Judith Lavoie

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Judith Lavoie is an award-winning journalist based in Victoria, British Columbia. Lavoie covered environment and First Nations stories for the Victoria Times Colonist for more than 20 years and is now working as a freelancer. She previously worked on newspapers in New Brunswick, Cyprus, England and the Middle East. Lavoie has won four Webster awards and has been nominated for a National Newspaper Award and a Michener Award.

Southern Resident Killer Whales Unlikely to Survive Increase in Oil Tanker Traffic, Say Experts

Under the waves of Haro Strait, hydrophones record the noise made by passing vessels and, if you happen to be a whale, the din is already disorienting and disturbing, making it difficult to echo-locate food or communicate with other members of the pod.

Tweet: ‘It’s a thunder. Thump-thump-thump, accompanied by squeals & engine noise - like being under the hood of a hot-rod’ http://bit.ly/2gi1faFIt’s a thunder. Thump, thump, thump, accompanied by squeals and engine noise. It’s like being under the hood of a hot-rod,” said Howard Garrett, president of Orca Network, the Washington State group that tracks the comings and goings of the 80 remaining members of the endangered southern resident killer whales.

All recent studies of the resident pods have identified marine noise around the Strait of Georgia and Juan de Fuca Strait as one of the stressors threatening their survival, in addition to lack of Chinook salmon — the whales’ favourite prey — contaminants accumulating in their blubber and degradation of their critical habitat.

Art in the Heart of Controversy: Konelīne Cuts Through Rhetoric About Resource Extraction

Koneline: Our Land Beautiful

There are no good guys or bad guys in the documentary Konelīne and that extraordinary lack of judgement is what rivets attention as the film examines the changing landscape and lifestyles of northwestern British Columbia.

As massive machinery moves into the wild landscape, first to build the Northwest Transmission Line and then to work on the Brucejack gold mine and the Red Chris copper mine, lives are disrupted or changed and, whether it is a lineman, miner, guide outfitter, First Nations elder or Tahltan language student, director Nettie Wild captures the love that all the characters have for the wilderness.

What some call progress, others see as the end of a way of life. Some hunt on the land, some mine it and they all love it.

Why Does B.C. Still Kill Grizzlies for Sport?

Grizzly bear trophy hunt

In early October a provincial government news release landed in the inboxes of reporters and researchers around B.C.

It boasted of a new government-commissioned report that concluded B.C. has “a high level of rigour and adequate safeguards in place to ensure the long-term stability of grizzly populations.”

Even though the report was less glowing than the news release and noted there are monitoring difficulties and a lack of funding, the review gave the BC Liberals the ammunition they needed to conclude the controversial practice of hunting grizzlies for sport is just fine.

But, here’s the thing: even if the province’s estimates of 15,000 grizzly bears in B.C. is correct — and it is a figure disputed by independent biologists, some of whom believe the number is as low as 6,000 — the stand-off over hunting intelligent animals for sport isn’t about the science. It’s about values and ethics.

Vancouver Company At Centre of Gold-Mining Controversy on Edge of Yellowstone National Park

Emigrant Gulch

On the doorstep of Yellowstone National Park, an area known internationally for its abundant wildlife and spectacular scenery, a Vancouver-based junior mining exploration company is causing community ructions over its plan to search for gold at Emigrant Gulch, a fragile ecosystem about four kilometres from the Yellowstone River and 24 kilometres from the park boundary.

Lucky Minerals Inc., a company that lists only the Montana proposal in its financial statements, wants to drill up to 46 core holes on privately-owned land to assess gold, copper, silver and molybdenum deposits in an area where there has been mining in the streambed since the 1880s.

If the results are positive and permits are issued, the company will look for investment to construct an underground mine, which could be in operation in 10 to 15 years, Shawn Dykes, Lucky vice-president, said in an interview.

But the proposal has brought overwhelming opposition from residents who are concerned about both the environmental effects and the company’s finances, which they fear are not solid enough to ensure the area is remediated.

First Nations Hand Eviction Notices to Fish Farms

Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw First Nation eviction notice to Cermaq

Tweet: Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw #FirstNation says salmon farms destroy wild salmon runs & pollute clam beds, they must leave http://bit.ly/2bAMsp8Members of the Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw First Nation say salmon farms in their territory are destroying wild salmon runs and polluting clam beds and they must leave.

On Thursday and Friday a small flotilla of boats from Kingcome Village, Gilford Village and Alert Bay, with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s research vessel “Martin Sheen” in the background, handed eviction notices to four Cermaq Canada salmon farms. Hereditary chiefs say notices will be issued to all 27 farms in their territory.

With chiefs in traditional robes, drumming and singing, the group ignored efforts by Cermaq employees to prevent them from landing, handed over the notice and then held a cleansing ceremony and wild salmon barbecue at one of the farms.

Our people have spoken. We want salmon farms out of our territory,” said chief councillor Willie Moon, the first to pull into the farm off northern Vancouver Island.

What's Fishy About the Feds' Salmon Promises?

Salmon spawning

As federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Dominic LeBlanc was in West Vancouver Tuesday, promising that his government would act on all 75 recommendations from the 2012 Cohen Commission into the decline of Fraser River sockeye salmon, independent biologist Alexandra Morton was sailing into friendly waters on northern Vancouver Island and casting doubt on the government’s intentions.

There is no substance to it,” said Morton, pointing out that LeBlanc has avoided any commitment to act on the Cohen recommendation to separate promotion of aquaculture from its duty to protect wild salmon or to put the brakes on the salmon farming industry.

Alaskan Coalition Calls on U.S. to Investigate B.C. Mines

Mount Polley Mine Spill

Six B.C. mines pose threats to Alaska’s most productive salmon rivers and should be investigated by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, according to a coalition of conservation groups and Alaskan First Nations who are invoking legislation that says it is the Interior Department’s duty to investigate when foreign nationals may be affecting U.S conservation treaties.

A petition presented to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell suggests that B.C. mines close to the Taku, Stikine and Unuk watersheds diminish the effectiveness of two treaties that protect Pacific salmon, steelhead trout, grizzly bears and woodland caribou.

The treaties are the Convention for the Conservation of Anadromous Stocks in the North Pacific Ocean and the Convention on Nature Protection and Wildlife Preservation in the Western Hemisphere.

The coalition of U.S. and Canadian groups, including Earthjustice, the United Tribal Transboundary Mining Work Group, Sierra Club of B.C., Craig Tribal Association, Friends of the Stikine Society and Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, are echoing a previous call by Alaska’s congressional delegation to refer the transboundary mines controversy to the International Joint Commission.

Unimpeded Rivers Crucial as Climate Changes: New Study

Flathead Basin

Gravel-bed rivers and their floodplains are the lifeblood of ecosystems and need to be allowed to run and flood unimpeded if species are to be protected and communities are to cope with climate change, a ground-breaking scientific study has found.

The broad valleys formed by rivers flowing from glaciated mountains, such as those found throughout B.C. and Alberta, are some of the most ecologically important habitats in North America, according to the team of scientists who have done the first extensive study of the full range of species that rely on gravel-bed rivers, ranging from microbes to bears. The paper was published online Friday in Science Advances.

In the region that stretches from Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming to the northern Yukon, gravel-bed river flood plains support more than half the plant life. About 70 per cent of the area’s bird species use the floodplain, while deer, elk, caribou, wolves and grizzly bears use the plains for food, habitat and as important migration corridors.

While everyone knows that fish rely on rivers, the scientists found that species such as cottonwood trees need the river flood to reproduce and the ever-changing landscape of changing channels and shifting gravel and rocks supports a complex food web.

Temperatures Could Rise Far More Than Previously Thought If Fossil Fuel Reserves Burned

Flooding in south Yorkshire, England.

Imagine a world where average temperatures are almost 10 degrees Celsius higher than today, an Arctic with temperatures almost 20 degrees warmer and some regions deluged with four times more rain.

That is the dramatic scenario predicted by a team of climate scientists led by the University of Victoria’s Katarzyna Tokarska, who looked at what would happen if the Earth’s remaining untapped fossil fuel reserves are burned.

Tokarska, a PhD student at UVic’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, used simulations from climate models looking at the relationship between carbon emissions and warming — including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report — and concluded that known fossil fuel reserves would emit the equivalent of five trillion tonnes of carbon emissions if burned.

That would result in average global temperature increases between 6.4 degrees and 9.5 degrees Celsius, with Arctic temperatures warming between 14.7 degrees and 19.5 degrees, says the paper published Monday in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change.

These results indicate that the unregulated exploitation of the fossil fuel resource could ultimately result in considerably more profound climate changes than previously suggested,” says the study.

Republican Senators from Alaska Ask John Kerry to Help Protect Rivers, Salmon from B.C.’s Dangerous Mining Practices

High-level international action is needed to ensure that southeast Alaskan rivers and fisheries are protected from B.C. mines along the B.C./Alaska border, say Alaska’s federal representatives.

Concerns about the environmental safety of mines in the transboundary region have escalated since the province’s auditor general issued a scathing report earlier this month on B.C.’s mining practices and Alaska’s Congressional Delegation is now pushing for Secretary of State John Kerry to step in.

We write to express our continuing concerns about the development of several hardrock mines in British Columbia and their potential effects on water quality in the transboundary rivers that flow from Canada into Southeast Alaska,” says a letter to Kerry from the congressional delegation, made up of Senator Lisa Murkowski, Senator Dan Sullivan and Congressman Don Young, all of whom are Republicans.

The group points out that, like most Alaskans, they support responsible mining.

But Alaskans need to have every confidence that mining activity in Canada is carried out just as safely as it is in our state. Yet, today, that confidence does not exist,” says the letter.

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