A Sticky Proposal
A proposal written by an advisory group of industry, municipal, aboriginal and environmental groups has led to the recent unveiling of a plan by the government of Alberta that will give some level of conservation protection to at least 20% of tar sands land in the northeast corner of the province.
However, the Winnipeg Free Press reports that critics argue the plan is not cohesive and will allow existing oil, natural gas and logging operations to continue on the classified conservation land that will stretch from east of Edmonton to the Northwest Territories. The land contains almost all of Alberta’s proven tar sands oil reserves and generates $1.4 billion from forestry.
The document outlining the plan states that there will be varying degrees of protection for different parts of the landscape in the conserved areas and that land currently being used for oil and gas production will be permitted to continue. Also, large parts of the areas being proposed for protection overlap with current forestry management areas and mineral leases.
The tar sands are located in the middle of Canada’s Boreal forest, one of the largest carbon storehouses in the world and home to countless plant and animal species as well as extensive wetlands. The Sierra Club refers to the tar sands, which cover a landmass of 140,200 km2, as one of the most destructive industrial projects in the world and argue that the Sands must be included in a national cap on greenhouse gas emissions.
Indeed, after monitoring 60 sites along the Athabasca River and its tributaries, University of Alberta ecologist Dr. David Schindler has come to the conclusion that the tar sands have added carcinogenic toxins to the area environment, according to the Sierra Club. The study focuses on 13 toxic substances explicitly linked to tar sands development, which contradicts industry and government claims that the toxins are naturally occurring. The Sierra Club is calling for the government to cease new tar sands approvals.