(The arguments and information remain valuable, in spite of the date.)
FROM: Sandra Finley
June 11, 2004
TO: DEPT OF ENVIRONMENT
(1) MINISTER David Forbes, Email: dforbes AT serm.gov.sk.ca
(2) DEPUTY MINISTER Lily Stonehouse, Email: lstonehouse AT serm.gov.sk.ca
CC: MLA”s Pat Atkinson and Peter Prebble
Dear David and Lily,
Re: GREAT SAND HILLS
The Department of Environment, and therefore you two, have power of veto in the attempted re-zonings of lands in the Great Sand Hills.
What support do you require in order to exercise your veto?
I. REGARDING WATER SUPPLY
Regarding water supply and your responsibility for the SASKATCHEWAN WATERSHED AUTHORITY (SWA issues the permits to use water; each new well uses water; permits are required.)
(1) What is the amount of water allocated for each new well and how is the amount that is withdrawn actually monitored? I pose the question because the graph for the monitoring well in the GSH from the Saskatchewan Research Council, data from 1965 to 2002 shows a dramatic decrease in the water table. This is a very serious issue that should be resolved PRIOR to further water allocations. The graph is at: http://www.econet.sk.ca/pages/issues/gshhydrograph.html
The graph raises two further questions:
(2) What is the reason for the decline in the water level?
(3) If you don’t know the answer, will you find out the answer before allowing more gas well development in the GSH?
In this regard I note that the National Water Research Institute (NWRI) of Canada has two locations, one of which is right here in Saskatchewan. The NWRI employs 300 water scientists, which is most of the water scientists in Canada. It is their job to conduct research and provide input to Provincial Governments so that we may have well-informed, effective water policies. Which leads to another question:
(4) Have you sought input from the NWRI regarding the water situation in the GSH? If so, what input have they supplied?
II. REGARDING SUPPORT IN CABINET AND THE PUBLIC
My understanding is that Peter Prebble and Pat Atkinson are likely supporters of the need to establish intractable protection for the existing Environmentally Sensitive #1 lands in the GSH.
So you, Minister and Deputy Minister of Environment, are not alone. If you choose to exercise your veto, there is support. And there will be respect from a very large public.
You may recall a book that was popular about 3 years ago: “Sex in the Snow” by Michael Adams, President of Environics Research Group. On page 193:
“The Canadian emphasis on egalitarian values goes beyond the equality of human beings – whatever their sex, age, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation – to the consideration of non-human species and the natural environment. I expect this principle will be codified in the preamble the next time we amend the Canadian constitution. Canada’s global village is a global garden.”
That there are so many people willing to fight for the protection of what remains of the natural environment is consistent with Michael Adams observations, which are based on years of research into the attitudes of Canadians. The many communications the Government of Saskatchewan has received from citizens in support of protection for the GSH is further evidence.
You have all the support you require to bring an end to the “death by a thousand cuts” being experienced by the Great Sand Hills.
III. THE OIL AND GAS INDUSTRY
The oil and gas industry has access to all the ES2 lands in the GSH, but not to ES1 lands.
They seem not to be satisfied unless they will have it ALL, which, through re-zoning they will have. That is not right. There is a balance to be achieved.
The CANADIAN ASSOCIATION OF PETROLEUM PRODUCERS (CAPP) is on record as saying there are natural areas that should be protected, from which oil and gas activity should be excluded. The Petroleum industry participated in the task force 1994-98 that established the protected areas in the Great Sand Hills. They AGREED that ES1 lands should be ES1.
What has happened since then? Why now do companies like Anadarko want on ES1 lands? … Since the earlier agreements, there has been a large sell-off of Canadian oil and gas companies to American interests. (Anadarko bought up Norcen, for example.) So we have more demanding companies now. What that means is that we have to be stronger, to stand up for our own interests.
(Contact in Calgary for CAPP: Roger Shanaman 403 267 1104.)
The Petroleum Industry has applied in the past for drilling permits in the National Wildlife Areas (NWA)’s in the Great Sand Hills. NWA’s are on Federally-held Crown lands. The applications have been turned down because of the endangered species (in spite of the fact that the Dept would have liked the revenues). The Federal Government has set a precedent, which you can follow.
IV. SELLING US OUT
When the gas is gone, what will remain? … rusted and twisted pipes. For certain there will be no money in the bank. … The Sand Hills are sand. When disturbed, sand blows. Need I tell you about the power of the winds in Saskatchewan? So there will be a desecrated landscape, a desert of blowing sand with no trace of the creatures and the beauty. (Remember that some of the wildlife is ALREADY endangered.) The accessible gas reserves will have been depleted by our greed and lack of consideration for the future.
We will do this for what?
94% of our natural gas extraction goes to the United States. Simultaneously there is every likelihood that Canadians will actually need this resource in the future. . . . Let me use analogy to put this in focus:
There are stories of native peoples who were bribed, duped or coerced by invaders to essentially give away portions of prime reserve lands in return for shiny baubles. The deed would be done by a few “leaders” who profited themselves. The invaders profited, too, of course. The native peoples became impoverished without the resource of good and valuable land.
Think of the food supply that was exhausted so that animal pelts could be shipped in massive numbers to decorate the wealthy class in Europe. It was not only the food supply, it was the source of clothing, warmth, protection, tools, etc..
Gone, sold-off, vanished. Gone for the unsuspecting, for those who did not have information, the powerless, the weak.
We, local Canadians, are now the “native people”.
Some of “our leaders” are in the process of selling us out. What is to be done in this case? . . . The response is to become leaders ourselves. Stand up and speak out for, indeed DEMAND “what is right”, which is for the good of the community and its future.
WHO are the profiteers?
I have provided the documentation for Ron Clark, President of crown corporations SaskEnergy and Trans Gas Pipelines, fraudulent press conference with Clayton Woitas, millionaire American and owner of Profico. Dwayne Lingenfelter, former Deputy Premier now with Nexen Oil and Gas. Doug Anguish, former Cabinet Minister now working for the pipeline companies. Larry Kratt, former Dept of Environment employee now working for Nexen. Nexen, number one client of Trans Gas. Trans Gas builds a pipeline into the GSH. … There are obviously more would-be profiteers in Government or what is happening would not be happening.
(Do you know what gets me, in addition to everything else? The salt in the wound? . . . The sell-off is done at bargain basement prices. Resource companies today in Saskatchewan receive “royalty holidays”! The profiteers are indeed generous with what is not theirs to give away. EXACTLY what happened to the resource base of the Native peoples in Canada . . sold off for a pittance. History repeats itself. Only this time WE are the doomed people, unless we see and will fight.)
V. ENVIRONMENTAL SIGNIFICANCE
The environmental significance of the GSH is well recognized and documented through such vehicles as:
- the International Biological Program.
- Parks Canada (one of five Natural Sites of Canadian Significance in Saskatchewan)
- the Provincial Parks System Plan in 1990 as a candidate Natural Environment Park
- the province identified it in 1992 as a candidate Ecological Reserve
- 9 quarter-section National Wildlife Areas (NWA’s) established by the Federal Govt
- an Important Bird Area (IBA) (Bigstick Lake Plain) of “Global” significance.
At a public meeting in Saskatoon Dr. Howard Nixon, member of the Order of Canada, expressed his frustration: more than a decade ago he had participated in public meetings on this very issue of the Great Sand Hills. The Government was supposed to have done cumulative environmental impact assessments as a consequence of the process. Nothing has been done in all the intervening years. The Government approves rezoning in complete ignorance of the consequences because there has been no effective cumulative assessment. Just empty words about what “should be” or “will be” done.
The Great Sand Hills are home to a large number of plant and animal species, including over 20 species considered internationally to be rare, threatened or endangered. Some of these include: Sprague’s Pipit, Long Billed Curlew, Ferruginous Hawk, Burrowing Owl, Great Plains Toad, Lotus Milk Vetch, Prickly Milk Vetch, and Burr Sage.
Short-eared owl and Ord’s Kangaroo Rats are in the Sand Hills, and are rated “of special concern“.
Antelope, sand hill cranes, partridges, prairie chicken, sharp-tailed grouse, whitetail deer, burrowing owls, and kangaroo rat all make the region their home. Dotted throughout the area are aspen, birch, and willow trees, as well as rose and chokecherry bushes and sagebrush.
VII. PHILOSOPHICAL BASE
When making irreversible decisions, it is important to know and to acknowledge the philosophical grounds upon which the decision is made.
- “The real problems facing all living things on this planet are not economic or technical, they are philosophical. The prevailing western philosophy at the end of the 20th century is swamping the whole world, resulting in the destruction of our natural heritage and our human heritage.” writes Robert Bateman.
- J. Stan Rowe, in “Saskatchewan’s Endangered Spaces” writes of “Species Self-Centeredness” and a “faulty world-view that can be changed.” “How curious that every right-thinking person condemns selfishness and egoism in the individual, and sometimes even in the ethnic group or nation, but never in the species as a whole. We recognize and condemn imperialism as enslavement and exploitation directed at other people, but our entrepreneurial species directs the same imperialism against nature to the sound of loud applause. …” “No wonder species are disappearing as if the end of the world were here. Like mechanical cowbirds we are laying our industrial eggs in every possible niche and nest, crowding out and displacing all creatures that do not directly serve us. On the playing field that we have levelled, moose cannot compete with bulldozers nor frogs with spraying machines. In the words of Kenneth Boulding we have to be worried about this planet when there are more species of nuts and bolts than there are of birds.”
VIII. IN CONCLUSION
Mary Gilliland from Saskatoon said it as well as it can be stated: “The Great Sand Hills are one of those places which deserve to exist simply because they are irreplaceable to a large number of other species, plant and animal, which depend on their ecosystem. … We are intelligent, not only in how we choose to make change, but also in terms of knowing when to stop, regardless of the dollars which might come through more development.”
It is my request that through the power you have as Minister and Deputy Minister of Environment, with support inside Cabinet, and wide support outside Cabinet, that you put an immediate end to the re-zoning of Environmentally Sensitive #1 lands, and that permanent irreversible protection be legislated for these areas.
Thank-you for your consideration.
Yours truly, . . .