Forests

ACTION ALERT! The Lower Athabasca Region cannot be a sacrifice zone for further tar sands destruction!

2011-05-05
Action Deadline: 
Mon, 2011-06-06 (All day)

Tell the Alberta government the Athabasca Region deserves better!

 

Just before the Federal Election, the Alberta government released a draft of the Lower Athabasca Land Use Plan (LARP).

The LARP fails to address local social and environmental needs, and is based on a projection of continued tar sands extraction and a six-fold increase in production. This would decimate this fragile region and the people and species living in it. As usual, the Alberta government is prioritizing the interests of big industry over the voices of local residents and the needs of the environment. At the very least we need an independent review of this land-use plan!

Opportunity for public input will continue until June 6th - Please take a moment to take one of the actions listed below and make your concerns heard!

 

Some key problems with the LARP (feel free to print off and use at the public meetings!):

Conservation:

·         The Alberta Government is only proposing the protection of 16% of the entire Lower Athabasca region. Over 85% new protected areas are located in areas with no oil and gas, tar sands or commercial forestry potential. These areas are mostly in the Canadian Shield –rocky land in the extreme north. While it’s good these areas are being protected, areas that lie on top of bitumen deposits are simply sacrificed.

·         Environmentally Significant Areas (ESA’s) are largely not protected. It is apparent that this information was not used in identifying sites to protect. Sites like McClelland Lake Fen and the Athabasca River Valley receive no protection. The vast majority of caribou habitat in the lower Athabasca is not protected, and no complete range is protected, essentially undermining the future of the species in the region.

·         LARP will allow development of existing oil and gas dispositions in all new protected areas. Some also allow forestry. It will also put parks right next door to tar sands and proposed uranium mining operations.

·         The amount protected is less then half the amount recommended by the industry-stacked Regional Advisory Council (RAC), and much less the standards demanded by First Nations.
 

Water:

o   LARP offers no protection for the Athabasca River during low flow periods, providing no thresholds to ensure a high quantity of water for the river. The study “As Long As The River’s Flow,” released in November 2010 found that Treaty 8 Rights are significantly undermined as approximately 80% of Dene and Cree territory in the Athabasca River watershed is un-accessible due to record low water levels resulting from increasing extraction of freshwater – something that  is happening today with current water withdrawls. The River’s Flow study recommends an “Aboriginal Baseline Flow (ABF) and an Aboriginal Extreme Flow (AXF)” to reflect protective and mitigation measures in the Athabasca River and adjacent streams where ACFN and MCFNcan maintain their Treaty rights and fully access their territory.

o   The LARP does not identify pre-development baselines or ecological thresholds for water quantity and quality. A recent study by Dr. David Schindler and Dr. Erin Kelly have found a numerous cases of deformed fish and elevated levels of heavy metals and carcinogens, suggesting limits to pollution  are needed to ensure serious environmental and human health harm is prevented.

o   Despite the fact that relatively little is known about the regional groundwater supplies and quality, the LARPdoes not make it a strategic priority to determine how much groundwater can be safely withdrawn or contaminated by industry without harming regional supplies of groundwater or surface waters.

Air Quality:

o   LARP does not propose clear solutions or intentions to improve upon the monitoring of the air quality exceedances (limits) on pollutants from the tar sands industry.

o   According to data gathered from 14 air-monitoring stations throughout the Athabasca River watershed, the Wood Buffalo Environment Association (WBEA) has noted a rapid increase of air pollutant exceedances from 47 in 2004 to 1,556 in 2009. These pollutants include particulate matter, nitrogen and sulphur dioxides, including hydrogen sulphide and volatile organic compounds (“VOC’s”), including benzene, one of the many carcinogens linked to leukemia and blood cancer.


Violations of Indigenous Rights:

o   At a community meeting held with the Government of Alberta in Fort Chipewyan on January 18th, 2011, the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation membership unanimously agreed that the consultation on the LARP process did not represent them nor respect their voices. Leslie Cardinal, another ACFN member, states:


“The government of Canada formally endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in a manner that is consistent with Canada’s Constitution and laws. The UN Declaration is clear that Indigenous people have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinctive spiritual relationship with their traditionally owned or otherwise occupied and used lands, territories, waters and other resources and to uphold their responsibilities to future generations. The LARP is not consistent with the international or Canadian laws.”

 

o   Both the Mikisew Cree and the ACFN are left wondering how they will sustain their traditional livelihood and protect their cultural existence. According to Chief Allan Adam of the ACFN, the LARP represents “…an economic assimilation of our people. How can we maintain our culture, protect our livelihood and continue practicing our treaty rights under these conditions. LARP is an infringement of our Rights and the government has a duty and obligation to ensure that we have the ability to practice and maintain those Rights now and into the future.

 

FYI**The Pembina institute also released a report titled:  Solving the puzzle: environmental responsibility in oilsands development  that outlines 19 specific solutions available to help the Alberta government adequately address the environmental impacts of oilsands operations.They hope this report informs the Lower Athabasca Integrated Regional Plan (LAIRP) consultations that are underway. A checklist of the Pembina Institute's key recommendations and the full report are available online **

WE NEED YOUR VOICES TO LET THE GOVERNMENT KNOW THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE!

 

**Please take a moment for one or all of the following actions!**

 

SIGN THIS PETITION! Members of the Mikisew Cree, the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations and Metis communities, including other impacted First Nations/Metis and settler community residents in the Lower Athabasca Region, are calling on local residents and Allies from around the world to add their name to their petition to ensure protectiions for the Athabasca Region!Sign the Petition Here!

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