Skip to main content

The Keystone XL pipeline is a veritable grab-bag of controversial issues, but with so much debate over energy security, jobs, and politics, the most urgent problems of tar sands development are put on the back burner. For those of us who work on wildlife issues, however, the crisis couldn’t be clearer: Wildlife from Canada to the Gulf coast of Texas and beyond face a true calamity if Keystone XL is built.

Let’s start with our neighbors. Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, told reporters last year that “certain people in the United States would like to see Canada be one giant national park for the northern half of North America,” ignoring widespread criticism—north of the border—of his administration’s slash and burn approach to environmental policy. The Canadian government has been the tar sands industry’s biggest cheerleader, helping to prioritize oil development at the cost of, well, almost everything green: they have withdrawn from the Kyoto protocol, neutered the country’s bedrock environmental laws, muzzled federal climate scientists with media “gag orders” and drastically cut funding for climate research and other crucial environmental programs.

In northern Alberta, the epicenter of the tar sands region, the net result of these decisions is a failed ecosystem, a landscape better suited for dirt bike racing than supporting its native woodland caribou and gray wolves (in fact, in a recent grisly attempt at “wildlife management,” the government sanctioned the slaughter of hundreds of wolves by poisoning and aerial shootings). An area the size of Florida is slated for development, and if you’ve seen the industrial war zone that is a tar sands mine, replete with hundred-acre toxic waste pits, clear-cut forests, and massive refining and upgrading complexes, you know there’s no room for nature.

In a desert this might just be the cost of doing business, but this region happens to overlap some of the most pristine forest in the world, critical habitat for hundreds of species from lynx to moose, as well as the nesting grounds for half of America’s migratory songbirds. Fish and indigenous communities along the Athabasca River, where the mining takes place, are suffering health problems from chemicals released into the watershed.

Moving south along the pathway of Keystone XL, we cross Montana’s Yellowstone River, the prairies of South Dakota, the Nebraska Sandhills and the Ogallala aquifer – America’s most important source of groundwater. The migration corridor for the sandhill crane and the critically endangered whooping crane track the pipeline route step for step, and a spill in Nebraska’s Platte River (which is a crucial pit stop for these iconic birds) would have disastrous consequences. As we’ve seen with the Kalamazoo and Mayflower tar sands pipeline ruptures, when it comes to leaks it’s a matter of when, not if—a fact Keystone’s engineers admitted in filings with the US government. Animals from the flashy (the bald eagle) to the humble (the sagebrush vole) face the prospects of disrupted habitat during construction and operation, and the consequences of Keystone’s inevitable spills.

And then there’s the elephant in the room—climate change. Keystone XL would provide the industry with the one thing it lacks: access to the international oil market. Building Keystone would spur a massive mining expansion and lock us into a fossil fuel economy for decades to come, sending our planet over the edge of climate catastrophe, destroying ecosystems and wiping out wildlife on every continent and ocean. At its core, this project poses a simple choice between values. ExxonMobil and TransCanada have their bottom lines to prop up, but the rest of us need to decide whether corporate profits are worth sending Earth down the toilet.

The State Department’s review of this dangerous and polluting project does not adequately address spill risks, habitat impacts in Canada, or climate threats. The public has until April 22nd to submit official comments, so make sure to do your part for wildlife and tell President Obama to say “NO!” to Keystone XL.

Take Action! Tell the White House to reject Keystone XL.
Peter LaFontaine is National Wildlife Federation's Energy Policy Advocate, where he works to prevent the expansion of dirty fuels like tar sands and coal.

Originally posted to Target Global Warming on Sun Apr 14, 2013 at 11:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by DK GreenRoots, Climate Change SOS, Climate Hawks, and Holy $h*tters.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site