges herd, while construction of a pipeline for LNG industry takes out another chunk of boreal forest


Standing near the summit of a clear-cut mountain in B.C.’s interior, overlooking the brown and emerald green Anzac River valley, scientist Dominick DellaSala has a bird’s eye view of why the Hart Ranges caribou herd is at risk of extinction.

Only a fringe of forest remains around the distant mountain peak where the declining herd seeks protection from wolves and other predators in ever-shrinking habitat northeast of Prince George.

“The difference between this and Borneo is that there aren’t any orangutans behind me,” says DellaSala, pointing to extensive clear cuts covering much of the mountain side.

“You’ve got caribou at upper elevations. That’s their habitat out there. And they’re being squished to the top of the tallest mountains because all the habitat’s been taken out down below. The species is migratory, it goes up and down.”

DellaSala, chief scientist and president of the Geos Institute in Ashland, Oregon, is touring parts of B.C.’s ancient inland temperate rainforest as part of an Australian-led study documenting the world’s most important unlogged forests.

Scientist Dominick DellaSalaScientist Dominick DellaSala stands at the fringe of a clear-cut in B.C.’s interior. DellaSala, who has studied forests and logging in countries such as Brazil and Borneo, describes clear-cutting in B.C.’s northern forests as some of the worst he’s ever seen. Photo: Taylor Roades / The Narwhal

The rare inland rainforest, with cedar trees more than 1,000 years old, is part of an ecosystem called the interior wet belt that includes the Anzac valley bottom, a hodgepodge of green far below where DellaSala stands with Michelle Connolly, director of the Prince George-based organization Conservation North.

But there will soon be significantly less green in the lower reaches of the Anzac valley, whose old-growth spruce and subalpine fir trees are draped in hair lichen, a crucial winter food for caribou.

Since October, the B.C. government has granted approval to forestry giant Canfor for six new logging cutblocks in the valley, according to Geoff Senichenko, research and mapping coordinator for the Wilderness Committee. The cutblocks total 332 hectares, making them a little smaller than Vancouver’s Stanley Park in size.

Those permits are among 78 logging cutblocks the government approved over the same period in the Hart Ranges herd critical habitat, with 62 of them going to Canfor, Senichenko’s research shows.

“This seals the caribou’s fate,” says Connolly, a forest ecologist.

Caribou were given a very small amount of habitat,” Connolly says. “It’s not enough … There’s very little chance of that habitat recovering in those cut blocks below the tops of the mountains, and therefore of those areas serving caribou the way they used to.”

The Hart Ranges caribou herd also faces another new threat: the Coastal GasLink pipeline, which will transport fracked gas from the province’s northeast to Kitimat, where it will be liquefied by LNG Canada and shipped overseas. MORE


Why the Coastal GasLink pipeline may never be built.

Trans Mountain
Steel pipe to be used in the oil pipeline construction of the Canadian government’s Trans Mountain expansion project lies at a stockpile site in Kamloops, British Columbia, June 18, 2019. REUTERS/Dennis Owen

This video outlines why  pipelines will not be allowed by the Wet’suwet’en People on their unceded territory. Hereditary Leaders from Across BC stand behind Wet’suwet’en and the assertion of their Traditional Laws.

The  Wet’suwet’en are reoccupying their land to assert their sovereignty.

The Trudeau government continues to talk about ‘the rule of law‘ while ignoring the traditional hereditary chiefs and indigenous law.

Robert Hamilton asks, can state and Indigenous legal regimes co-exist? For example,

“In January 2019, Wet’suwet’en peoples were forcibly removed from the path of the [Coastal GAsLink] pipeline. This conflict showed the displacement of Indigenous law in two ways. The first was the displacement of traditional governance institutions with imposed Indian Act governance. The second was the imposition of a rights regime that excludes Indigenous modes of tenure and jurisdiction until they are proven in court through an Aboriginal title analysis.”



Tŝilhqot’in Nation sends mining company home in peaceful protest

Members of the Tŝilhqot’in Nation held a peaceful protest against an exploratory drilling program that they say will have devastating effects on Teẑtan Biny (Fish Lake) and the surrounding area. Photo by Nolan Guichon


B.C. government quietly posts response to expert fracking report

Province avoids investigation of human health impacts of fracking, despite independent scientific review warning of unknown risks to air and water

Image result for the narwhal: B.C. government quietly posts response to expert fracking report
A fracking well head connected to fracking pumps. B.C.’s northeast is going to see a fracking boom to support the LNG Canada natural gas export terminal. Photo: Shutterstock

The B.C. government has quietly released its response to an independent scientific panel’s report on hydraulic fracturing as it ushers in a fracking boom to supply the LNG Canada project with unconventional gas.

Notably absent from the government’s news release — posted on its website Thursday but strangely not sent out to media — is any commitment to investigate the human health impacts of fracking in the province’s northeast.

The issue was flagged by Dawson Creek doctors as a potential cause for concern after they saw patients with symptoms they could not explain, including nosebleeds, respiratory illnesses and rare cancers, as well as a surprising number of gioblastomas, a malignant brain cancer.

The independent scientific review did not include an examination of the public health implications of fracking, in keeping with the government’s quiet assurance to the industry lobby group Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers that the hot button issue would not be included in the panel’s mandate.

Even so, the panel found that fracking entails numerous unknown risks to human health and the environment.

Panel members cautioned the severity of those risks is unknown due to a lack of data, noting they were not aware of any health-related studies being conducted in northeast B.C., which is already covered with thousands of fracking wells, including in the middle of communities and on farmland.

‘Highly toxic compounds’

Image result for Sonia Furstenau
Sonia Furstenau, MLA Cowichan Valley for the BC Green Party.

B.C. Green Party environment critic Sonia Furstenau pointed out that other jurisdictions around the world have identified human health impacts as a reason for banning fracking.

“We know that the mix of chemicals being used and being pumped into the ground include highly toxic compounds and we should absolutely be determining what any impacts are to human health,” Furstenau told The Narwhal.

“There’s no way these kinds of things should be proceeding without that information.”

The government’s decision to proceed with fracking and liquefied natural gas development is “deeply troubling,” Furstenau said.

The fracked gas will be shipped through TransCanada’s new Coastal GasLink pipeline to Kitimat, where it will be cooled in massive compressors to minus 162 degrees Celsius, the point at which gas turns into liquid and becomes easier to transport in ocean tankers. LNG Canada will burn its own natural gas for the energy-intensive compression process, resulting in substantial greenhouse gas pollution.

The LNG Canada project will emit 3.45 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually, according to the provincial government, which promised the cleanest LNG in the world even though claims of “clean LNG” have been thoroughly debunked. MORE

News Indigenous Pipeline Opponents Seek Court OK for Blockade Protest

Clouds hang over the island of Haida Gwaii in British Columbia, Canada, on Aug. 26, 2016. Photographer: Ben Nelms/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    • Wet’suwet’en First Nation members seek to stop court order preventing their blockade
    • Coastal GasLink pipeline construction in British Columbia would be boon to Canada’s LNG industry

A First Nation in northern British Columbia will seek June 10 to quash orders preventing them from blockading a natural gas pipeline seen as crucial to Canada’s nascent liquefied natural gas sector.

Members of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation will ask the the Supreme Court of British Columbia in Prince George to reverse a temporary injunction that allows Calgary-based TC Energy Corp. to proceed with construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police broke up a blockade of First Nations members and their supporters Jan. 7 on a remote logging road after the orders were made in December.

The national police force made over a dozen arrests, but those criminal charges later dropped.

‘Unprecedented Support’

TC Energy, which until recently was known as TransCanada Corp., wants the orders made permanent.

“There is unprecedented support for this important natural gas pipeline project from local and Indigenous communities along the route,” Suzanne Wilton, a spokesperson for TC Energy-owned Coastal GasLink Pipeline Ltd., said in an email June 7. “The continuance of the injunction will ensure continued safe and unimpeded access.”

The Wet’suwet’en First Nation opposes Coastal GasLink because of environmental concerns, and the pipeline’s representatives have tried to subvert its authority by engaging with Indigenous organizations that do not represent Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, the First Nation said in a February court filing. MORE

Glavin: Pipeline protests – how politicians got it all wrong

Alex Spence, centre, who is originally from Haida Gwaii, beats a drum and sings during a march in support of pipeline protesters in northwestern British Columbia, in Vancouver, on Tuesday. DARRYL DYCK / THE CANADIAN PRESS

There may be no right way to do fossil-fuel megaprojects at all anymore if we’re going to have a hope in hell of meeting our 2015 Paris Climate Accord commitments, but as far as the massive LNG Canada Kitimat plant and pipeline project goes – with the showdown this week on a remote British Columbia backroad that immediately escalated into protests and marches and sit-ins across the country – the politics, promises and planning seem to have gotten just about everything wrong.

It’s the aboriginal rights and title of the Wet’suewet’en people that are at stake here, and that’s the subject that the federal Liberal government, and B.C.’s NDP government, are trying to avoid.

You could start with the way Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cheered LNG Canada’s announcement last October that the green light LNG got from B.C’s NDP government meant full steam ahead for its long-planned $40 billion project, which is to include a new pipeline from Dawson Creek in the Peace River country to a liquifaction plant and export facility at Kitimat on the B.C. coast. MORE