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Experts & Resources

Ask President Obama to Reject Anti-Wildlife Riders!
Elly Pepper

Congress is back this week after the long recess, and legislators have a hefty to-do list awaiting them in the lame duck. With only a few weeks remaining in the congressional year, Congress still needs to finalize a comprehensive energy bill package, pass the annual defense spending bill, and enact legislation to fund the federal government.

Unfortunately, all three of these bills contain destructive policy “riders” that undermine the Endangered Species Act and harm wildlife. These riders would block protections for endangered sage grouse, gray wolves, salmon, and other imperiled species, and others would directly undermine the law itself.

While disturbing, this is by no means shocking; there have been more than 125 individual legislative attacks on the ESA since the beginning of this Congress alone.

Last year, in large part thanks to the work of NRDC’s members and advocates, we were able to prevent all but one anti-ESA rider from being enacted into law. With your help, we can beat last year’s record by making sure that not a single bill passes to undermine the ESA or to threaten endangered wildlife. And with a Republican-controlled Congress, that means ensuring the Obama Administration stays strong in its opposition to any and all of these destructive riders.

Make your voice heard by calling the White House TODAY and urging the President to reject all anti-ESA and anti-wildlife riders on year-end legislation. Here’s how:

Call the White House at (202) 456-1111 and ask to leave a message for President Obama.

When you call, you don’t need to say a lot—just let them know your name, where you’re calling from, and this message:

Hello. My name is [Full Name] from [City, State]. I respectfully request that President Obama reject all policy “riders” in year-end bills that undermine the Endangered Species Act and harm wildlife. I urge the President to Veto Extinction.

And feel free to add as many of the following points as you’d like:

  • Thank you for past statements by the Obama Administration opposing ideological policy “riders” in spending legislation and other bills. Please stay strong in opposing all anti-wildlife “riders” including those that block protections for gray wolves, sage grouse, and other imperiled species.
  • Policy “riders” targeting particular imperiled species undermine not only the recovery of these species, but also the Endangered Species Act itself. The ESA is one of our most important environmental laws, supported by 90% of American voters. No law has been more important in preventing the extinction of wildlife.
  • The Endangered Species Act has a proven track record of success in protecting wildlife. It has prevented 99 percent of the species under its care from going extinct.  Please allow this critical law to continue to protect wildlife for future generations, not undermine it via unrelated spending legislation.
The Standoff at Standing Rock
Rhea Suh

Against a backdrop of political uncertainty, the need for clarity, transparency, and dialogue becomes even more urgent—and the stakes have never been higher.

File photo of protesters demonstrating against Energy Transfer Partners' Dakota Access oil pipeline

Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

UPDATE: Good news. After this posted, the Army Corps admitted that further review of the route was still needed, including nation-to-nation discussions with the Standing Rock Sioux. The project will be paused while this process plays out.

It’s a moment of tumult for the people most affected by the Dakota Access Pipeline. We’ve seen disturbing reports of violence and arrests near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. We’ve heard an announcement that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers might reroute the pipeline away from the reservation’s border. And, of course, we have a president-elect who campaigned on a vow to curb public oversight of these kinds of projects and press for pipeline construction overall.

Amid the uncertainty is a growing anxiety over the last significant legal hurdle standing in the way of the $3.8 billion, 1,172-mile pipeline’s completion: an easement that, if approved by the Army Corps, would allow the pipeline to cross the Missouri River at Lake Oahe. That’s the primary water source for the Standing Rock Sioux and a site of immeasurable cultural and spiritual significance to the tribe.

In September, as tensions mounted between opponents of the pipeline and its builder, the Obama administration made clear that it would refrain from approving the easement until officials had been given the chance to reevaluate the larger process by which such approvals are granted.

NRDC joins the Standing Rock Sioux water protectors in believing that the easement shouldn’t be approved—and that all work should be halted until all the necessary voices have been heard. Every day the Army Corps refuses to grant the easement is a day that can and should be devoted to listening to tribal voices, analyzing the many negative environmental impacts of the Dakota Access Pipeline, and carefully reconsidering this dangerous project.

That’s why NRDC is calling for the Army Corps—and, by extension, the Obama administration—to refrain from making any decision regarding the easement until at least two things have happened.

First, they should wait until more government-to-government discussions between the United States and tribal representatives take place. These talks, which have already begun, are currently scheduled throughout the month of November.

Second, it is imperative that no decision be made until the federal government has undertaken a comprehensive reevaluation of the process by which it grants approvals to large projects like Dakota Access in the context of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). According to this 1970 law, the government has an obligation to consider the potential environmental impact of any major infrastructure project before allowing it to go forward.

As of right now, there’s ample reason to believe that the federal government’s interpretation of this law is seriously flawed. That’s what members of the Standing Rock Sioux believe. That’s what NRDC and many other environmental organizations have also concluded. And that’s the position of the thousands of Americans who have traveled to North Dakota to quite literally Stand With Standing Rock, and the millions more who have signified their solidarity with the tribe online.

There is now another chance for all of us to stand with Standing Rock: On November 15, the water protectors are organizing a massive Day of Action. Protestors will gather at Army Corps of Engineer offices around the country to show solidarity with the tribe.

NRDC believes that the Standing Rock Sioux deserve to have an honest, transparent, and peaceful discussion about this issue. In the meantime, all construction on the pipeline—at all points along its route, not just on those culturally sensitive lands adjacent to Standing Rock—should be halted.

State Route 241 Foothill South and Tesoro Extensions Settlement Agreement
Legal Filings

An October 2016 agreement between the Orange County, CA, toll road agency, State Attorney General, and a broad coalition of national and local environmental groups, including NRDC, will protect San Onofre State Beach, the Richard and Donna O'Neill Conservancy, and San Mateo Creek watershed while allowing exploration of other transportation solutions for South Orange County.

21st Century Energy Just Got a 21st Century Leasing Process
Bobby McEnaney

Tom Brewster Photography/Bureau of Land Management

The Department of Interior’s new rule modernizes the wind and solar leasing process

This week the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a long awaited rule designed to modernize how solar and wind projects will be permitted on federal lands. This new “leasing rule” will establish a competitive auction for solar and wind energy resources. The rule will also adopt an incentives structure that will reward clean energy projects with financial credits and streamlined permitting for those permits that elect to lease in prescreened areas or zones, a process that has been demonstrated to greatly reduce environmental conflicts while conferring greater economic certainty to developers. 

Almost five years in the making, the promulgation of a competitive leasing rule is a far cry from where the BLM was eight years ago. In 2009, the BLM simply did not have a systematic approach to develop renewable resources on federal lands. Part of BLM’s struggle was due to the fact that applications for projects were considered on a first-come, first-served basis regardless of whether a project was financially or environmentally viable. This process hamstrung the BLM, and in fact the agency had not approved a single solar energy project at the beginning of 2009.  Thankfully the BLM started to shift away from this flawed process, and embraced a smarter approach to permitting that identified environmental issues early in the planning and permitting phases, while also focusing development in areas with viable renewable energy resources.

The shift away from a project-by-project planning approach, along with the finalization of the Western Solar Plan in November 2012—that directed development to solar energy zones in an orderly fashion—helped to greatly accelerate the permitting of renewable projects on BLM managed lands. Since January 2009, the BLM has approved 57 clean energy projects, totaling 15 gigawatts of newly permitted clean power.  In addition, 33 of these permits are either operational or currently under construction and will soon be producing clean energy on BLM lands.

The progress achieved by the BLM over the last eight years occurred despite the fact that the BLM’s renewables program has operated under an antiquated administrative construct. This is due to the fact that Congress has prescribed that onshore federal wind and solar resources were to be managed under Title V of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, which advises that permits to lease these resources are to be treated as linear-right-of-ways (ROWs). A linear “right-of-way” under Title V is a temporary conveyance whose administrative underpinnings date back to the 19th century.  In essence a ROW was used to permit linear or temporary infrastructure including roads, ditches, and railways, or in more recent history, the Burning Man event in Nevada. Agency discretion to modify these permits was an inherent part of the ROW construct, granting the agency needed flexibility to move and/or modify ROW permits when circumstances dictated. 

Given that a ROW does not convey a right, but merely a privilege, the BLM retains a great deal of administerial latitude in reserving the right to modify, suspend, relocate or even terminate (under certain prescribed conditions) a ROW permit. But the right-of-way regulations did not anticipate the technological needs nor the sheer scale associated with the generation of utility scale solar and wind resources, nor the permanency associated with such investments. Hence, solar and wind developers have been severely disadvantaged by the fact that the BLM retains broad latitude to potentially modify investments made by renewable energy developers. Given the substantial and permanent nature of utility scale renewable infrastructure, such a level of regulatory uncertainty undermines the efforts to further scale renewables on federal lands.

In contrast, the management of federally owned fossil fuels such as oil and gas—derived from longstanding mineral law—has established that leases confer a compensable right or interest once issued, which cannot be summarily terminated without due cause on part of the managing agency. From a purely financial perspective, a “mineral lease” holds greater attraction than a ROW given the financial and temporal certainty that is provided by possessing such an interest. 

The other practical difference between a mineral lease and a ROW is the fact that mineral leases are required to pay a royalty. In contrast, the largest financial obligation of a ROW permit is associated with a rental. Royalties, from NRDC’s perspective, are a superior way to track and assess projects given that they are technologically neutral and only assess power that is generated. The beauty of the Wind and Solar Competitive Leasing Rule is partly attributable to the fact that the BLM recognized the inadequacy of the current ROW configuration and made an effort to restructure the renewables permitting program by replicating processes that been proven to be a successful for other energy systems that have been historically managed by the BLM.

The most obvious example of how a leasing rule process can benefit renewables was evidenced by BLM’s highly successful Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. The agency’s decision to embrace a competitive leasing framework and auction in a designated low-conflict zone area, allowed the BLM to secure nearly $6 million in bids from solar developers in 2014. Those winning bids were permitted in less than half the average time and were able to secure power purchase contracts that will produce some of the cheapest electricity on the planet. The lessons learned from this pilot auction are now being applied to the final leasing rule. 

The BLM should be applauded for their willingness to recognize deficiencies within the agency’s antiquated system to manage clean energy. By proposing fixes to that system the BLM are ensuring that the permitting of clean energy will occur in a far more efficient manner, provide the taxpayer with a fair return, and help direct development into zones which will help safeguard sensitive environmental resources from the impacts associated with development while also combating the impacts from climate change.

U.S. Marketplace Urged to Protect Canada’s Boreal Forest
Anthony Swift

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is calling on the U.S. marketplace to urge the logging company Resolute Forest Products (Resolute) to drop its litigation against public interest organizations and instead focus on demonstrating its commitment to sustainable forestry and conservation. NRDC has been engaged for over two decades in efforts to conserve Canada’s forests and assist its indigenous peoples in increasing control over their traditional lands. Canada’s boreal forest is one of the world’s last great forests, an ecological resource that plays a significant role in helping to regulate the global climate by holding at bay massive amounts of greenhouse gases in its trees and soils, provides habitat to thousands of plant and animal species, serves as a global freshwater storehouse, and is home to more than six hundred First Nations communities. It is an area containing some of the largest unbroken ecosystems on earth large enough to support complex, intact and native ecosystems. Unfortunately, across Canada’s boreal, these intact forests landscapes are steadily degrading, the habitat of the threatened woodland caribou is declining precipitously, and the last refuges for much of the boreal forest’s biodiversity are in danger of being lost. The long-term health of Canada’s boreal forest is at risk and requires urgent attention from government and industry. Because the U.S. is the destination of much of the lumber, pulp and tissue sourced from Canada’s boreal forest, customers of Canada’s boreal products have an opportunity and responsibility to weigh in.

As the largest logging company in Canada and the manager of such a vast area, Resolute’s actions and activities have a direct impact on the ecological vitality of Canada’s magnificent boreal forest.[1] As described below, the company’s commitment to sustainable forestry and conservation in the Canadian boreal has been called into question. But Resolute has responded to public criticisms of its forestry practices by suing its critics.

Suing Critics

In the most egregious example, Resolute lodged a lawsuit based on the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO)—a U.S. law developed to combat the mafia—to sue Greenpeace and Stand.earth, public interest organizations that continue to be critical of Resolute’s practices in the boreal forest.Public interest organizations advocating for environmental protection and media organizations are deeply concerned about Resolute’s actions. As the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and eleven media companies stated, Resolute’s claims “share a central purpose—silencing speech on matters of public concern.”

The RICO suit is just one in a series of lawsuits the company has served on its critics. In 2013, Resolute brought a defamation case against Greenpeace for statements critical of the company’s operations and practices in the boreal forest. While this litigation is ongoing, the Ontario Superior Court recently ruled that a number of the assertions by Resolute in that case should be struck as improper and irrelevant, and indeed referred to one of the assertions as “scandalous and vexatious.”  We expect US courts to similarly condemn the manner in which Resolute has framed its critics’ conduct in the RICO suit. In 2014, after the Rainforest Alliance—a leading sustainable forestry certifier—produced audits citing Resolute for non-compliance with FSC standards in two of its tenures, the company sued Rainforest Alliance with the stated purpose of suppressing those reports. The Rainforest Alliance litigation was ultimately settled, but Resolute’s complaint is notable for having named individual staff members as defendants. NRDC strongly condemns this lawsuit as it bypassed by normal dispute resolution process already set up by the Forest Stewardship Council.

Declining Commitment to Sustainable Forestry

Meanwhile, in recent years Resolute has moved away from internationally accepted sustainable forestry practices. Resolute has not only significantly decreased its commitment to Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the world’s only independent sustainable forestry certification system, but also has actively criticized the system itself. As recently as 2010, Resolute pledged to have 80% of its lands certified by the FSC. And yet, since 2012, the acreage of land managed by Resolute pursuant to FSC certification guidelines has fallen by nearly 50%. Some of the reductions in this certification is due to the company having its lands suspended by the independent Forest Stewardship Council. By 2015, Resolute announced that it would not seek new certifications from FSC and do not appear to be renewing existing certifications.

Resolute’s actions in Canada have also led to its loss of recognition from the conservation community. In December 2015, the World Wildlife Fund ended its recognition of Resolute due to its failure to reach its stated commitment to increase FSC certification. In May 2013, seven of Canada’s top environmental organizations working on boreal protection announced they would “suspend further work with Resolute under the collaborative Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement” citing a lack of faith in the company’s commitment to science-based conservation.

These suits against Resolute’s critics and the company’s attacks on the FSC system detract from the real issues facing the boreal forest and undermine efforts to develop solutions for them.

  • Canada’s Intact Forest Landscapes are being lost. Global Forest Watch Canada recently reported an alarming erosion of Canada’s large intact forests, with cumulative losses of intact forests in totaling the area of Great Britain between 2000 and 2013. Intact forest landscapes (or IFLs) are unbroken ecosystems large enough to support complex, intact and native ecosystems while also holding large stores of carbon in place. While logging IFLs often does not meet the technical definition of “deforestation”—or conversion of land to another use—it does degrade the role of these ancient forests as critical ecosystems that provide habitat for hundreds of species and stores of carbon. In an effort to help spur the preservation of remaining IFLs in Canada’s commercially accessible forests, the FSC has begun work to encourage the preservation of IFLs—but its efforts are under attack by Resolute.
  • Woodland Caribou—a critical indicator species for healthy boreal forest landscapes—is under threat. Few species have been more impacted by human caused activities in the boreal than the threatened woodland caribou. Woodland caribou are both dependent upon—and a necessary part of—the boreal forest, fulfilling many essential ecosystem functions. Because woodland caribou are particularly sensitive to habitat disturbance, they also act as an indicator species, reflecting the health of their boreal home. This makes the declining numbers of woodland caribou all the more troubling. Only fourteen of the fifty-one local boreal caribou populations are considered self-sustaining. The boreal populations of woodland caribou are now listed as “threatened” including populations in Ontario, Labrador, the Northwest Territories, and Quebec, but the habitat loss driving their population decline continues. At least 65 percent of caribou habitat must be left undisturbed in order for the caribou to be self-sustaining, but currently provinces are not meeting this essential management requirement, and populations continue to decline.
  • Human activities are undermining the boreal’s role fighting climate change. With its old-growth forest and carbon-dense peatlands, the boreal provides the world’s highest density of carbon stores. The boreal’s soil and plants hold approximately 208 billion tons of carbon, which is prevented from being released into the atmosphere as long as these resources remain undisturbed.[2] This vast network of ecosystems provides both regional and global benefits, all of which depends on a landscape that is protected from unsustainable human impact and industrial development. However, clear-cutting changes these forests from a carbon dioxide sink and reservoir to a source of carbon dioxide emissions, hamstringing efforts to combat climate change.

It is time that the United States market place—the destination of much of the lumber, pulp and tissue sourced from Canada’s boreal forest—step up its demand that the products it sources come from sustainably managed forests and urge provinces to enact policies that will protect the boreal forest’s threatened species and intact forest landscapes. The market place has been a powerful voice for protection of Canada’s forests in the past and other large logging companies and their customers already support efforts to protect the boreal. But much more needs to be done and quickly. The place to start is for Resolute to drop its litigation against public interest organizations, cease its attacks on the FSC system, and ensure free, prior and informed consent from First Nations on their territories. The bigger goal of conserving the Boreal forest and committing to sustainable forestry must become the priority.

[1] The Montreal based logging company Resolute manages more than fifty million acres of land in Quebec and Ontario, most of which is public land in the boreal forest.

[2] Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Environmental groups suspend further work with Resolute under Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement, May 21, 2013, http://cpaws.org/news/environmental-groups-suspend-further-work-with-resolute-under-cbfa.

Report Shows Logging Threatens Quebec’s Boreal Forest
Anthony Swift

Read this post in French.

Global Forest Watch Canada (GFWC) has released a report that highlights the growing threat of logging and road building to one of Quebec’s largest and last remaining intact forest landscapes—the Broadback River watershed. The Broadback River watershed, comprising more than five million acres of old growth boreal forest, is part of the ancestral territory of the Waswanipi Cree and contains the last remaining intact forests in their traditional hunting grounds. The Broadback also serves as a refuge for boreal species—including Quebec’s threatened woodland caribou—and acts as an important carbon sink, aiding global efforts to address climate change.

In its report, GFWC finds that more than 20 percent of the Broadback River watershed—over one million acres—has already been disturbed by logging and roadbuilding, a tenfold increase in disturbance since 1980. Roads and clearcuts have left an even larger mark just south of the Broadback River watershed, where the majority of the forest has been disturbed by nearly 10,000 kilometers of roads and 2.5 million acres of clearcuts and other industrial activities. These findings demonstrate the steady erosion of intact forest in and around the watershed and establish the urgent need for the Quebec government to take action to protect the Broadback.

GFWC used satellite imagery to analyze forest loss caused by clearcuts, mines, settlements, roads, powerlines and airstrips in the Broadback River watershed and Waswanipi Cree traplines south of it over a period ranging from 1980 to 2015. It then added a 500-meter buffer to these forest disturbances—a distance which scientists at Environment Canada have found best represents the impact that human disturbances have on woodland caribou ranges, as the herds avoid the disturbed areas to avoid higher predation. From the time series analysis, roads and clearcuts have developed over significant areas since 1980, shown in the video below.

What do clearcuts look like?

Watch the time series below. The satellite images capture how logging activities have altered Quebec's ecosystems over a period of twenty-seven years.  The video displays a yearly image from 1985-2012 for an area located near the south central Broadback River watershed region.

Google Earth Engine Team, 2015. Google Earth Engine: A planetary-scale geospatial analysis platform. https://earthengine.google.com

To put what this time lapse shows into perspective, here are some of the GFWC’s reports findings:

  • More than 50 percent of the forest area south of the Broadback River watershed—nearly 10,000 square kilometers—has been disturbed by nearly 4,000 square kilometers of clearcuts, and fragmented by nearly 10,000 kilometers of logging roads. That’s a sevenfold increase since 1980.
  • More than 20 percent of the Broadback River watershed itself has already been disturbed, and the pace of roadbuilding and logging has increased dramatically in recent decades, with nearly 4,300 kilometers of roads and more than 1,100 square kilometers of clearcuts. Activity has increased tenfold since 1980, and more 70% of roadbuilding and 85% of the clearcuts have happened since 1995.
  • The report also highlighted how much the Cree First Nation of Waswanipi, whose traditional way of life depends on their land, have already lost. Until 1980, 36 of their traplines had no human disturbance whatsoever, and none had more than 25% disturbance. Today, only five remain undisturbed, the average rate of disturbance across all traplines in the Broadback River watershed is 25%, and traplines south of the Broadback are 46% disturbed.

Quebec’s woodland caribou herds are already under threat, and the Broadback River forest offers a refuge to this subspecies. However, the GFWC report demonstrates that human disturbances are steadily encroaching on this critical habitat. While logging itself can have a detrimental impact on ecosystems, building roads and industrial infrastructure fragments caribou habitat and is considered by scientists a major driver of caribou population decline. Because caribou avoid human infrastructure and activities, roads and clearcuts limits their range and makes them more vulnerable to predators such as wolves and bears.

Environment Canada has concluded that woodland caribou herds are unlikely to maintain their populations if human disturbances in their ranges exceed 35 percent. This limit has already been exceeded in large areas of the boreal forest south of the Broadback River watershed, and logging activities are approaching that critical threshold in the Broadback itself.

Woodland Caribou

Howard Sandler

The Cree Grand Council and the nine Cree communities it represents are unanimous in their quest to protect the Broadback River watershed and fully support the Waswanipi Crees’ efforts to protect the remaining undisturbed traplines that fall within the watershed. After the agreement between the Cree Grand Council and the Government of Quebec in 2015, the parties were to continue negotiations aimed at greater protection of the Broadback River watershed. To date, only one meeting has been held and there is little indication that additional progress has been made. As time passes, the data make it clear that development south of the proposed protection area, which puts the same caribou herds at ever greater risk, continues.

The Waswanipi Cree have been asking the Quebec government for protection for the Broadback for more than 10 years. The start findings in GFWC's report suggest the Broadback cannot afford more years of inaction from the Quebec government. It’s clear that rather than approving additional logging roads into one of the last intact areas of the boreal, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard needs to act on the proposal of the Waswanipi Cree and protect the Broadback River watershed before it’s too late.

L’exploitation forestière et la construction de routes menacent la forêt de la vallée de la rivière Broadback, au Québec, selon un rapport de Global Forest Watch Canada

Global Forest Watch Canada (GFWC) a publié un rapport faisant état de la menace croissante que l’exploitation forestière et la construction de routes font peser sur l’une des plus vastes zones forestières encore intactes au Québec—la forêt de la vallée de la rivière Broadback. Cette zone, qui comprend plus de cinq millions d’acres de vieux peuplements de forêt boréale, fait partie du territoire ancestral cri de Waswanipi et renferme les dernières forêts encore intactes de leurs territoires de chasse traditionnels. La vallée de la rivière Broadback offre un refuge à des espèces boréales—dont le caribou des bois, espèce menacée du Québec—et représente un important puits de carbone, ce qui soutient les efforts déployés à l’échelle mondiale pour lutter contre les changements climatiques.

Dans son rapport, GFWC constate que l’exploitation forestière et la construction de routes ont déjà perturbé plus de 20 p. 100 du bassin de la rivière Broadback, niveau qui est dix fois plus élevé qu’en 1980. La construction de chemins et les coupes à blanc ont laissé une empreinte encore plus profonde sur la forêt boréale, juste au sud de la vallée de cette rivière, où l’aménagement de près de dix mille kilomètres de chemins et des milliers de kilomètres carrés de coupes à blanc a perturbé la majeure partie de cette forêt. Ces conclusions révèlent l’érosion constante des forêts intactes du bassin de la rivière Broadback et des environs et démontrent l’urgence des mesures à prendre par le gouvernement du Québec pour protéger la vallée de la rivière Broadback.

L’analyse des séries chronologiques révèle que les chemins et les blocs de coupe ont envahi de vastes zones depuis 1980, comme le montre la vidéo qui suit.

À quoi ressemblent les coupes forestières?

Les séries chronologiques suivantes contiennent des images par satellite illustrant comment les activités forestières au Québec peuvent altérer un écosystème forestier. La vidéo contient une image par année, de 1985 à 2012, d’une zone située près du centre-sud du bassin de la rivière Broadback.

Google Earth Engine Team, 2015. Google Earth Engine: A planetary-scale geospatial analysis platform. https://earthengine.google.com

Voici quelques-unes des conclusions du rapport de GFWC :

  • Plus de 50 p. 100 des forêts, au sud du bassin de la rivière Broadback—près de 10 000 kilomètres carrés—a été perturbé par près de 4 000 kilomètres carrés de coupes à blanc et fragmenté par quelque 10 000 kilomètres de nouveaux chemins forestiers, soit sept fois plus qu’en 1980.
  • Plus de 20 p. 100 du bassin de la rivière Broadback même a déjà été perturbé et le rythme de la construction de routes et de l’exploitation forestière a considérablement augmenté ces dernières décennies, avec près de 4 300 kilomètres de chemins et plus de 1 100 kilomètres carrés de coupes forestières. Plus de 70 p. 100 de la construction de chemins et 85 % des coupes forestières sont ultérieurs à 1995.
  • Le rapport souligne aussi les pertes déjà subies par la Première nation crie de Waswanipi, dont le mode de vie traditionnel repose sur le territoire. Avant 1980, trente-six de leurs lignes de piégeage n’avaient subi aucune perturbation anthropique, de quelque nature que ce soit, et aucune n’était perturbée à plus de 25 %. Aujourd’hui, il n’en reste plus que cinq de non perturbées et le taux de perturbation moyenne de l’ensemble des lignes de piégeage du bassin de la rivière Broadback est de 25 %, tandis que les lignes de piégeage au sud de cette rivière sont perturbées à 46 %.

Les populations de caribous des bois du Québec sont déjà menacées et la forêt de la vallée de la rivière Broadback offre refuge à cette sous-espèce. Le rapport du GFWC montre toutefois que les perturbations anthropiques empiètent constamment sur cet habitat essentiel du caribou des bois. L’exploitation forestière même peut avoir des effets dévastateurs sur les écosystèmes, mais les chercheurs estiment que la construction de chemins et d’infrastructures industrielles fragmente l’habitat du caribou et influe beaucoup sur la diminution des populations de caribous. Cet animal s’éloigne des infrastructures et des activités humaines, ce qui le rend plus vulnérable aux prédateurs, tels le loup et l’ours.

Environnement Canada a conclu que les hardes de caribous des bois ont peu de chances de maintenir leurs populations si la perturbation anthropique de leurs habitats dépasse 35 p. 100. Cette limite est déjà dépassée dans les vastes zones de forêt boréale s’étendant au sud du bassin de la rivière Broadback, et les activités forestières se rapprochent peu à peu de ce seuil essentiel de la rivière Broadback même.

Le caribou des bois

Howard Sandler

Les Cris de Waswanipi demandent depuis plus de dix ans au gouvernement du Québec de protéger la rivière Broadback. Il est évident qu’au lieu d’approuver la construction de nouveaux chemins forestiers dans la forêt boréale, le premier ministre Couillard doit donner suite à la proposition des Cris de Waswanipi et protéger la forêt de la vallée de la rivière Broadback avant qu’il ne soit trop tard.


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