Report voices community concerns over development in Peace Region | News
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December 9, 2013

Industrial activity is fracturing Northeastern B.C. on a scale unparalleled in Canada, according to a report by the David Suzuki Foundation, released as public input into the Site C Dam Joint Review Panel's environmental assessment begins on December 9. The report gives voice to concerns raised by First Nations and farming communities about the alarming pace of industrial development in the Peace Region.

Dane-zaa elder May Apsassin refers to the region as "broken country" for communities and the wildlife they rely on, including threatened species such as caribou and grizzly, a description confirmed by satellite images released today. Sixty seven per cent of the Peace Region has been disturbed by human land use, including forestry, mining, oil and gas pipelines, fracking, and earlier large-scale hydro electric development.

In the report, heritage farmers Ken and Arlene Boon voice their concerns: "In this country, we are just getting lambasted from every direction. We farm in the Peace Valley, which we can't emphasize enough is a unique place. This is the valley they want to flood for Site C — the only low elevation valley. Where will the wildlife go? Where will the farmers go?"

The study shows farmland and forest are under intense pressure from oil and gas pipelines, logging, mines, fracking and a proposed third large dam on the Peace River — Site C. If built, the Site C Dam would flood more than 3,400 hectares of prime farmland, the biggest loss of B.C. farmland since the inception of the Agricultural Land Reserve.

"Today's study confirms our worst fears that our lands and waters are being devastated by rampant industrial development," said Chief Roland Willson of West Moberly First Nation. "Building the Site C Dam will be like driving the last nail in the coffin if it is allowed to proceed," he added.

The Site C dam is in the midst of a joint provincial/federal environmental review process. A David Suzuki Foundation representative will present before the Joint Review Panel on Site C with the latest science showing the Peace Valley and surrounding watersheds have already been significantly affected by human land use, including earlier large-scale hydro development. Studies show the cumulative industrial footprint in the region is massive and earlier development must be considered in the decision on whether to build the Site C Dam.

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Media Contacts:

Theresa Beer, Communications
O: 604-732-4228, Ext. 1239
C: 778-874-3396

Faisal Moola, Director, Ontario and Northern Canada
C: 647-993-5788

Media Backgrounder
British Columbia's Peace Region is a conservation priority for the protection of core wildlife habitat and animal-movement corridors for large mammals such as wolves, grizzlies and endangered populations of woodland caribou. It is also the traditional home of the Dane-zaa Treaty 8 First Nations and contains prime crop and rangelands that have sustained farming families for generations.

Study findings
The cumulative industrial footprint in the Peace Region is massive
When you include a 500-metre buffer to create an ecological footprint, almost 67 per cent of the Peace Region has been disturbed by human land use.

The region has 16,267 oil and gas well sites and 8,517 petroleum and natural gas facilities. There are 3,868 square kilometres of coal tenures, 243 square kilometres of mineral tenures, and four existing and four proposed coal mines. There are thousands of existing and planned logging cut-blocks, two large-scale hydroelectric dams, the proposed Site C Dam and 247 potential run-of-river hydropower sites. There are 45,293 kilometres of roads and 1,163 kilometres of transmission lines.

Industrial development is encroaching on endangered species habitat
Three of 10 caribou herd ranges have been cut by more than 50 per cent because of industrial activities. Although the government recently announced its intention to protect 400,000 hectares of high-elevation winter caribou habitat under its Northern Caribou Recovery Plan, critical low-elevation summer habitat remains at risk.

Very little wildlife habitat is protected in parks and wildlife reserves
Only 4.2 per cent of the region is protected in parks and protected areas.

Recommendations

1. Protect the Peace Valley by not proceeding with the Site C Dam.

2. Ensure that existing and future industrial activities in the Peace Region are better managed through cumulative-impacts land-use planning that addresses the growing human footprint of logging, mining, oil and gas development, hydro and other activities.

3. Expand recovery efforts for threatened species such as woodland caribou through protection and restoration of wildlife habitat in low-elevation areas threatened by industrial activities.

4. Expand the existing network of protected areas in the region, including the establishment of K'ih tsaa?dze Tribal Park. K'ih tsaa?dze (meaning "old spruce" in the Dane-zaa language) lies within the traditional lands of the Doig River First Nation and has been used for generations by the community as an important place for hunting, camping, fishing and spiritual renewal.

December 9, 2013
http://www.davidsuzuki.org/media/news/2013/12/report-voices-community-concerns-over-development-in-peace-region/