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Report says it’s time to end subsidies to fossil fuel companies
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Report says it’s time to end subsidies to fossil fuel companies

An oil pipeline stretches across the landscape
Last week the Climate Action Network released a report on the billions of dollars in tax breaks that the Government of Canada hands out to oil, coal and gas companies each year -- and the problems this poses for attempts to address our changing climate and transition to a greener economy. From the report, Fuelling the Problem:
By subsidizing fossil fuel producing companies the government is encouraging faster production and facilitating the rapid expansion of large fossil fuel projects such as the Alberta tar sands, Canada’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gas pollution.
Globally, artificially low costs of fossil fuels have been shown to encourage wasteful consumption, distort energy markets, and allow for increased greenhouse gas pollution, thereby fueling the climate crisis. Subsidizing oil extraction also makes investments in oil more attractive compared to lower carbon, lower risk alternatives, thereby increasing the lock‐in of economies into fossil fuels. In a time of fiscal constraint, the federal government could generate hundreds of millions of dollars in extra revenue by ending unfair tax breaks to some of the richest companies in the world. Eliminating handouts to oil and gas corporations operating in Canada would also help the country take a step towards a cleaner energy economy. So why no action? Using leaked government memos, the report outlines a months-long strategy to downplay its responsibility to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, something all G20 countries agreed to do in 2009. According to the report, the Green Budget Coalition (in which Nature Canada is a member) has identified over $900 million in tax breaks to the fossil fuels industry that could be eliminated in the March 2011 federal budget.

Water – We Can’t Live Without It!
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Water – We Can’t Live Without It!

Without clean, abundant freshwater, life on Earth would not exist. The majority of the world's population depends on freshwater environments to provide water for drinking, irrigation, food, employment and recreation. Luckily, Canada is blessed with plenty of water:
  • Almost 9% (891 163 square kilometers) of Canada's total area is covered by fresh water.
  • Wetlands cover an additional 14% (more than 1.2 million square kilometers) of the land area of Canada.
  • Annually, Canada's rivers discharge 7% of the world's renewable water supply – 105 000 cubic meters per second.
Balanced, healthy ecosystems, including freshwater rivers and lakes, perform many amazing services that cannot be replicated – and that we depend on for survival. In Canada, these ecosystems:
  • purify the air and water
  • maintain biodiversity
  • control agricultural pests
  • preserve soils and renew their fertility
  • pollinate crops and natural vegetation
These services are so fundamental to life that they are easy to take for granted, but we must remember that they are far beyond the ability of human technology to replace. The way we treat our water resources can have an effect on healthy ecosystems. Runoff of pesticides, fertilizers and waste, introduction of non-native species and destruction of wetlands all reduce the ability of water ecosystems to perform their functions and provide these services. We can all protect our freshwater resources through conservation action at home. Do your part to reduce global demand on our precious water resources - take the Water Conservation Pledge today! Join people across the country and around the world as we save more than 1 million gallons of water each year. This post is a part of Blog Action Day, an annual event that sees blogs from around the world post about the same issue on the same day to spark global discussion and drive collective action.

Mystery Cats in Ontario
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Mystery Cats in Ontario

Although rumours of sightings have abounded for years, they had never been confirmed. Until now. The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) recently completed a four year study that has led it to conclude that eastern cougars do exist in Ontario. The findings were based on evidence ranging from DNA, to track photos and samples of scat. Motion sensor cameras were set up in 30 different locations throughout the province, with six cameras in Peterborough as a result of frequent sightings. The latest sightings, between March and September 2009, were near Kenora, Sault Ste. Marie and Lindsay. Despite the many efforts to capture photos of cougars, so far none have been successful. This may be due to the large distances that a cougar travels – up to 50 km a night in search of prey – and their territories that expand between 500-1000 km2. “The odds of getting a cougar photo is very slim, because they travel so much,” said Rick Rosatte, a senior research scientist with MNR in Peterborough. Stuart Ken, president of the Ontario Puma Foundation, believes 95% of reported sightings are misidentifications as people mistake house cats, dogs, coyotes, wolves and even squirrels (hmmm) for cougars – what he calls ‘puma mania’, which is triggered by some individuals who believe they saw a cougar. Although it is confirmed that cougars exist in Ontario, their exact numbers are still unknown. However, the Ontario Puma Foundation estimates that there are about 550 cougars. According to Rosatte, the cougars may be the remains of a native cougar population that was in Ontario, cougars coming from the west, those that have escaped or were released from captivity or a blend of all of the above.

Court Ruling Against BC Government – Protection of the Caribou
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Court Ruling Against BC Government – Protection of the Caribou

On March 19, 2010 British Columbia’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of the West Moberly First Nation’s petition against the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources and First Coal Corporation’s proposed coal mine plan that would have had significant impacts on critical habitat of the nationally endangered Burnt Pine caribou herd in northeast BC. Treaty No.8, a northern treaty signed in 1899, played a significant role in the ruling given that the Crown failed to thoroughly consult the West Moberly petitioners and also failed to accommodate their rights – especially their hunting rights. In the words of the Honourable Justice Williamson: ‘The consultation was not sufficiently meaningful, and the accommodation put in place was not reasonable.’ Chief Roland Willson, of the West Moberly Nations, expressed his gratitude towards the court’s decision saying it was able to stop both the federal and BC governments from evading their obligations to protect the caribou under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA). The BC government was ordered to immediately put in place a ‘reasonable, active, program for the protection and augmentation of the Burnt Pine herd’. The lack of a satisfactory consultation for the proposed coal mine has led to a mandatory adequate consultation - except this time it is not for a coal mine but for the protection of the Burnt Pine caribou herd. They have 90 days to present this. The crown shall consult with the West Moberly people as well as ecologists and biologists from the Ministry of Environment whom are to be referred to by West Moberly. Andrew Gage of West Coast Environmental Law said this ruling may be the cause of a series of similar events where First Nations intervene and push governments to protect species across the country. There are currently ONLY 11 caribou left in the Burnt Pine herd. Hopefully, the new plans will make it possible to repopulate this herd. The Reasons for Judgment can be found at the following link: http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/SC/10/03/2010BCSC0359.htm

Mackenzie and Suffield: Opportunities for Sustainability?
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Mackenzie and Suffield: Opportunities for Sustainability?

The Joint Review Panel of the Mackenzie Gas Project spent two years writing a report that optimistically and ambitiously set out the conditions under which the Panel believes the basin-opening project could be the basis for sustainable development in the Mackenzie Valley and Delta. The report tackles the big picture issues and many of its recommendations aim to mitigate negative cumulative impacts and maintain a high standard of care for future developments. If all the 176 report recommendations were to be fully implemented, perhaps the project could be a positive thing. But the chances for that are looking slim. The National Energy Board responded last week to the Joint Review Panel's recommendations by rejecting the integrated approach to sustainability the Panel recommended. Despite claiming in November 2009 that it's taking a sustainability approach, the NEB seems inclined to taking a narrow approach to the Mackenzie Gas Project. The NEB can still reconsider after its hearings in April and the federal and territorial governments have yet to respond to the Panel's recommendations, so a commitment to sustainability might still prevail. Yes, I'm trying to be positive today. Another place where an opportunity to do the right thing is waiting to be seized is Suffield National Wildlife Area, or perhaps I should say EnCana's headquarters. As readers of this blog are aware, EnCana has applied to drill an additional 1,275 gas wells within Suffield National Wildlife Area. But why does EnCana still want to drill there? In North America, proven reserves of natural gas have increased substantially in the past two years, so the time may be just right for EnCana to abandon further drilling within Suffield National Wildlife Area. Read more here. And stay tuned, we'll continue to report on both energy projects, as well as the Northern Gateway. Image: CFB Suffield by Cliff Wallis  

The Mackenzie Gas Project: Your Say
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The Mackenzie Gas Project: Your Say

Last week, we told you that Nature Canada has submitted its final comments about the Mackenzie Gas Project to the National Energy Board. We also wanted to know your thoughts about the project. Our most recent quick poll asks: Do you think construction of the Mackenzie Gas Project should proceed? Overwhelmingly, the responses have been no - the Mackenzie Valley should be off-limits to large-scale industrial development (84% of responses). A further 13% of respondents believe that the project would be acceptable if all 176 recommendations of the Joint Review Panel are implemented to reduce damage to the environment and provide lasting benefits to the people living in the area. Only 3% of the responses indicate that construction should proceed regardless of its impacts because the project is an important source of revenue for the northern economy. We also asked how you would feel if natural gas from the pipeline was used to expand tar sands operations. Most responses agreed with this statement that "gas from the pipeline should absolutely not be used to expand tar sands operations." Among the concerns expressed was the worry that, even if all the recommendations were implemented, there could still be environmental impacts:

"I think it would be a gross misuse of an energy resource, and a massive environmental insult. And the construction of the pipelines, roadways and other infrastructures will cause unforeseen problems to local peoples and wildlife."
Many responses also suggested that the money being directed towards oil and gas development could be better spent on alternative energy sources:
"I would prefer to see alternative energies from wind, solar and tidal sources receive as much investment as is given to tar sands development. Bolster that which is sustainable, not that which is destructive, harmful."
"We need to tap alternate, less invasive energy sources. Pristine habitat is rare in our world and we should be doing everything to protect what is left for the other billions of creatures with which we share this planet."
The overall feeling of the responses can be summed up with this one:
"The pipe line should not be built - we need to preserve the land free from development. If the gas from the pipe line were used to develop the tar sands it would be a double assult on our natural environment."
Your support provides direction for our work. If you haven't made your voice heard yet, why not vote now? Or, check out some of our other quick polls to share your thoughts.

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