Archive | October, 2011

Killing Wolves: A Product of Alberta’s Big Oil and Gas Boom

31 Oct

“The development of the tar sands and other oil and gas fields in Alberta has carved up the Canadian province’s boreal forest, threatening herds of woodland caribou. But rather than protect caribou habitat, officials have taken a controversial step: the large-scale killing of the wolves that prey on the caribou.”

by Ed Struzik, crossposted from e360.yale.edu

In the spring of 1995, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service captured several wolves from west central Alberta and set them loose the next year in Yellowstone National Park, hoping they would fill in the missing link in the park’s complex system of predator-prey relationships.

Wolves hadn’t been seen in Yellowstone in 70 years. Beyond anyone’s wildest expectations, and despite fierce opposition of some local ranchers and hunters, these and other wolves brought in from Alberta and British Columbia adjusted extremely well. Today, 11 packs, with nearly 100 wolves, are thriving in Yellowstone.

The fortunes of wolves in west central Alberta, however, have moved in a completely different direction. Over the past five years, the government of Alberta has spent more than $1 million poisoning wolves with strychnine and shooting them from the air. In all, more than 500 wolves in the Little Smoky River region have been destroyed in a controversial effort to save woodland caribou, whose numbers have plummeted as the oil, gas, and logging industries have increasingly carved up Alberta’s boreal forest in recent decades.

The killing of wolves in Alberta is not going to end any time soon. Indeed, if some wildlife managers get their way, the predator control program could be expanded to include several other areas of the province, including the heavily mined tar sands region, where four caribou herds are being squeezed by the massive, multi-billion dollar oil mining operations. Two of those herds are already at risk of disappearing if their habitat is not restored soon, according to the Alberta Caribou Committee, which is charged with helping recover caribou populations. All told, tar sands deposits in Alberta underlie 54,000 square miles — an area the size of New York State — and while only a small portion of this is currently being developed, the continued expansion of the tar sands will further destroy caribou habitat.

In its latest report, the Alberta Caribou Committee notes that three of the province’s 18 herds are at immediate risk of disappearing because of loss of habitat. Six are in decline, three are stable, and not enough is known about the remaining six to determine how well they are doing. Scientists are confident, however, that they are in decline as well, further fueling efforts to protect caribou by eradicating wolves.

“Wolf control can be an effective way of conserving dwindling caribou numbers,” says Stan Boutin, a University of Alberta biologist who has spent more than 20 years trying to prevent caribou from disappearing in the province. “But the province is kidding itself if it thinks that wolf control alone is the answer. It’s not.”

The answer, according to nearly every scientist involved in the debate, is habitat protection — something that has not been high on the list of the Alberta government as it has pushed energy development in the tar sands region and throughout the province.

Wolf Canada

In the last five years, Alberta has spent more than $1 million poisoning wolves and shooting them from the air.

Alberta officials have defended the killing of wolves in regions where woodland caribou numbers have plummeted, yet these officials acknowledge that preserving habitat is essential.

“Scientists recognize that wolf control is a legitimate means of managing caribou populations that are in trouble,” said Darcy Whiteside, spokesman for the Alberta Sustainable Resources Department. “This is definitely needed to save that [Little Smoky River caribou] population. It has definitely stabilized that population. However, we also recognize that it is only a short-term solution and that habitat protection is key to saving caribou in the long run.”

Wolves have long been used as scapegoats for wildlife management problems. For much of the 20th century, the U.S. and Canadian governments systematically targeted wolves. Initially, wildlife managers used bounties to encourage people to kill wolves. Then they used poison, leghold traps, and marksmen from helicopters to wipe out the predators. In extreme cases, such as in northern Minnesota, men were sent to dig out dens and strangle wolf pups.

Sometimes, these predator control programs worked too well, as in Yellowstone and Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies, where wolves also were completely extirpated. (They have since come back to Banff, albeit in small numbers). Most times though, the programs failed because biologists underestimated just how quickly a wolf population can rebound as long as there is prey for them to exploit.

These heavily criticized wolf eradication programs were discontinued almost everywhere in North America — except in Alberta and Alaska. The only difference now is that wildlife managers think they have a better handle on how to make wolf control programs work: Kill at least 60 percent — 80 percent is preferable — of the wolves in an area, according to the formula that most predator control experts rely on, and you begin to see a rebound in prey species after several years, as long as there is suitable habitat in which the species can recover.

The issue in Alberta is much different than in Alaska, where wolf control is done largely to enhance hunting opportunities for caribou. Because of intense logging and oil and gas development in Alberta, there is too much good habitat for wolves and not enough for caribou. That may sound strange, but in the unprotected areas of Alberta the old growth forest that used to support moderate numbers of wolves and caribou is increasingly being carved up. At last count, 34,773 wells, 66,489 kilometers of seismic lines, 11,591 kilometers of pipelines, and 12,283 kilometers of roads had been built in caribou country in west central and northern Alberta. That doesn’t include the vast areas of forest that have been logged. Open areas such as these favor moose, elk, and especially deer. As the number of these creatures expand, so do the number of wolves. More often than not, caribou, which rely on old growth forests for lichen and predator protection, are nothing more than passing targets as wolves move easily from one clear cut to another through the shrinking old growth forest.

For more than two decades, scientists have been warning the Alberta government about the consequences of fracturing old growth forest in this way. The latest to weigh in on this issue was a team of 30 boreal forest scientists commissioned by the Canadian government to review the data and habitat conditions of caribou in Alberta. In 2008, they recommended that cut lines, well sites, and roads that favor wolves need to be reforested if caribou are going to have a chance of surviving in oil and gas country.

The Canadian government, which is ultimately responsible for the country’s endangered species, deferred taking action, claiming that not enough is known about the “spatial distribution” of caribou to warrant identification of critical habitat. But then last August, the federal government came up with a recovery plan that opened the door for the wolf control program in Alberta to continue. Noting that “human-induced habitat alterations have upset the natural balance between boreal caribou and their predators,” the report said that wolf eradication programs “will be required… to stabilize individual local populations in the short term.” In the long term, the report said, caribou populations can only be self-sustaining if their habitat is preserved.

Lu Carbyn, scientist emeritus with the Canadian Wildlife Service and adjunct professor at the University of Alberta, has been studying wolves in North America for more than 40 years. While he is not a big supporter of predator control programs, he says they can be a very effective way of reviving ungulate populations that are under stress. But Carbyn believes there is no sense killing wolves if habitat is not restored in highly disturbed oil and gas regions.

University of Alberta biologist Boutin notes that no matter how many wolves have been killed in the territory of the Little Smoky caribou herd, the wolves keep bouncing back. “They’re spending an awful lot of money killing a lot of wolves in order to keep a handful of caribou calves alive,” said Boutin. “Sooner than later, this strategy is going to fail them.”

Boutin; Richard Schneider, executive director of the Alberta Center for Boreal Research; and University of Alberta natural resource economists Vic Adamowicz and Grant Hauer have estimated that it would be possible to preserve half of Alberta’s caribou habitat while giving up less than 1 percent of potential revenues from resource development.Scientists have begun to understand the vital role played by top predators in ecosystems and the impacts that occur when those predators are wiped out.

Now, author Caroline Fraser writes, researchers are citing new evidence that shows the importance of lions, wolves, sharks, and other creatures at the top of the food chain.

Recently, criticism of wolf eradication programs has come from an unexpected source — Bob Hayes, a biologist who led the Yukon government’s wolf control programs in the 1980s and 1990s. By his own count, Hayes has killed 851 wolves and sterilized many others in the name of science and conservation biology. Despite sharp professional disagreements, hate mail from environmentalists, and threats from eco-terrorists, Hayes says he has never doubted that he was doing what needed to be done to protect caribou, moose, and other prey species in the Yukon Territory.

But Hayes, author of Wolves of the Yukon, now believes that wolf eradication programs merely buy time and do little to address the real reason why ungulates are in decline. “I spent 18 years studying the effects of lethal wolf control on prey populations,” says Hayes. “The science clearly shows killing wolves is biologically wrong… When we kill wolves, we’re killing the very thing that makes the natural world wild.”

Cove Guardian Report: Operation Infinite Patience

31 Oct

Week 6 of more senseless dolphin killing in the famous Cove of Taiji, Japan

An armada of fishing boats drives a pod of Risso’s dolphins into the Cove. Photo: Cristina Cely

Report by Cove Guardians Leader Rosie Kunneke

Sunday, October 23, was another horrible day in Taiji. The dolphin killers drove in a pod of 10-12 Risso’s dolphins into the Cove and brutally murdered the entire pod including a baby. These killers have no respect for the lives of sentient beings and they hide behind their so-called culture. They walk around the butcher house in amusement while their arms, hands, and pants are covered in blood, and a police force, some in riot gear, protect their disgusting deeds.

After witnessing the death of the Risso’s dolphins, one of the false killer whales was loaded into a wooden crate and onto a waiting truck. We found out that this false killer whale was bought by Izu Mito Sea Paradise in the Shizuoka Prefecture. The staff from this resort had to wait around on the pier while the

Cove Guardian Cristina Cely at work.

dolphin killers were killing and butchering the dolphins, before the dolphin killers could assist with the capturing of the resort’s newest false killer whale.

Read more…

Fellow Fractivists and “Fear-Mongering Extremists”

30 Oct

Marcellus Protest: November 18, 2011 at Penn State University in State College, PA

“This is our last chance in 2011 for a large outdoor protest rally in front of the natural gas industry. Rallies in Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Philly have set the stage for this growing movement.

If you think it is important that this movement continues to move forward with ever-growing numbers, please plan to attend. Commit to bringing 10 others with you. Commit to getting out the word to as many as possible.

You can download a poster for the event and keep up with the latest news on the rally on the website HERE.

Most importantly, plan to attend the rally and let our politicians and the natural gas industry know we are out there and our ranks continue to grow. If your organization would like to be included with the growing list of participating organizations, please send an email to the address below and include a link to your website...

Thanks, and we look forward to seeing you on November 18th.

Marcellus Protest 2011: “Power To The People, Not The Corporations”

As Calvin Tillman would say: “Those who say it can not be done, should get out of the way of those that are doing it.”

Don’t forget about Bidder 70 on his first birthday behind bars

29 Oct

Check out the latest poster for Political Prisoners’ Birthdays in November and December, from the folks at Chapel Hill Prison Books Collective. The full poster can be downloaded here for reproduction and distribution.

Take note that there are some new prisoners on the list, including oil & gas auction saboteur (Bidder 70), Tim DeChristopher and anti-war whistleblower Bradley Manning (pictured on the poster). Let them, and the others on this list, know they’re not forgotten.

Is there a prisoner letter-writing night in your community yet?

2 Texans Face Increased Charges in Iowa Fur Farm Case

29 Oct

by Will Potter, originally posted on Green is the New Red, October 24, 2011

Kellie Marshall and Victor Vandoren, both from Austin, Texas, are accused of attempting to release mink from a fur farm in Sioux City, Iowa. At a court date last week, their charges were increased to include two class D felonies in addition to two misdemeanors.

Police allege that Marshall and Vanorden used bolt cutters to cut several holes in a fence at the mink farm, and that a vehicle near the property had hiking maps and a police scanner.

As former Animal Liberation Front prisoner Peter Young noted, the same fur farm was raided by underground animal rights activists in 1997, and approximately 5,000 mink and more than 100 silver foxes were freed.

It’s not clear yet if the two will face Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act charges. However, with recent raids in Jewell, Iowa (freeing 1,500 mink), Washington State (freeing 1,000 mink) and Oregon (freeing 300 mink), industry groups like the Fur Commission have been making the media rounds calling this crimes “terrorism.”

Kellie Marshall and Victor Vandoren are facing about 10 years in prison and are being held in county jail on bond. You can write them a letter or make a donation to their legal support at supportkellieandvictor.blogspot.com.

Live from Little Guantanamo: an interview with Daniel McGowan

29 Oct

The award-winning documentary, If A Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front, premiered at Sundance last spring and continues to screen in theaters across the globe. The film, which aired on PBS earlier this fall and is now available on DVD, details the events that led to the imprisonment of environmental activist Daniel McGowan and raises critical questions about ecological crisis, terrorism, and government repression of political activists.

Those who see If A Tree Falls are likely to be left with a number of lingering questions. How is Daniel doing now? When will he be released from prison? What does he think of the movie? Daniel, who is currently serving a seven-year sentence in the Communications Management Unit at FCI Terre Haute in Indiana, answered some of these questions and others in the following interview about the film, prison life, and his thoughts about the future.

Read the whole interview HERE

If Deep Green Resistance & the Occupy movement merged…

28 Oct

Athens burns during general strike, Oct. 19 & 20, 2011

Reflections from Greece

By panagioti, Earth First! Journal editorial collective [read this article in Spanish here]

The recent “open letter” from Deep Green Resistance to participants of the Occupy movement may have come across as vague to those unfamiliar with the recent book and online network under the Deep Green Resistance (DGR) banner.

But those familiar with DGR, and its proposed strategy of Decisive Ecological Warfare, are likely imagining what it might really look like if there was more overlap between the DGR and Occupy folks. Would those engaging with the public through their full-time encampments around the world—of which there are 400+ in this directory—embrace a concurrent underground resistance effort along similar lines?

The DGR concept presented in their book references a couple dozen historical examples of popular movements doing just that—from the efforts that ended apartheid in South Africa to the local forces that whittled away at Nazi occupation across Europe in World War II.

Of course, there are efforts in the here-and-now doing the same thing around the world. But most of them are in less developed countries. One example is MEND, who has been fighting a guerilla resistance backed by popular support against Shell Oil and a corrupt government in the Niger Delta of Africa, the most polluted place on the planet. Their struggle has been covered by the Earth First! Journal in the past, and is also mentioned briefly in the DGR book.

Downtown Athens, in the “mother of all strikes”, Oct 20, 2011.

But another example, not in the book, is visible in Greece right now. In many ways, this is much closer to home for the Occupy world, since the current trend of public occupations was largely kicked off in Syntagma Square of Athens (and also in Spain), responding to the crisis manufactured by the European Union to manage the crumbling global economy by installing economic austerity measures in exchange for state bailouts. The best place to follow the struggle in english is here. But I digress… probably because I’m writing this from a bus pulling into Athens, ironically, on the eve of Oxi Day—a national holiday celebrating anti-fascist resistance in WWII. Back to the point at hand:

Nearly 3,000 people march down central Athens, Oct 1, 2011, in solidarity with the imprisoned members of EA (Revolutionary Struggle), Pola Roupa, Kostas Gournas and Nikos Maziotis, as well as those also persecuted for the same case Christoforos Kortesis, Sarantos Nikitopoulos, Vaggelis Stathopoulos, Marie Beracha and Kostas Katsenas, chanting “The States are the only terrorists! Solidarity with the guerrilla fighters!”

This week in Greece, the trial of Epanastatikos Agonas (EA) began, amidst general strikes and riots related to the austerity proposal this month. Members of EA (that’s “Revolutionary Struggle” in English) have taken responsibility for their participation in the group, which claimed dozens of actions against government and industry targets over the past several years. Their widespread support is visible all over the country in demonstrations, graffiti, posters and postings on dozens of websites.

While Occupy set up tents to make a point about banks being culprits of social and ecological ills, EA attacked the banks a bit more directly. In 2009 they attempted to blow up a Citibank headquarters in Athens. It didn’t work out, so they followed up by blowing up a branch of the bank instead. And when they were falsely accused of risking mass casualties, they refuted it with precision. That statement is worth a read if you are curious to get sense of where they are coming from.

EA member, Panagiota Roupa, makes public statement before trial

After several delays—coincidentally due to the general strikes—trial began October 24. The defendants opened with an articulation of why they do not recognize the legitimacy of the court, as an extension of the same system they are fighting. Their defense also includes a technical challenge on lacking evidence to link the individuals to the alleged crimes. Three of the accused have taken responsibility for involvement with the group, but have not confessed to the charges against them—which include accusations of terrorism (even though they have no charges related to actions targeting civilians.) The case is now on hold until November 1 and there is a pending request for European Court of Human Rights to oversee the basic procedural principles in trying the EA members for alleged crimes, not simply for their political affiliations.

There are several other groups and individuals in Greece who have also taken the path of underground resistance, with much aboveground support. Their legacy too is literally written on the walls, usually with spray paint. Some of them are household names, for example, the famous bank robber, Vassilis Paleokostas, who distributes liberated money into small villages and has escaped from prison multiple times, via helicopter assistance.

Solidarity march in France for the Il Silvestre 3

And there are other current examples, similar stories of underground resisters who choose to reject affiliations with conventional politics—as the Occupy has also thankfully done. But we usually only hear of their underground efforts in mainstream news when they get caught. Take the recent case of the Il Silvestre 3, who went to trial in Switzerland this summer. The individuals in this case, and the group they are involved with, are claimed to be responsible for many attacks against elite technology targets. They were sentenced to 3+ years in a Swiss prison, for an attempted attack on a nanotech laboratory being built by IBM. They will reportedly face additional time under Italy’s anti-terrorism laws—although, again, they did not target civilians.

But there are many more actions going underneath the radar of people who don’t read the dozens of communiqués posted online at sites like: Contra Info or 325. Take note on these sites, for every person arrested relating to underground activity, actions multiply announced in their honor.

While few of these groups embrace a strict policy relating to the use of violence, their actions tend to target property, not people. A statistic on the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) in the US comes to mind: in being associated with over 1,200 documented actions, totaling over $100 million in damages in 15+ years, not one injury has been killed. The ELF actually does have a policy against injuring people, and still the State prosecuted those arrested as terrorists.

Demonstrators and police fight over a tent during the Occupy Seattle protest at Westlake Park, where prominent labor leaders sent a “letter of solidarity” to Occupy Seattle: “On behalf of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, and our 500 affiliated local unions and over 400,000 union women and men we want to express our solidarity with “Occupy Seattle” for standing up for and speaking out on behalf of the 99% who have victimized by corporate and political decisions that put the interests of corporate America and Wall Street before the people.” Photo: J. Trujillo/SEATTLEPI.COM

In a time when many groups are jumping on the Occupy bandwagon, including the Sierra Club (who issued a national statement of support for the movement, although they still technically have a policy against members engaging in civil disobedience), what direction will the public occupations take?

Let me be clear, I am not suggesting that the Occupy movement should have to make a choice between DGR and Sierra. It’s not an either/or scenario (at least not for me—I’m both a Sierra Club member and a suspect on the Joint Terrorism Task Force watch-list.) Really, it’s a challenge to see if we can ditch the horizontal hostility and move forward where we agree, as effectively as possible.

The real question of interest to me: Is there is actually a movement afoot capable of interjecting on the brink of ecological collapse and stopping the global economic system from simultaneously crushing what’s left of the planet’s biodiversity and humanity’s social freedom? If there is even a slight chance in hell that the answer is “yes.” Then let’s really go for it.

It seems few disagree these days, from Occupiers to Tea Partiers: corporations and governments both suck. We live under what is best described as a global dictatorship of the market. It’s a regime enforced by an expensive police state at home, military empire abroad. Its only a matter of time before these forces respond as they did this week in Oakland.

Over throwing the global economic system is just as relevant today as ending fascism or apartheid was in decades past. Unfortunately, the task of resistance movements today is quite a bit broader, as the targets are more widespread and amorphous; no doubt this is by design of the elite, the 1%. But it’s not impossible. It can’t be—after all, it’s infrastructure was built by us, the other 99% (give or take a few decimal points.)

So, what do you think? Is something to bring up for discussion at your next general assembly? Just remember your basic security culture protocols.

***

P.S. As I prepare to post this, the Greek government’s Oxi Day parade, featuring tanks and soldiers of the state who is repressing today’s resistance, is canceled by mass protests in the street’s of Thessaloniki; in Kalamata, there are reports of eggs being thrown at politicians in the parade...

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