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.

Alaskans Push U.S. Government to Investigate B.C.’s Border Mines

Red Chris Mine by Garth Lenz|DeSmog Canada

Fish and wildlife in Alaska’s major watersheds are threatened by six British Columbia mines close to the Alaska border, according to a new petition that asks U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross to investigate the threat of acid-mine drainage, heavy metals pollution and the possibility of catastrophic dam failure originating in the Canadian province.

The formal petition, organized by a coalition of Alaskan tribal governments and conservation groups, calls for the International Joint Commission to investigate threats from B.C. mines that will continue to hang over the watersheds for centuries after their closure.

It’s a very urgent issue and it’s important to a lot of people and their families,” Kenta Tsuda of Earthjustice, a signatory of the petition, told DeSmog Canada. “Their communities are at risk.”

This Small U.S. County Just Became a Major Roadblock for Unrefined Fossil Fuel Exports in North America

Cherry Point

Unrefined fossil fuels won’t be shipped out of a small Washington State export facility at Cherry Point any time soon, due to a temporary moratorium imposed by the Whatcom County Council.

The moratorium positions Cherry Point as a major roadblock for both U.S. and Canadian companies scrounging for export facilities to ship unprocessed oil, gas and coal to overseas markets.

We are determined to use whatever legal tools we have to address climate change and to protect good refining jobs,” Barry Buchanan, council chair in Whatcom County, told DeSmog Canada.

Amid dwindling community-level support for fossil fuel infrastructure and after the U.S. lifted a 40-year old oil export ban, Cherry Point has been flooded with export permit applications for LNG, propane, coal and bitumen.

Comparing Mine Management in B.C. and Alaska is Embarrassing (and Explains Why Alaskans Are So Mad)

Tulsequah Chief Mine. CSMPhoto

Alaskans tired of living under the threat of B.C.’s poorly regulated mines are taking the matter to the state’s House Fisheries Committee in an effort to escalate an international response to ongoing issues such as the slow leakage of acidic waste from the deserted Tulsequah Chief Mine in northwest B.C. into the watershed of one of the richest salmon runs in the B.C./Alaska transboundary region.

On Thursday the committee will assess a resolution sponsored by several House Representatives “urging the United States government to continue to work with the government of Canada to investigate the long-term, region-wide downstream effects of proposed and existing industrial development and to develop measures to ensure that state resources are not harmed by upstream development in B.C.”

Although Tulsequah is a catalyst, concerns go deeper as B.C. is handing out permits for a clutch of proposed new mines close to the Alaskan border, including the KSM mine, the largest open-pit gold and copper mine in North America.

Secrecy Around Composition of Oilsands Dilbit Makes Effective Spill Response, Research Impossible: New Study

Knowledge gaps about the behaviour of diluted bitumen when it is spilled into saltwater and lack of information about how to deal with multiple problems that can result from extracting and transporting bitumen from the Alberta oilsands, make it impossible for government or industry to come up with effective policies to deal with a disaster, says a newly published research paper, Oilsands and the Marine Environment.

Review of 9,000 Studies Finds We Know Squat About Bitumen Spills in Ocean Environments

Nobody knows how a spill of diluted bitumen would affect marine life or whether a bitumen spill in salt water could be adequately cleaned up, because basic research is lacking, says a new study.

The peer-reviewed paper, which will be published later this month in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, looked at more than 9,000 studies of the effect of oilsands products on the marine environment.

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.

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