Category Archives: Species At Risk

Life on Peace River threatened by dam

Life on Peace River threatened by dam

Life on Peace River threatened by dam
Peace Valley deer fawn (photo: Donald Hoffmann)

by Caroline Beam

Living as close to the Peace River as a home can legally get, my family watches a daily nature show that few people realize exists. I would like to share with you a snapshot of spring on the Peace, as we are privileged to see it.

The old cottonwoods along the driveway are a nursery for many different birds. A family of kestrels (sparrow hawks) uses a large branch on their home tree to sun themselves each morning and scan the undergrowth for voles and chipmunks, both rodents plentiful here. A few trees upriver, a family of flickers occupies the trunk of a tall stump. The yellow-orange undersides of these large woodpeckers flashes through the woods each day, almost matching the bright yellow warblers that flit among the alder in our yard.

In front of our home is an island, which elk and deer use as a nursery. They swim out to the island to give birth away from the keen noses of predators like bears and coyotes. Then, when the fawns are strong enough, mothers coax them into the water for the chilly swim back across. One morning in June, I witnessed a cow elk giving birth at the river’s edge! As the calf lay in the shallows, mother took a quick swim, then nudged baby to shore. All clean and less likely to attract a bear’s attention! (Bears do swim to the island occasionally, but they generally linger around the many berry patches on the mainland.)

Geese-Don Hoffmann
Canada Geese (photo: Donald Hoffmann)

On this island, a long cliff provides nesting sites for several families of Canada geese. This year, a slightly more exciting species has arrived: Great Horned Owls! My family watches through our spotting scope as a grey ball of downy fluff fledges out into a magnificent young owl, gaining strength and flight feathers until ready to launch out over the river on that first big flight!

Downstream, a similar cliff on our side of the river is home to a colony of about fifty cliff swallows. The whole flock swoops over the river as one, collecting bugs (hopefully mosquitoes) to bring back to their babies, safely tucked into perfectly constructed mud nests that hang in clusters from sandstone ledges.

At the base of this cliff, there is a long, narrow cave that foxes have converted into a den. Every morning at about 6:30, mother fox comes out for a drink before she goes off hunting. If she takes too long to return, her impatient kit sets up a series of sharp barks to call her home. Once, I was lucky enough to see the little rascal, all bright eyes and big ears, before he growled and disappeared into the darkness of his home.

A merganser duck shepherds her eight ducklings around the back-eddy below the cliff, keeping them together with her earthy quacks. Occasionally, she must sharpen her voice and shout at more adventurous babies as they wander too far in their pursuit of the various minnows sheltering in the calm waters of the back-eddy.

A young eagle, its mottled plumage beginning to show the white-headed pattern of adulthood, alights on a snag atop the cliff. A regular visitor here, we refer to it as Tristan’s eagle, because our youngest son takes such delight in the bird’s presence, and because they are the same age.

Mother merganser issues a series of sharp quacks to gather her vulnerable ducklings to her, just as the eagle swoops down to try for a fluffy snack. Mother puts up such a fuss, quacking,  flapping and splashing up a maelstrom; the young eagle becomes disconcerted and gives up.

Fox-don hoffmann
Fox (photo: Don Hoffman)

Mergansers aren’t the only ducks to seek refuge here. We’ve identified at least eight different species using our property for a much-needed rest along their migratory routes. Not just in spring: swans, both tundra and trumpeter, grace us with their elegance each autumn as they move south. Every season is amazing here, even winter when the river otter comes to fish and play on the ice, while the resident beavers are sleeping.

If  the Site C dam were to happen, all this would be gone. The cottonwoods, the cliffs, the back-eddy, the island. All these homes would be lost forever to the rising waters and endlessly sloughing banks of the reservoir. And that’s just one tiny portion of the big picture: this proposed project is in all of our backyards. Where would our animals go? What would happen to them? Is it really worth it?

Thank you for taking the time to read this account. I sincerely hope my words can have some benefit to this beautiful region and all of its residents.

Scientists work to solve mystery of dying bees

Scientists work to solve mystery of dying bees


When a swarm of bees landed on a tree in their yard a few years ago, a David Suzuki Foundation staffer and her husband became accidental beekeepers. They called an apiarist relative who came over and helped them capture the bees, build hives and round up equipment. Now they’re enjoying fresh honey and wax and have developed a fascination for the amazing insects. Staff shared that wonderment when she brought honeycombs and tools to the office for an impromptu lesson on beekeeping and bee behaviour.

Bees are endlessly intriguing, and incredibly useful to us – and not just for honey and wax. If bees disappeared, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to grow much of what we eat. Bees pollinate crops ranging from apples to zucchini. Blueberries and almonds are almost entirely dependent on them. Some experts say they’re responsible for one of every three bites of food we eat. The economic value of pollination services from honeybees alone is estimated at $14 billion in the U.S. and hundreds of millions in Canada.

Bees are good pollinators because – unlike some birds and other insects that are after nectar alone – they also seek out pollen, which they use along with nectar to feed the hive. In the process, they transfer pollen from the male part of one flower to the female part of another, fertilizing plants so they can develop seed-carrying fruits. Wild bees and domesticated honeybees are both important pollinators.

In fact, research indicates wild bees may be more important for food-crop pollination than honeybees. That’s in part because a single species, such as honeybees, is vulnerable to mass disease outbreaks. Wild bees also use a wider range of pollination techniques and visit more plants, and so increase chances of cross-pollination, according to an article in the Guardian.

Sadly, both wild and domesticated bees are in trouble, and that means we could be, too. Causes of phenomena such as colony collapse disorder and other declines in bee populations are not entirely understood, but scientists are getting closer to knowing why bees are dying. Ironically, much of it relates to agricultural practices. Modern methods of growing food are killing one of our biggest helpers in food production.

Wild bees also face threats from climate change and habitat loss. A recent study published in Science found half the wild bee species in the U.S. were wiped out during the 20th century. That’s been partly attributed to “an increasing mismatch between when plants flowered and when bees were active, a finding consistent with climate change,” according to the Guardian.

Causes of honeybee deaths are more complicated. Colony collapse disorder has wiped out millions of hives over the past decade, with pesticide use, parasites and poor nutrition eyed as likely culprits. Scientists from the University of Maryland and U.S. Department of Agriculture recently found pollen collected by honeybees was contaminated with a toxic mix of pesticides and fungicides. It appears the toxins make the bees more vulnerable to a parasite called Nosema ceranae, which is believed to cause colony collapse disorder. Pollen samples contained an average of nine different agricultural pesticides and fungicides, and as many as 21 in one case.

The European Union has imposed a two-year ban on three neonicotinoids, a class of pesticides thought to be responsible for the dramatic declines in Europe’s bee populations, but only for use on “crops attractive to bees”. However, according to the Maryland study’s lead author, Dennis vanEngelsdorp, quoted in the online news outlet Quartz, “It’s a lot more complicated than just one product, which means of course the solution does not lie in just banning one class of product.”

We need to get a handle on the toxic chemicals we use to grow food. If our practices kill insects and birds that make it possible to grow crops, we’re defeating their purpose and putting ourselves and the rest of nature at risk. As individuals, we can help bees. Stop using pesticides and join the call to ban the worst ones. Plant bee-friendly plants and gardens, make wild bee “houses” and learn more about our fuzzy, buzzing friends. Like our DSF staffer, you could even adopt a hive.

Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Communications Manager Ian Hanington.

State of World’s Birds Bleak but not Hopeless

State of world’s birds bleak but not hopeless

State of World’s Birds Bleak but not Hopeless
The meadowlark is one of many threatened species of birds (image:

We can’t live without birds. Beyond being fascinating and beautiful, they play a crucial role in keeping the world habitable for all life, including people. They disperse seeds, pollinate plants, control insects, provide food and are indicators of the overall health of ecosystems. They also create recreational and economic opportunities, through the immense popularity of birdwatching.

So we should be concerned about the findings of the report, “State of the world’s birds: indicators for our changing world”: One in eight – or 1,313 – species of Earth’s birds is in danger of disappearing.

“The status of the world’s birds is deteriorating, with species slipping ever faster towards extinction,” notes the assessment by Birdlife International, a global partnership of conservation organizations. This represents rapid acceleration of a troubling trend: 151 bird species are believed to have gone extinct since 1500.

But the study, released at Birdlife International’s 2013 Congress in Ottawa, offers hope: “An annual investment of US$4 billion, used wisely, could improve the status of all known threatened species and virtually halt human-driven extinctions. A further US$76 billion could effectively protect and manage all known sites of global conservation significance. These sums are insignificant in comparison with both the size of the global economy (roughly US$70 trillion per year) and an estimate of the total value of ecosystem services delivered by nature each year (US$22–US$74 trillion).”

Many threatened birds are common species, including turtle doves, meadowlarks, barn swallows and purple martins. In Canada, insectivores, grassland birds and Arctic shorebirds have been declining rapidly since 1970, all because of human activity. But conservation efforts, including regulating pesticides such as DDT, have helped some raptor and waterfowl populations bounce back.

Sadly, we’re to blame for the current plight of birds. The report shows industrial-scale agriculture, logging and invasive species are the gravest immediate dangers. It also concludes climate change is an “emerging and increasingly serious threat to species” and “often exacerbates existing threats.” Among other problems, a warming planet changes migration and nesting schedules, hindering birds’ ability to find insects to eat. It also damages habitat.

One solution for safeguarding bird populations is to ensure habitats critical to their survival – known as Important Bird Areas, or IBAs – are protected, through legislation if necessary. That doesn’t mean shutting out human activity, just managing these areas in ways that allow birds to survive and thrive.

As the report shows, investing in conservation comes with benefits beyond helping birds. The more than 12,000 IBAs identified worldwide offer valuable ecosystem services, such as regulating climate and air quality, purifying water and preventing floods, maintaining genetic diversity, providing food and medicines and creating recreation and tourism opportunities.

Education is another component of protecting birds and all threatened plants and animals. As we better understand our connection to nature, the importance of biodiversity and the value of services healthy ecosystems provide, we’ll make conservation and biodiversity higher priorities in our decision-making, which will lead to wiser development.

While the BirdLife study identifies climate change as a major threat, it also notes the challenge in balancing environmental factors in energy-project development. Critics oppose wind power because of potential harm to birds, but bird deaths from windmills are minimal compared to those caused by fossil fuels, climate change, pesticides, highrise buildings, automobile collisions and house cats. A National University of Singapore study shows fossil fuel power generation kills 17 times as many birds per gigawatt-hour of electricity as wind power. And wind farm problems can be overcome with proper siting and improved design. In the Rift Valley/Red Sea flyway, an important area for birds migrating between Eurasia and Africa, BirdLife developed research materials and a web-based tool to map flight patterns and identify places where wind installations should be avoided to keep birds safer.

Plummeting bird populations reflect the state of the global environment – but it’s not too late to do something. As Leon Bennun, BirdLife’s director of science, information and policy, says, “Effective nature conservation is affordable and it works. It’s time to make it happen. The result will be a world that is in every way wealthier and healthier – and that remains diverse and beautiful too.”

We need birds. Let’s do all we can to avert an extinction catastrophe.

Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Communications Manager Ian Hanington.


Ontario’s wildlife needs continued protection


In the early 1970s, a significant shift occurred in the relationship between North Americans and the world we live in. People started to recognize that nature’s bounty isn’t bottomless and that human activities often strain the Earth’s limits. Across Canada and the U.S., faced with society’s perpetual penchant for economic growth as an end unto itself, many people started to advocate for protecting nature lest it be irreparably broken by our actions.

A 1970 Vancouver benefit concert against nuclear testing in Amchitka, Alaska, launched Greenpeace. Earth Day also started that year. The famous picture taken from space by Apollo 17 astronauts, revealing the Earth to be a finite and vulnerable “blue marble”, was shared with the world in 1972.

In 1973, the U.S. recognized that resource extraction, development and land conversion were destroying wildlife homes and ranges to the point that their continued existence was at risk. It passed the Endangered Species Act, to protect plants and animals from extinction as a “consequence of economic growth and development untempered by adequate concern and conservation.”

Canada’s Species at Risk Act wasn’t passed until 2002. But Ontario, in keeping with the trend of the times, introduced legislation in 1971, and then revised it, passing an improved Endangered Species Act in 2007, which scientists and conservationists now consider the gold standard of wildlife protection law in Canada and beyond. Unlike the U.S., much of our country is crown land, managed by provincial governments on behalf of citizens. In other words, government stewards nature on our behalf.

The primary mandate of these acts is to protect the areas species need to survive. In Canada, habitat loss and degradation are the primary causes of decline for more than 80 per cent of listed species.

Sadly, we seem to be entering a new phase: environmental deregulation. Now, when habitat needs to be protected to ensure the survival of a species, government and industry often balk and backpedal. This signals a failure to understand that we depend on nature for our well-being and survival. The web of living things cleanses, replenishes and creates air, water, soil and photosynthetic energy. Species in danger of extinction inform us that our activity is undermining the very life support systems of the planet.

Witness the sage grouse in Alberta: almost 90 per cent of its Canadian population died off between 1988 and 2006 because of habitat destruction caused mainly by oil and gas development. But the Alberta government refuses to curb economic growth and protect the areas it needs to survive and recover. Witness the changes the federal government made last year to the Fisheries Act, controversially weakening the law so only a few select categories of fish will receive legal protection from industrial development. And now, Ontario is poised to weaken its Endangered Species Act by creating a range of exemptions so industry will not have to follow its habitat-protection requirements.

A recently released scientific study proves that endangered species legislation really works. According to the U.S. Center for Biological Diversity’s report, scientists estimate that, were it not for the Endangered Species Act, at least 227 species would likely have gone extinct. The report notes the act wasn’t merely saving plants and creatures from extinction; it also facilitated recovery for more than 100 at-risk species, including the American crocodile, whooping crane and black-footed ferret.

Despite the evidence that endangered species laws are effective, governments in Canada are proceeding with deregulation and abdicating their responsibilities for wildlife habitat protection, often quietly. After all, only a few environmental watchdogs such as the David Suzuki Foundation are looking out for creatures that otherwise have no voice.

But our governments underestimate the public. The federal government likely wagered few would pay much attention when it stripped protections from the Fisheries Act and Environmental Assessment Act. But concerned citizens not only noticed, they protested loudly across the country.

Now, we have an opportunity to be heard before a change is made, as the government of Ontario has not yet passed its proposed exemptions to the Endangered Species Act. Politicians need to know that people care about at-risk plant and wildlife populations. You can make a difference by calling cabinet ministers or MPPs to let them know you oppose the deregulation trend. Visit to learn more.

Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Ontario Science Projects Manager Rachel Plotkin.

Learn more at


Big-picture Thinking Needed to Protect Nature


Few places on Earth have been untouched by humans, according to a study in the journal Science. Satellite images taken from hundreds of kilometres above the planet reveal a world that we have irrevocably changed within a remarkably short time.

Although industrial projects like the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline or the recently defeated mega-quarry in Ontario typically grab the headlines and bring out public opposition, it’s often the combined impacts of a range of human activities on the same land base that threaten to drive nature beyond critical tipping points. Once those are passed, rapid ecological changes such as species extinction can occur.

For example, in British Columbia’s booming Peace Region, forestry, energy and mineral leases and licences are widespread and often multilayered in the same area. As various industries have exploited these “tenures”, a sprawling patchwork of large clearcuts, oil wells, dams and reservoirs, fracking operations and thousands of kilometres of seismic lines, roads and pipelines have come to dominate the landscape.

Today, more than 65 per cent of the region has felt the impact of industrial development, leaving little intact habitat for sensitive, endangered species such as caribou to feed, breed or roam. Degradation or destruction of habitat has convinced scientists that remaining herds in the region are no longer self-sustaining and are spiralling toward local extinction. First Nations, who have relied upon caribou as their primary source of food for thousands of years, can no longer hunt them. This is a clear violation of treaty rights.

This dire situation didn’t happen by accident or because of a laissez-faire approach to resource and land management. Numerous industries in the area have been operating legally and according to rules and regulations set by government.

But legal experts, such as those at the nongovernmental organization West Coast Environmental Law, believe a root cause of the problem lies in laws about land, resource and water management that are “hardwired” to fail communities and the environment. The narrow focus of those laws enables industries to operate in isolation from one another.

B.C., for example, has developed numerous individual laws, like the Forest and Range Practices Act, Oil and Gas Activities Act and Mines Act, alongside the regulated industries they enable. But the province lacks a legal framework to proactively and comprehensively manage the cumulative impacts of multiple resource industries operating within the same area.

Because of this, WCEL and its First Nations partners are engaged in a multi-year law reform project that aims to overhaul the way we currently oversee and regulate cumulative impacts, ranging from declining water quality that may arise as a result of multiple industries using a common resource, to emerging threats such as climate change.

A cumulative-impacts approach to governing resource development would upend the current management paradigm. It would focus on the management needs of the land, water, air, wildlife and indigenous communities that depend on them first, rather than the resources to be extracted. In practical terms, this would mean that, rather than focusing on what we should take from nature to create wealth and employment, we should first consider what must be retained in nature to sustain both wildlife and the well-being of local communities – such as clean air, safe drinking water and healthy local food.

At a recent symposium on managing the cumulative impacts of resource development in B.C., numerous speakers – from First Nations to academics to business leaders – stressed that effectively managing cumulative impacts will require new institutions and governance mechanisms, even new legal tools. More importantly, it will require our leaders to adopt a more proactive and holistic way of thinking about the world – one that recognizes that far from just being a place to extract resources like fossil fuels, timber and minerals, nature is our home. Nature provides our most fundamental needs and dictates limits to growth and so its protection should be our highest priority.

Managing our massive, growing human footprint on this planet more sustainably will require leadership, much of which is emerging from First Nations peoples who are on the frontlines of the day-to-day realities of cumulative environmental change. We need to look at the big picture rather than individual elements in isolation.

Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Ontario and Northern Canada Director-General Faisal Moola.


Of Frogs and Fishes: Farms Spawn Lethal Diseases


A lethal fungus has spread around the world, killing frogs at a rate 40,000 times faster than at any time since these amphibian species formed some 360 million years ago. Habitat loss is a factor, too, as wetlands are drained and forests are cut. But the most lethal and uncontainable enemy of frogs — and salamanders, too — is a single-celled fungus called Batrachochytrium dentrobatidis (Bd), a very strange killer since it belongs to a family of fungi that has long co-existed with frogs and has been relatively harmless. What happened to make it lethal is a mystery biologists set out to explain (NewScientist, July 7/12).

At first they suspected that climate change might be creating the ideal conditions for the fungus to flourish. Another candidate was pollutants. But the definitive answer came when researchers sequenced the genome and discovered that samples of the lethal Bd collected from everywhere in the world were essentially identical.

Dr. Matthew Fisher, an epidemiologist from Imperial College London, calls this variant “the global panzootic lineage”. Since it doesn’t survive in salt water and it has no airborne stage, it had to be getting from continent to continent with the help of people.

Two species of frogs have been traded internationally for decades. One is the African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis), used for research purposes, and the other is the North America bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana), used for meat. Both species are relatively resistant to Bd so they could carry it undetected to wild frogs — this vector was confirmed when the first two outbreaks of Bd in wild frogs were detected in a site downstream from a bullfrog farm in the Philippines and in a newly established bullfrog population in a lake in the United Kingdom.

The other factor contributing to Bd’s virulence is the crowded conditions in which captive frogs are bred. In a wild environment, “natural selection tends to make diseases less virulent, because pathogens that rapidly kill their hosts have less chance of spreading. In crowded conditions, however, evolution favours the nasty” (Ibid.).

Somewhere in a frog farm, two related species of Bd combined to form a new and lethal variant. It was then distributed around the world with the farmed frogs. In other words, the Bd that is killing hapless wild frogs everywhere on Earth is “our own Frankenstein monster” (Ibid.).

This scenario should be familiar because it corresponds exactly to net-pen salmon farming in BC’s West Coast where viruses have been brewing for years in crowded “feedlot” conditions. The prospect that these farms could import and then breed a lethal variant virus which could subsequently escape to wild salmon has been haunting independent salmon biologist Alexandra Morton since her studies first found the same viral diseases in both farmed Atlantic salmon and native salmon stocks.

Morton worries that all the conditions are in place for a wild salmon catastrophe. Eggs that salmon farms import from around the world arrive with exotic diseases. Viruses flourish amid the hundreds of thousands of fish that are confined in individual net-pens, a threat accentuated by the fact that viral diseases are known to exchange genetic material to create new strains.

Pesticides, parasites, feces and diseases pass unobstructed through the net-pens into the surrounding marine ecosystem. And the industry has further increased the risk by choosing to locate many of their salmon farms along the migration routes of the wild fish.

Morton’s concerns are credible. Although motivated by a passion to protect wild salmon and the entire West Coast ecology they support, she nonetheless thinks like a scientist. Her arguments are rational, her studies are empirical, her gathering of data is rigorous, and her fears are justified. They are also shared by almost everyone who is free from the economic leverage purveyed by the salmon farming industry.

As Morton points out in her electronic newsletter, when the salmon farming industry first wanted to import Atlantic salmon eggs to the West Coast in the 1980s, the proposal was widely opposed by “the Steelhead Society of British Columbia, United Fishermen and Allied Workers Union, BC Ministry of Environment, even members of the federal fisheries salmon transplant committee, and the Director General of Fisheries and Oceans, Pacific Region… They all cited concern that exotic diseases would accompany these shipments.”

For this reason, in 1986, Dr. Dave Narver, Director of the BC Ministry of Environment, warned that the “introduction of exotic races of salmonids into British Columbia is probably the most critical issue ever to face the maintenance of wild salmon stocks.” In 1990, Pat Chamut, Director General of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, warned that the “continued large-scale introductions [of salmon eggs] from areas of the world including Washington State, Scotland, Norway and even eastern Canada would eventually result in the introduction of exotic disease agents of which the potential impact on both cultured and wild salmonids in B.C. could be both biologically damaging to the resources and economically devastating to its user groups.”

Morton believes that the salmon farming industry, in conjunction with sympathetic government agencies, have set in place the conditions that could unleash a viral catastrophe in BC’s wild salmon populations. For her, the ingredients for crisis are in place and the waiting is agonizing.

The crisis of frogs and fishes is analogous. History repeatedly reminds us that our ignorance has a propensity to combine with our venality to create disasters. Frogs all over the planet are dying in massive numbers because we were instrumental in concocting a Bd “monster”. The possibility exists that we are about to inflict the same fate on our beloved wild salmon.

Photo of Jumbo Glacier by Trevor Florence

Undemocratic Jumbo Resort Threatens Kootenay Grizzly Bears


The Jumbo Ski Resort planned for the Purcell Mountains has been approved by the provincial government, which has put in place legislation for the area to become a municipality.

The setting up of a municipality is so the government will have someone to work with as the various permits are dealt with (which is Liberalese for “approved”).

The irony, nay hypocrisy, of this seems to have been lost in the debate. This is nothing short of gerrymandering, for there already is a municipality to deal with – namely the several communities in the Kootenays which will be affected by this project This is a refinement of gerrymandering.

This technique came about when a Massachusetts governor, Elbridge Gerry, redrew an election district to suit his political needs. It looked like a salamander so the term gerrymandering entered the political lexicon.

At least there were real people living in Gerry’s new bounderies.

The obvious question here is, do people in the vicinity of developments have any say in the matter? They will be just as involved in, say, Nelson, as if the development were inside their city boundaries  – yet they have nothing to say on whether or not the project should be approved.

Well, not quite nothing, as we shall see.

This is eerily similar to the Ashlu River private power project in the mid-2000s. The proposal was to develop a dam on the river and make electricity. One of the main opponents was Tom Rankin, a rancher through whose property the Ashlu flows. Tom went on to form the Save Our Rivers Society, for which Damien Gillis and I worked the 2009 provincial election.

The regional district held public hearings around the district and learned that the various communities massively opposed this project. The Regional District voted down the proposal 8-1, so the Campbell government passed an amendment to the Municial Act, known as Bill 30, eliminating the right of any municipality to deny a private power licence.

Incidentally, it is of interest to know about the Ashlu that environmentalists claimed that it would – forgive the techical term – bugger up the fish runs returning to spawn.

The company stoutly denied this.

It turned out that the environmentalists were spot on – a marvelous salmon river all but gone.

Now, I alluded (above) that the public will have a chance to say their piece. They will – there will be public meetings to find out what environmental safeguards should be put in place.

The public will have no say as to whether or not there should be the development in the first place – thanks to the Campbell/Clark government the project is a “done deal”.

The opposition to this development is not all from tree huggers by any means. In fact, the diminishing grizzly bears will be further diminished by this project as will other wildlife.

Indeed, government scientists have spoken on this:

“The proposed Jumbo Glacier Resort has the potential for substantial and direct cumulative impacts to the Central Purcell Grizzly Bear population.”
– BC Ministry of Water Land and Air Protection, 2004

“…there will be a substantial impact to grizzly bear habitat effectiveness, mortality risk, and most importantly, the fragmentation of grizzly bear distribution…”
– Matt Austin, Large Carnivore Specialist, Biodiversity Branch, Government of B.C

Nothing anyone can say – not even the most prominent scientists in the world can make a difference – the project has been approved and the appropriate municipality set up, all nice and legal-like.

There is an election coming up in May and what the people are entitled to know is whether or not the NDP would restore to local bodies the right to be heard and listened to when large projects with sensitive environmental issues are involved.

Over to you, Mr Dix.

Premiers Christy Clark and Alison Redford (Larry MacDougal/CP photo)

Rafe on Clark’s Embarassing Antics in Alberta and Renewed Calls for Wolf Culls


Today is a twofer – two for the price of one.

First, I’m beginning to feel sorry for Premier Christy Clark. She is a very nice person, personable and able to speak. What she is not capable of doing is speaking sensibly or making decisions that make sense.

It seems obvious to me that she is getting wretched advice and nowhere is this more evident than on the pipeline issue.

Let me illustrate.

The Premier, some months ago, laid down some rules that would govern her government’s environmental response to pipelines and added that to a demand for money from Premier Alison Redford of Alberta. The conditions were silly motherhood stuff and didn’t contain the one most British Columbians want – public hearings that would let people say whether or not they want these pipelines in the first place. This is, I daresay, a foreign concept to the Liberal government but the public know they are not able to express their opinions on the wisdom of the projects in the first place.

In fact, Premier Clark has avoided that issue like the plague.

She missed the very important Western Premier’s Conference on the lame excuse she needed to be in the House because the pipelines and tanker issues were on the agenda and she would have to make known her position.

Then she missed all the deadlines to get BC status as an intervenor as have Alberta, municipalities and First Nations. Consequently, a short time ago she was rebuffed for trying to intervene.

Reviews like the Enbridge Joint Panel Review – and the Cohen Commission as an example – realize that some entities have a greater issue to deal with than Joe Citizen and grant them the status to call witnesses, cross-examine government and industry witnesses and that sort of thing. This could not possibly be a mistake, but a deliberate decision. I don’t have much use for environmental hearings but at least British Columbians could hear what the evidence is. This was an egregious error obviously designed to let Ms. Clark act like the three monkeys.

Now she has horned her way into Premier Redford’s office to press BC’s case. Here is the part that tells you the abysmal ignorance from which Ms. Clark operates.

She is quoted thusly: “There is no amount of money that can make up for an unacceptable risk when it comes to our oceans, our coast and our land.”

Noble sentiments to be sure, but since Premier Redford supports the pipelines and tanker traffic and is content to have the federal government cram them past BC opposition – and bearing in mind that Premier Redford has made it clear that Alberta won’t give BC a nickel – the only purpose for Ms. Clark to crash Ms. Redford’s office is to make it appear to folks at home that she’s doing something.

She is making a fool of all of us, painting us as supplicants to Premier Redford’s throne and the gold that is there.

This must be borne in mind: the oil revenues from the tar sands belong to Alberta under the constitution. If she were to take some of that money and give it to BC, not only would she be a damned fool – Alberta voters would eat her alive.

Premier Clark’s bleating about “risks to BC” is bullshit as she and the rest of us know. Even Enbridge admits that the chances of a spill are overwhelming. Clark is playing us for fools. it is egregious, disingenuous nonsense rivaled only by Bill Clinton’s assertion that, “I did not have sex with that woman.”

Still Afraid of the Big, Bad Wolf

On another note, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Back in 1979, the Ministry of Environment was poisoning wolves in northern BC because, allegedly, they were killing cattle. There wasn’t a particle of evidence that this was happening, certainly not on a large scale. Within days of becoming minister I put a stop to the program, hired a man – an elderly fishing buddy of mine whom I trusted implicitly – to go through the area getting evidence, if there was any, of packs of wolves destroying cattle. Sandy was one if these guys who could find out things without anyone realizing he was asking questions.

He reported back to me that he could find no evidence of a major problem .

He told me of the case of a wolf pack driving a herd of cattle onto a frozen lake which caved in from the weight and the wolves devoured them. Interesting that wolves could kill cattle in the water and feast upon them without drowning themselves.

The interesting part is that three different ranchers in three different areas told the same story!

Despite all their bleating, ranchers couldn’t offer any evidence whatsoever.

The ranchers were claiming their losses were due to wolves to cover up their own bad husbandry.

It’s interesting to ask what the hell were all those cattle doing out on the range in temperatures that would freeze a lake?

A Socred back bencher, Cyril Shelford, and his seemingly unlimited number of brothers organized a huge rally and dared me to show my face.

I did – not through bravery but because Premier Bill Bennett would likely have fired me if I didn’t appear.

It was a very ugly meeting and I admit I was scared. When I was finally permitted to speak I said, “this is the first time in history where a man has been run into town on a rail.”

The humour of the remark escaped the 500 incensed ranchers.

The moratorium I imposed remains. Now the ranchers have popped up with claims that seem, after 33 years, to have suddenly re-appeared. Once again, the ranchers, by their own admission, are utterly unable to supply one scintilla of evidence.

The Minister of Environment should politely give the ranchers the international words for “go away”.


Rafe: ‘I Support Captain Paul Watson’


I see that all civilization and some uncivilizations, like the USA, want Paul Watson’s hide.

Just so there’s no doubt, I’ve known and supported Paul for over 30 years and for many years have been on the Sea Shepherd Society’s Board of Advisors. I have supported him all that time because, in my view, he’s doing what is necessary for want of any government involvement.

One of my first interviews with Paul came in 1981 when Paul and the Sea Shepherd crew had gone ashore on Kamchatka in the then Soviet Union and destroyed a mink farm that fed the animals whale meat. He did the interview on board using the “over and out” system while being pursued by the Soviet Navy and buzzed by the Soviet Air Forces – listening to Paul you could have thought he was just having a bit of a sail out on the bounding main!

Paul Watson is the most fearless man I’ve ever known.

Paul was a founder of Greenpeace and was fired because he was too much of an activist. His fellow founder, Patrick Moore, decided he liked money better than principles, so he prostituted himself to industry like fish farms and that in the Tar Sands, becoming a rich man selling their filth.

He plays on an inconsequential PhD, using the Doctor to imply that he somehow knows what he’s talking about.

A few years ago Moore was contracted to bring his hypocrisy to a cruise ship en route to Alaska. Paul, who had offered to debate him on his dog and pony show many times announced that he would be aboard to attend his lectures and speak from the floor. Moore instantly backed out of his contract with the interesting excuse that his wife’s birthday came up during the cruise.

Evidently, Mrs. Moore wasn’t delighted with a lovely cruise for their anniversary or suddenly discovered that she was prone to sea-sickness.

There is another reason one might conclude – Patrick Moore is a coward, the conclusion I came to knowing both of them as I do.

Patrick Moore has become rich doing PR work and consulting on how to bamboozle the masses for the Tar Sands, nuclear energy, fish farms and, I must conclude, private power desecrating our rivers, bitumen pipelines and tankers.

Moore hates Paul’s guts which is another big reason for supporting Captain Watson.

Paul is a preservationist who does that which countries refuse to do – enforce the law or, in some cases, simply to not be afraid to pass decent laws for protecting the environment in the first place.

Watson has been called an eco terrorist because he prevents the Japanese from whaling in the South Pacific because they say they need whales for “scientific research”. How the hell can a man who fights this kind of bullshit be called an eco terrorist?!

The people of the Faroe Islands had, until Watson arrived on the scene, a nifty little custom of slaughtering pilot whales once a year – not for food or any other reasons but just for the hell of it. With Watson away this year, they brutally killed 467 whales. On the back of a banknote the Faroe Islands show a pilot whale being hacked to death.

I’ve been to the Faroe Islands and can tell you that the Faroese are a prosperous people who make no defense of their whaling other than it’s a custom.

Paul Watson is an eco terrorist for stopping this practice?

We slaughter seal pups not because we have to but to supply fur coats to wealthy European women, Paul and many of his crew were sent to the slammer for simply taking pictures.

The list goes on and Paul Watson inches closer and closer to doing time in jail, which I predict will happen later this year when he comes ashore. His own country, instead of giving him an Order of Canada, which he deserves many times over, will throw him in jail.

I support Captain Paul Watson and believe all Canadians should.

The McNab Creek Valley would be heavily impacted by a new proposed gravel mine

Top 10 Reasons to Save Howe Sound’s McNab Creek from a Gravel Mine


The following comes from the Future of Howe Sound Society – with introduction by Rafe Mair.

In beautiful Howe Sound on the Sunshine Coast we have the beginning of yet another environmental travesty, where there has been no public consultation and which has had virtually no coverage in the mainstream media. If permitted to go ahead, Burnco Rock Products will build an aggregate mine in the midst of the McNab Creek Valley – home to wild salmon populations and many other species at risk – producing yet another environmental catastrophe, thanks to a federal government that couldn’t care less about our world renowned outdoors and ignored by a provincial government so in thrall to the feds that they dare not utter a dissenting peep on any of these environmental catastrophes that are bent on destroying what we all hold so dear.

Why should we care?

Here, from the Future of Howe Sound Society fighting to protect the McNab Creek Valley, are ten very good reasons:

1. Why would anyone develop a gravel mine in Vancouver’s ocean playground, an area of outstanding natural beauty? This is where an ever growing city comes to sail, dive, kayak, fish, camp and hike. Tourists flock from all over the world to see “SuperNatural, British Columbia”, how would a gravel pit look in the tourism advertising?

2. Howe Sound is only now showing encouraging signs of environmental recovery after decades of industrial misuse. Should we now allow a reindustrialization of the area?

3. How can we consider developing a massive 77 hectare pit which will excavate the entire McNab estuary from one side of the valley to the other, completely eliminating one of only three river estuaries in Howe Sound, without developing an integrated, long term land and water use plan for the whole of Howe Sound?

4. The size of the gravel pit will limit access to the foreshore for wildlife such as elk, deer and bears who currently frequent the area to forage for food.

5. The excavation of the river estuary will dramatically change the movement of water through the valley and have a significant negative impact on the freshwater habitat.

6. The proposed mine developer, Burnco, filed a judicial review application against DFO in BC Supreme Court to ‘strong arm’ the DFO to allow them to proceed to an environmental review. The DFO have since agreed to that review with serious concerns as “the project presents a high risk to Salmon and Salmon habitat”.

7. In addition to the destruction to fish habitat, Burnco’s own consultants believe the mine site could be home to 21 species at risk including a population of Roosevelt Elk re-introduced to McNab Creek in 2001 by the BC Ministry of the Environment.

8. The noise from the gravel crushing facility and loading of barges will be significant. It will have a negative impact on the enjoyment of the area by boaters, kayakers, fishermen, tourists and other in Howe Sound. The mine developer has stated at meetings that if the demand is there, they want to run the mining and crushing facilities 24/7, 365 days a year.

9. Noise and light pollution will have significant negative impacts on the land and aquatic animals in the area. Noise and vibration pollution have been found to negatively impact the ability of marine mammals to communicate, navigate, find food and it is believed increasingly to impact their fertility.

10. The mine will have an impact on the economic potential of the Howe Sound area. There is considerable potential in Howe Sound to continue to grow the tourism industry with significant economic multipliers that would accrue to the local economy. A mine is not going to add to the beauty of the area.

How can you help?

Howe Sound needs to be protected for the enjoyment of both current and future generations so we are asking you to be an ambassador for Howe Sound in telling the government that you support the recovery of Howe Sound.

Please take action and sign our petition because, as Dr. Murray Newman, Past Director of the Vancouver Aquarium so aptly put it:

“If Howe Sound were in any other part of the world, it would be a great national park.”