August 17, 2022

Cara Cornell doesn’t claim that the whole world feels protected and passionate about the wetlands close to her home.

But she knows she knows it.

When she wakes up at 5 a.m. — her sleep has been interrupted in recent weeks by worrying about birds and animals — she hears a chorus of songs starting the day. Hummingbirds, swallows, sparrows, cedar wax wings, red-breasted succulent suckers. There are red Douglas squirrels, several families of them now.

Cornell fears for the little bit of heaven, and its place in this world where it finds peace, as a result of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project that carries its notorious tar sands oil from the heart of Canada in Alberta to the coast in British Columbia.

Project progress was paused after some filler nests were discovered, forcing workers to discard tools. But she thinks it will start again before long.

“I want them to go underground,” says Cornell. independent. “This is an important habitat for migratory birds and animals. It is the home of bears, rabbits and wolves.”

“I have to talk about birds and animals. I see them every day. This is their home too.”

Activists say Douglas squirrels live in wetlands

(Courtesy of Kara Cornell)

This summer, Cornell joined members of several environmental groups to prepare the “Notice of Movement,” which seeks to force Trans Mountain (TM) to put its pipe – as part of an expansion of the original project – under the wetland. They will also require the company to agree to abide by a number of environmental protection measures, as it is cutting through the woods near Cornell’s home in Rossdale, 70 miles west of Vancouver.

Their work comes at a critical time, with the effects of the climate crisis becoming more visible than ever, and against a backdrop of decades of controversy over Canada’s extraction and distribution of polluting fossil fuels.

Justin Trudeau’s government joined nearly every other country on earth in pledging to cut carbon emissions as part of the Paris Agreement.And the Limit global warming to 1.5°C and prevent catastrophic climate impacts. In 2020, Canada, committed To cut greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, and achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“Canada is a wonderful country, but it did not happen by accident and it will not continue without effort,” said Trudeau, who made tackling climate action a goal during his 2019 campaign.

Currently, the extraction and sale of oil and gas accounts for more than seven percent of the national GDP, and the industry is concentrated in Alberta, with its vast sandy deposits of Athabasca.

And companies like TM are powerful players in the broader political landscape. TM, now owned by the Canadian government, says it has also employed thousands of people since the first pipeline opened in 1953.

The section that goes through Rosedale, is an extension, and TM says it’s subject to 156 requirements, imposed by Canada Energy Regulator (CER), a government agency.

“We wish the wetlands were protected,” says Peter Vranikovic, of the Protect the Planet group, which has been involved in nonviolent, direct action to try to protect the habitat.

“Which means that the pipeline company has to drill under it or lay pipes around it.”

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Referring to the way activists used to fight to save habitat parcels, patch by patch, rather than entire forests, he says the Rossdale wetlands, near Bridal Vale Falls Park, have old-growth trees, which makes him very special. These indigenous warriors are especially important to carbon storage.

“It’s a beautiful wilderness area. It was never recorded, or if it was, it was 150 or 250 years ago, so the trees are overgrown and no one has developed this little spot,” he says. Some of the trees started to decay, which made them more attractive to birds.

There are barn owls, squawking owls, and other species “unique not found elsewhere that have been recently recorded.”

Another activist who joined the petition from the authorities is Lynn Perrin, of the Pipe Up group, made up of residents of southwestern British Columbia. She says the importance of the wetlands near Bridal Vale Falls has increased as a result of the clearing and draining of nearby areas.

“In addition to nesting birds, the wetlands are home to amphibians such as the threatened giant coastal salamander,” she says.

Cornell is quick to point out that the effort to save the wetlands near her home is a team effort, with many people involved.

Last year, the project was on hold for five months or so, after activists discovered tiny nests of Anna’s hummingbird, a migratory species known for its lime green feathers.

“It’s small – just four centimeters (one and a half inches),” says Sarah Ross, a member of the Community Nest Finding Network (CNFN), which spotted the bird and alerted federal authorities.

In June, Ross found nests belonging to red-breasted succulents, again forcing work to stop, at least until the end of the nesting season at the end of August.

“I would use any small nests to stop this project. Because we can’t build more fossil fuel infrastructure,” she says.

“He’s going to kill our world. He’s killing our world. It’s not about nests, it’s about using whatever means necessary to stop this expansion of the tar sands, for my seven-year-old, and for my child, for myself.”

She adds, “We can’t do that anymore. So I just have to help our government do the right thing.”

Ross says the Canadian government and TM are spending huge amounts of money to promote themselves as environmentally responsible, extracting the tar sands and transporting them over 600 miles, where it doesn’t affect the environment.

But she says such a picture is wrong.

“They promote tar sands oil as environmentally safe and it is something that bulls use***. Tar sands are the dirtiest fuel on the planet. It takes the most water to purify, it changes the climate more than anything else. Not right “.

TM was purchased by the Canadian government in 2018. A company spokesperson said the entire process is monitored by CER and its own teams that monitor the bird’s nesting sites.

“Trans Mountain has developed more than 60 environmental protection and management plans relating to specific aspects of construction,” the spokesperson says.

“These plans have been approved by the CER and must be implemented before, during and after construction along the right of way for the pipeline, in facilities and related access areas.”

Regarding the area located in Bridal Falls, a company spokesperson said: “Prior to construction activity in the Bridal Falls area, several surveys were conducted by wildlife resource professionals and appropriate stores were established, including a buffer associated with the red-breasted succulent cavity nest. “.

A CER spokesperson says its experts “conducted comprehensive environmental, social and economic assessments prior to approving the Trans Mountain expansion project. This included assessment of the project’s corridor including wetlands, waterways, wildlife and the marine environment.”

The spokesperson adds, “There were also a series of hearings that looked in detail at every part of the project’s itinerary, including the route in and around Bridalville Falls.”

It was Anna’s Hummingbird’s Nest – like those in California – that forced the project to stop at first

(Getty Images)

A spokesperson for the British Columbia Government’s Department of Environmental Protection said there were several studies conducted before the project began to assess its impact and they had been accepted.

Asked if the pipeline could run underground, a TM spokesperson said, “If they wish to make any changes to the project not authorized in the ECA, they will be required to seek a modification that includes an assessment of the proposed project changes.” .

A spokesperson for Douglas says squirrels “have not been identified as a vulnerable species within British Columbia”.

Cornell and her husband, who works locally, have lived in the area all their lives. They moved into their home in Rossdale, next to a wetland sprawling over two “football fields,” five years ago.

She says opinion in the community is divided over the pipeline. Some support it and some don’t. Not everyone feels able to speak.

When asked about the potential cost of laying the pipeline underground, she said she did not know but assumed it would be more.

However, you wonder what price a wetland full of birds, animals and trees can attach to a sense of calm

“The feeling I get when I walk along that damp ground — it’s a sunny day, I can feel the wind, I can hear the birds, you can see all those birds — it really makes you feel calm, and it reminds you of the peace times in your life,” she says.

“And we need those places. Some people don’t know identity, they don’t know, but that’s what those places do to people, and that’s what they do to me.”

“I really hope we can protect and save her,” she adds.

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