Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Alberta Environmentalists Take Caribou Concerns to U.S

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Alberta Environmentalists Take Caribou Concerns to U.S

Article excerpt

Alberta groups take caribou plea south


EDMONTON - Alberta environmentalists are going south with their concerns over the effects of the province's energy industry on caribou.

Convincing Alberta's oil customers in the United States that they should press for greater protection of the vanishing herds is the only way to get action, said Helene Walsh of Keepers of the Athabasca, one of the groups behind the move.

"We think that's the only hope for our caribou and other issues of biodiversity in the province," she said Tuesday. "It seems clear ... that depending on the Alberta government for better resource development just isn't going to do the trick."

The Keepers, along with the Alberta Wilderness Association, have sent a package of information on caribou habitat to groups who were involved in a rally in Washington on the weekend against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The Alberta conservationists want caribou to become part of a wider discussion in the U.S. on the environmental impacts of Alberta's energy industry.

The information points to studies that suggest nearly all of Alberta's 13 caribou herds are in decline, with several of them expected to vanish within a generation. Habitat fragmentation, which shrinks the old-growth forest that caribou need and provides predators for a route to the animals, is generally cited as the main reason.

Alberta continues to sell oil and gas leases in the small remnant of caribou habitat that remains relatively undisturbed.

But Alberta Environment spokeswoman Nikki Booth said a lease sale doesn't mean industry just moves in.

"Just because a lease has been sold does not mean the lease is active or that the entire lease area would be disturbed," she said in an email. "In order to disturb any land, industry must complete a rigorous and comprehensive application and assessment process. …

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