Kara Connell isn’t claiming that the world feels protection and enthusiasm for the wetlands near her home.
But she knew she did it.
When she woke up at 5 a.m. — her sleep had been interrupted by anxiety about birds and animals in recent weeks — she heard the choir start the day. Hummingbirds, swallows, finches, cedar waxwings and red-breasted suckers. There were red Douglas squirrels, and there are several now.
Cornell worries about her little piece of paradise, her place in this world where she finds peace, thanks to a pipeline expansion project — Trans Mountain — to bring the notoriously dirty tar sands oil out of Canada’s heartland Alberta shipping to the coast of British Columbia.
Progress on the project was temporarily halted after some fluke nests were discovered, forcing workers to lay down their tools. But she believes it won’t be long before it starts all over again.
“I want them to go under the wetlands,” Cornell told independent“This is an important habitat for migratory nesting birds and animals. It is home to bears, rabbits and wolves.”
“I have to speak for birds and animals. I see them every day. This is their home too.”
This summer, Cornell joined members of several environmental groups in preparing a “notice of motion” aimed at forcing Trans Mountain (TM) to place its pipeline — part of the original project expansion — under wetlands. They will also require the company to agree to a number of environmental protection measures as it is cleared of forest near Cornell University’s home in Rosedale, 70 miles west of Vancouver.
Their actions come at a critical time as the effects of the climate crisis become more apparent and against the backdrop of decades of controversy over the extraction and distribution of polluting fossil fuels in Canada.
As part of the Paris Agreement, the Justin Trudeau government joins almost every other country on the planet in committing to reducing carbon emissions, And limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and prevent catastrophic climate impacts. 2020, Canada, Firm Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% from 2005 levels by 2030 and achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050.
“Canada is a great country, but it didn’t happen by accident and it’s not going to continue without effort,” said Trudeau, who made climate action a goal during his 2019 campaign.
Currently, the extraction and sale of oil and gas accounts for more than 7% of the nation’s GDP, and the industry is centered in Alberta, home to large deposits of Athabasca tar sands.
Companies such as TM are powerful players in the wider political landscape. TM, now owned by the Canadian government, also said it has also employed thousands of people since the first pipeline opened in 1953.
The section through Rosedale is an extension, TM says it is subject to 156 conditions, enforced by the government agency Canadian Energy Regulator (CER).
“Our aspiration is to protect wetlands,” said Peter Vranjkovic of Protect the Earth, which has taken nonviolent, direct action to try to preserve habitat.
“That means the plumbing company should drill holes under it or put pipes around it.”
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Noting that activists have become accustomed to fighting to save patches of habitat rather than entire forests, he said the Rosedale wetlands near Bridal Veil Falls State Park have ancient growth trees that help make it so special. Such veterans are especially important for storing carbon.
“It’s a beautiful and wild area. It’s never been logged, or if anything, it was 150 or 250 years ago, so the trees are overgrown and nobody has developed this little place,” he said. He says. Some trees have begun to rot, making them more attractive to birds.
There are barn owls, pointed-billed owls and other “unique species that we don’t find anywhere else that have been recently logged”.
Another activist who joined the authorities’ petition was Lynn Perrin of Pipe Up, a group of southwestern British Columbia residents. She said the importance of wetlands near Bridal Veil Falls has increased due to deforestation and depletion of adjacent areas.
“In addition to nesting birds, wetlands are home to amphibians such as the threatened coastal salamander,” she said.
Cornell was quick to point out that saving the wetlands near her home was a team effort involving many people.
Last year, the project was put on hold for about five months after activists discovered the tiny nests of Anna’s hummingbird, a migratory species known for its shimmering lime-green plumage.
“They’re tiny — only four centimeters[an inch and a half],” said Sarah Rose, a member of the Community Nesting Network (CNFN) who spotted the bird and notified federal authorities.
In June, Ross discovered a nest belonging to the red-breasted woodpecker, again forcing work to stop, at least until the end of the nesting season in late August.
“I’m going to use any tiny nest to stop this project. Because we can’t build more fossil fuel infrastructure,” she said.
“It’s going to kill our world. It’s killing our world. It’s not about the lair, it’s about using whatever means necessary to stop the expansion of the tar sands, for my seven-year-old, for my kids, for me Own.
She added: “We can’t do that anymore. So I can only help our government do the right thing.”
Ross said the Canadian government and TM spend heavily to promote themselves as environmentally responsible and have no environmental impact on the extraction of the tar sands and their transportation over 600 miles.
However, she said such photos were fake.
“They advertise tar sands oil as safe for the environment, which is bullshit. Tar sands are the dirtiest fuel on the planet. Refining requires the most water, and it changes the climate more than anything else. You can do whatever you want. Market it, but it’s not true.”
TM was acquired by the Canadian government in 2018. A spokesman said its entire operation was monitored by CER and its team monitoring the bird’s nest site.
“Trans Mountain has developed more than 60 environmental protection and management programs related to specific aspects of the construction,” the spokesperson said.
“These plans have been approved by CER and must be implemented before, during and after construction along the pipeline right-of-way, facilities and associated access areas.”
Regarding the area of Bridal Veil Falls, the spokesperson said: “Prior to construction activities in the Bridal Falls area, wildlife resource specialists conducted various investigations and established appropriate buffer zones, including those associated with red-breasted straw nests.” .
A spokesperson for CER said its experts “performed a thorough environmental and socioeconomic assessment prior to approval of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project. This included an assessment of the project corridor, including wetlands, waterways, wildlife and marine environments.”
“A series of hearings have also been held to examine each part of the project’s route in detail, including the route in and around Bridal Veil Falls,” the spokesperson added.
A spokesman for the British Columbia government’s Department of Environmental Conservation said several studies had been conducted and accepted before the project began assessing its impact.
Asked if the pipeline could access wetlands, the spokesperson said that if TM “wanted to make any changes to items not authorised in the Environmental Assessment Certificate, it would require them to seek amendments which would include changes to the proposed assessment”.
The Douglas squirrel “has not yet been identified as an endangered species in British Columbia,” the spokesman said.
Cornell and her husband run a local business and have lived in the area their entire lives. Five years ago, they moved to their home in Rosedale, next to wetlands that spanned “two football fields”.
Opinions in the community are divided on the pipeline, she said. Some people support it, some people don’t. Not everyone feels comfortable speaking out.
When asked about the possible cost of laying pipes under wetlands, she said she didn’t know, but assumed it would be more.
However, she asked what the price of the wetlands, full of birds, animals and trees, a sense of calm
“The feeling of walking on the edge of the wetlands – the sun is shining, I can feel the wind, I can hear the birds, you can see all the birds – really just calms you down and reminds you of life quiet time,” she said.
“We need to have these places. Some people don’t identify with it, they don’t know, but that’s what those places do for people, and that’s what it did for me.
“I really hope we can protect it and save it,” she added.