Danger in the Nursery

Walking in the marsh on Roosevelt Island along the Potomac River by Washington, D.C., I see Mallards and Buffleheads busily swimming among the reeds. Back at home with a hot cup of coffee, the network of wires above my backyard hosts Yellow-rumped Warblers and White-throated Sparrows. All of these birds fly north to Canada's Boreal forest to nest in the spring - and some of them may even fly as far west as the Boreal region being strip-mined and drilled for tar sands oil.

DANGER IN THE NURSERY: Impact on Birds of Tar Sands Oil Development in Canada's Boreal Forest  is a peer-reviewed policy and science document outlining the current and projected impacts the tar sands oil industry is having on migratory bird populations in the Boreal forest of Alberta and along the hemisphere's flyways. Written by NRDC, together with the Boreal Songbird Initiative and the Pembina Institute, Danger in the Nursery shows that the cost of tar sands oil is also high in terms of migratory birds and that continued expansion of tar sands oil development will make its impact felt in the United States, throughout the Americas and around the world in terms of catastrophic loss of birds over the coming decades.

The loss of as many as 166 million birds is a wholly unacceptable price to pay for our addiction to oil. Bird watching is the #1 most popular past-time in America. The damage that tar sands oil development does to bird habit and nesting grounds will further damage Alberta's reputation south of the border as people wonder what happened to the birds from their backyard. Birds are telling us it is time for a change in North American energy policy. There are better energy options available in North America that do not foul our air, poison our waters, or kill our backyard birds.

The United States is the main consumer of oil from the tar sands and as companies plan for expansion in the tar sands, they also plan for new pipelines and refinery expansions in the United States - bringing their own air, water and global warming pollution problems to the U.S. Midwest, Rockies and Gulf Coast states.

In the United States, we know that tar sands have a high environmental cost. The United States is steadily moving towards regulations that curb greenhouse gas emissions and take us away from high carbon fuels. We've seen that with California's low carbon fuel standard, the US federal government's new commitment to not contract for fuels with higher greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil, and the US Conference of Mayors resolution to turn away from high carbon fuels such as tar sands oil.  The next step for the US is to create a green economy that moves away from oil as a source of energy and fuel. In the meantime, we need responsible development in the tar sands that cleans up the current mess and charts a course for doing it better in the future.

This report shines a bright light on issues that we need to address if we are to leave a better legacy for our children. We need to make better energy and land conservation choices now.