November 2023 Newsletter
Does it feel like December where you are? We teeter on welcoming the delay of snow throughout the province and feeling alarmed by its absence. This will be our last newsletter of the calendar year but please keep an eye for a holiday message from CPAWS later this month. Giving Tuesday for our chapter was a huge success and we want to thank you for your support. We are still crunching the numbers, but so far, we have raised over $2500, thanks to you. We know that at this time of year and with current events, we are all being pulled in different directions. Thank you for your continued enthusiasm for our work. Without further ado, here are the latest updates from the CPAWS Northern Alberta chapter.
We are so excited to announce that Elements Inc. (Elements Outfitters Edmonton) has chosen to donate $1500 to CPAWS Northern Alberta as part of their commitment to the environment and as a 1% for the Planet member. Elements is a partner we are thankful to have in our corner, as their values mirror ours to increase the protection of lands and waters in the province. They are key in supporting our increased presence in the outdoor community in the Edmonton region. These funds will be directed to our ongoing work to improve land management and conservation in the Cardinal Divide region just south of Hinton, where we led a BioBlitz this past summer.
COP28 ‘Climate COP’ is underway
From November 30th to December 12th, over 195 countries are gathering for Climate COP28 (Conference of the Parties for the international climate agreement). This year’s conference will center on measuring where the international community stands to meet goals in the Paris Agreement signed in 2015. One of the main goals in the Agreement – to cap global temperature increases to 1.5 C. To do so, greenhouse gas emissions would need to be significantly reduced.
Tailings, a waste-product from the oil sands industry, and the expansion of this waste, are in direct conflict with climate and biodiversity goals. So, our team thought – what if we were to map the total tailings footprint in northern Alberta and put it over Paris where the Agreement was signed 8 years ago? The results are startling as the entirety of the city would be covered (see below).
The impact of sprawling tailings is two-fold: there is a relationship with greenhouse gas emissions from oil sands extraction and the production of this waste, and carbon is released as forests and ancient peatlands are cut down to make way for tailings ponds.
As we know, the oil sands industry is a source of greenhouse gas emissions, and it imposes a huge presence in the boreal forest. As of 2020, the total tailings area covers 300 sq km and the planned Fort Hills expansion into the McClelland Lake Wetland Complex would add 60 sq km over the project’s lifetime. We completed an analysis on the project’s impact, which you can read here. The reclamation of peatlands is a fallacy: Peatlands take thousands of years to form, and that process cannot be replicated.
The expansion of tailings in northern Alberta is not in alignment with the Paris Agreement or the COP15 Global Biodiversity Framework aiming to halt and reverse biodiversity loss. Take action and learn more here.
Canada has seen one of the most intense and severe wildfires seasons on record this past summer, with over 18 million hectares burned. Climate change is the leading factor in increasing wildfire risk and severity, resulting in unusually dry conditions plaguing communities across the country.
The forestry industry and forest management practices can play a role in safeguarding communities and ecosystems from severe wildfires. However, in many cases, the industry is using fear of wildfire to justify ecologically-damaging, profit-seeking practices.
We’ve teamed up with CPAWS Southern Alberta to break down some of the most common (and harmful) industry-driven narratives surrounding forestry, forest management and wildfire risk. Read the blog here: https://cpawsnab.org/debunking-forestry-myths/
Climate Change Key Threat to Wood Buffalo National Park
Wood Buffalo is Canada’s largest National Park and one of its prized World Heritage Sites and yet, the very reasons the park is internationally recognized are degrading at an accelerated rate from industrial pressures beyond the park’s borders and the compounding effects of climate change.
In a recent article, the value of our forests are highlighted as an important nature-based climate solution. But the rich forests and ancient peatlands found in abundance in Wood Buffalo National Park are impacted by an increasing wildfire regime, resulting in the release of carbon that has been stored for hundreds of years.
Wood Buffalo National Park experienced its worst wildfire season this summer. We are surprised that the reality of the wildfires in Wood Buffalo National Park are not more widely known. The provincial estimate for area burned by wildfires in Alberta is 2.2 million hectares. Yet, that stat provided by the Government of Alberta does not include hectares burned within national parks. Parks Canada estimates about 930,000 ha hectares have burned in Wood Buffalo National Park this summer. This is a huge loss to biodiversity as intact habitat for many species was destroyed, and fires burned at such a searing intensity that many ecological benefits from fire will not manifest themselves.
While the boreal forest is a fire-dependent ecosystem, climate change will bring hotter and more frequent wildfires. Luckily, as is the case with Wood Buffalo National Park, protected areas help reduce other ecosystem stressors so managers and communities can focus on responding to wildfires as quickly and safely as possible.
National Urban Park Update
This week we were surprised to learn that a private member’s bill (Bill 204) has been put forward in the provincial legislature to amend the Municipal Government Act to limit municipalities from entering into an agreement with the federal government to designate a National Urban Park. This Bill, if passed, will limit options for Albertans for new parks in their municipalities. The current provincial government does not have a good track record on parks or commitments to protection of nature. Any National Urban Park that is proposed in a municipality will have multiple rounds of public consultation before being designated. Albertans and the municipalities they reside in should be able to decide if they want a National Urban Park in their city or town. Read our statement here.
CPAWS celebrates 60 years of conservation and unveils rebranded Award
Last week, CPAWS celebrated 60 years of conservation with a gala at the Museum of Nature, and the unveiling of the renamed Conservation Award. The biennial award recognizes nature champions in Canada whose work has significantly impacted efforts to protect and conserve land and ocean across the country.
This year’s award went to Thomas Berger, whose environmental work spanned more than four decades. In 1971, he served as the lawyer representing the Nisga’a Nation in Calder v British Columbia (AG), the definitive case that established the existence of Land Title in Canada. More recently he successfully represented CPAWS Yukon, several First Nations and other partners in a supreme court case to uphold the rights of Yukon First Nations and protect the Peel Watershed.
Welcome to the team, Wesley!
Our new Conservation Policy Analyst, Wesley Bell, has an M.Sc. in Conservation Biology and a Ph.D. and postdoctoral research on land degradation assessment.He is excited to apply his research skills, and experience working with Environmental NGOs in South Africa, to supporting CPAWS’ mission in Northern Alberta.