‘National tragedy’: Trump begins border wall construction in Unesco reserve

‘National tragedy’: Trump begins border wall construction in Unesco reserve

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: September 13, 2019 SNIP: Construction of a 30ft-high section of Donald Trump’s border barrier has begun in the Organ Pipe Cactus national monument in southern Arizona, a federally protected wilderness area and Unesco-recognized international biosphere reserve. In the face of protests by environmental groups, the wall will traverse the entirety of the southern edge of the monument. It is part of the 175 miles of barrier expansion along the US-Mexico border being funded by the controversial diversion of $3.6bn from military construction projects. This will include construction in Texas, New Mexico as well as Arizona where, according to a government court filing, some 44 miles of new barrier construction will pass through three federally protected areas. These are the Organ Pipe wilderness, Cabeza Prieta national wildlife refuge and San Pedro Riparian national conservation area, the location of Arizona’s last free-flowing river. The Trump administration has deemed the new structures necessary due to a “national emergency” of unauthorized immigration into the US. “What is being proposed is bulldozing one of the most biologically diverse regions of the entire United States,” said Amanda Munro of the Southwest Environmental Center. “Walling off these precious places would be a colossal mistake and a national tragedy.” Organ Pipe, located south-west of Tucson, Arizona, is a 330,000 acre wilderness home to mountain lions, javelinas, the endangered pronghorn and “more bird species than can be listed”, according to the National Park Service website. It is also a deeply significant area for the nearby Tohono O’odham nation which has long opposed Trump’s border wall on their ancestral lands. “This unneeded, expensive blight will...
Queensland extinguishes native title over Indigenous land to make way for Adani coalmine

Queensland extinguishes native title over Indigenous land to make way for Adani coalmine

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: August 31, 2019 SNIP: The Queensland government has extinguished native title over 1,385 hectares of Wangan and Jagalingou country for the proposed Adani coalmine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin – without any public announcement of the decision. The decision could see Wangan and Jagalingou protesters forcibly removed by police from their traditional lands, including lands used for ceremonies. W&J Council leader Adrian Burragubba, and a group of Wangan and Jagalingou representatives, had been calling on the government to rule out transferring their land, arguing they had never given their consent for Adani to occupy their country. In a meeting with government officials Friday, seeking a halt on leases being issued for mine infrastructure, they learned the state government had instead granted Adani exclusive possession freehold title over large swathes of their lands on Thursday, including the area currently occupied for ceremonial purposes. “We have been made trespassers on our own country,” Burragubba said. “Our ceremonial grounds, in place for a time of mourning for our lands as Adani begins its destructive processes, are now controlled by billionaire miner Adani. Burragubba, whom Adani has bankrupted over costs from legal challenges, said his group would not abandon their protest nor quit their...
Trump Moves to Open 16.7 Million-Acre Alaskan Rainforest to Exploitation

Trump Moves to Open 16.7 Million-Acre Alaskan Rainforest to Exploitation

SOURCE: Truthout DATE: August 28, 2019 SNIP: President Donald Trump has reportedly ordered the U.S. Department of Agriculture to open Alaska’s 16.7 million-acre Tongass National Forest — the planet’s largest intact temperate rainforest — to logging and other corporate development projects, a move that comes as thousands of fires are ripping through the Amazon rainforest and putting the “lungs of the world” in grave danger. The Washington Post, citing anonymous officials briefed on the president’s instructions, reported late Tuesday that Trump’s policy change would lift 20-year-old logging restrictions that “barred the construction of roads in 58.5 million acres of undeveloped national forest across the country.” The move, according to the Post, would affect more than half of the Tongass National Forest, “opening it up to potential logging, energy, and mining projects.” From the Washington Post: Trump’s decision to weigh in, at a time when Forest Service officials had planned much more modest changes to managing the agency’s single largest holding, revives a battle that the previous administration had aimed to settle. In 2016, the agency finalized a plan to phase out old-growth logging in the Tongass within a decade. Congress has designated more than 5.7 million acres of the forest as wilderness, which must remain undeveloped under any circumstances. If Trump’s plan succeeds, it could affect 9.5 million acres… John Schoen, a retired wildlife ecologist who worked in the Tongass for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, co-authored a 2013 research paper finding that roughly half of the forest’s large old-growth trees had been logged last century. The remaining big trees provide critical habitat for black bear, Sitka...
Americans’ love of hiking has driven elk to the brink, scientists say

Americans’ love of hiking has driven elk to the brink, scientists say

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: August 25, 2019 SNIP: Biologists used to count over 1,000 head of elk from the air near Vail, Colorado. The majestic brown animals, a symbol of the American west, dotted hundreds of square miles of slopes and valleys. But when researchers flew the same area in February for an annual elk count, they saw only 53. “Very few elk, not even many tracks,” their notes read. “Lots of backcountry skiing tracks.” The surprising culprit isn’t expanding fossil-fuel development, herd mismanagement by state agencies or predators, wildlife managers say. It’s increasing numbers of outdoor recreationists – everything from hikers, mountain bikers and backcountry skiers to Jeep, all-terrain vehicle and motorcycle riders. Researchers are now starting to understand why. Outdoor recreation has long been popular in Colorado, but trail use near Vail has more than doubled since 2009. Some trails host as many as 170,000 people in a year. Recreation continues nearly 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, said Bill Andree, who retired as Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Vail district wildlife manager in 2018. Night trail use in some areas has also gone up 30% in the past decade. People are traveling even deeper into woods and higher up peaks in part because of improved technology, and in part to escape crowds. The elk in unit 45, as it’s called, live between 7,000 and 11,000 feet on the pine, spruce and aspen-covered hillsides and peaks of the Colorado Rockies, about 100 miles from Denver. Their numbers have been dropping precipitously since the early 2010s. Blaming hiking, biking and skiing is controversial in a state where...
Canadian taxpayers on hook for $61 million for road to open up mining in Arctic

Canadian taxpayers on hook for $61 million for road to open up mining in Arctic

SOURCE: The Narwhal DATE: August 15, 2019 SNIP: A proposed road connecting Yellowknife to the Arctic Coast — cutting deep into caribou calving grounds while crossing 640 kilometres of thawing permafrost — has leapt closer to reality, with $61.5 million in new funding pledged this week from the federal government and the government of the Northwest Territories. The road, first proposed in 2012 by MMG Limited, a multinational mining corporation whose major shareholder is the Chinese government, aims to open up remote areas to mining that would otherwise be too expensive to reach. So far, only small pockets of land close to Yellowknife and existing highways have been economically available for most mining. But biologists are worried about the impacts of the potential road and its associated development on the Arctic’s vulnerable land and marine ecosystems. The road could see nine new mines developed in the range of the Bathurst caribou herd, which is already in steep decline. “Strategic investments in infrastructure — road, energy and communications — would lower the costs for exploration and development, and provide new opportunities for mines that have significant operational requirements for infrastructure,” a backgrounder released by the government of the Northwest Territories explained. There are no communities along the road’s proposed route and Northwest Territories MLA Kevin O’Reilly said the only purpose is “to facilitate mineral development.” The proposed road would cut into the heart of the range of the Bathurst caribou herd, which extends straight north from the northern edge of Saskatchewan to the Arctic coast and eastward across the north side of Great Slave Lake. The vast majority of that...