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Climate: Canada’s subarctic lakes drying up

Canada subarctic lakes

Some of Canada’s subarctic lakes, seen here from a passenger jet, are drying up in a sign of abrupt climate change. bberwyn photo.

After at least 200 years of stable water levels, sudden dessication sets in

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — In another sign of abrupt climate disruption, scientists say some of Canada’s subarctic lakes are drying up at a rate not seen for at least 200 years, as snowfall in the region declines.

A research team studied about 70 lakes near Old Crow, Yukon, and Churchill, Manitoba, most of them less than one meter deep. More than half of the lakes located on relatively flat terrain and surrounded by scrubby vegetation showed signs of desiccation. Continue reading

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Canada’s polar bear policies called into question


Can polar bears survive global warming? Photo courtesy U.S. Geological Survey.

NAFTA body to review listing decision

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A seldom-used environmental provision of the North American Free Trade Agreement may help shed light on the Canadian government’s baffling stance on polar bear conservation.

Despite the growing threat from melting Arctic ice, the polar predators have only been awarded a low level of protection under Canadian environmental laws, triggering a petition process to the Secretariat of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation.

The organization this week recommended a formal investigation into Canada’s refusal to protect polar bears, and also questioned that country’s dismally slow pace in making listing decisions under the Species At Risk Act — an issue that will affect protection for polar bears and any other Canadian species threatened with extinction. Continue reading

Study: Canadian politicians have ‘eviscerated’ habitat protection for freshwater fish

When politics trumps science


Pro-development policies in Canada have ‘eviscerated’ habitat protection for many freshwater fish species, according to a new study. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — With political interference in conservation science becoming more common in the U.S. (as in the case of gray wolves), it’s worth looking north to Canada to see the results of such misguided decision-making.

A new study from the University of Calgary and Dalhousie University asserts that federal government changes to Canada’s fisheries legislation “have eviscerated” the ability to protect habitat for most of the country’s fish species.

The changes were “politically motivated” and unsupported by scientific advice — contrary to government policy — and are inconsistent with ecosystem-based management, according to fisheries biologists John Post and Jeffrey Hutchings. Continue reading

NAFTA commission to hear polar bear listing dispute


Conservation groups are challenging Canada’s decision on polar bear conservation. Photo courtesy USFWS/Scott Schliebe.

Conservation status of polar bears in Canada challenged by petition to international trade group

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Endangered polar bears are at the center of an an unusual dispute that will be heard by an environmental commission established under NAFTA.

The Commission for Environmental Cooperation announced late last t month that it will consider a petition challenging Canada’s decision to list polar bears as a species of special concern instead of listing them as threatened or endangered. The commission announced the petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity provides sufficient documentation of Canada’s violations of its own laws to warrant an official response from the country’s government. Continue reading

Global warming: The end of pond hockey?

Pond hockey in Toronto, circa 1923.

Canadian university researchers blast their country’s obstructionist policies by invoking the Great Gretsky

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Pond hockey could be history in parts of Canada within just a few decades, according to a new report showing that warming temperature have resulted in a statistically significant decrease in the length of the skating season over the past half century.

The largest decreases in season length were observed in the Prairies and Southwest regions of Canada. By extrapolating their data to predict future patterns, the researchers said outdoor skating may not be possible within the next few decades in areas such as British Columbia and Southern Alberta. Continue reading

Canada slashes environmental programs

Cuts threaten trans-border researcher on climate, pollution

Research on climate change impacts to the tundra is suffering after Canadian budget cuts.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —American scientists say they’re concerned that Canadian budget cuts will hamper important international research efforts on climate change, pollution and other regional issues that cut across political boundaries.

The cuts have affected the the scientific workforce of Environment Canada, the government agency responsible for meteorological services and environmental research.

Since the cuts were implemented last summer, ozone soundings have ceased at several Canadian stations. Lidar network measurements of particle pollution layers from five Canadian stations no longer occur, and the website that was distributing this data has disappeared, according to a report in the Feb. 14 issue of the American Geophysical Union’s Eos newspaper.

“Canada is a bellwether for environmental change, not only for Arctic ozone depletion but for pollutants that stream to North America from other continents, ” said Anne Thompson, professor of meteorology, Penn State. “It is unthinkable that data collection is beginning to shut down in this vast country, in some cases at stations that started decades ago.” Continue reading

Biodiversity: Canadian polar bear decision challenged

Canadian government sidesteps polar bear protections. PHOTO COURTESY USGS.

SUMMIT COUNTY —Canada’s recent decision to sidestep meaningful protections for polar bears will be challenged by the U.S.-based Center for Biological Diversity. The conservation group is seeking action from the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, established under the North American Free Trade Agreement to monitor compliance with environmental laws.

Earlier this month, the Canadian government completed its long-overdue process to assess the status of polar bears under the country’s Species At Risk Act. However, instead of listing the imperiled bears as “threatened” or “endangered,” the government designated the bears only as a “species of special concern,” which affords the bears no substantive protections. Continue reading

Canada sidesteps polar bear protections with listing decision

Canadian government sidesteps polar bear protections. PHOTO COURTESY USGS.

Species of special concern status doesn’t block hunting or require any critical habitat designations

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Canada, home to about 60 percent of the world’s polar bears, has decided to list the Arctic predator as a species of special concern and will develop a management plan for the bears within three years.

The listing comes under the Species at Risk Act, which is Canada’s version of the Endangered Species Act, but the special concern status doesn’t require the country to take any meaningful steps to protect the bears, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. Continue reading

Canadian scientists launch web site to fight gag order

A NASA satellite image shows an oil sand processing facility close to the Athabasca River.

Reseearchers say estrictions on public and media access to research harm the public interest

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Canadian federal government scientists are fighting back against petty censorship efforts by the country’s conservative government. A public employees union last week launched a new website that enables researchers to speak out on the work they do on behalf of the public and environment.

The government recently established new restrictions, requiring government scientists to clear their interviews through top-level political appointees. The partial gag order was aimed in particular at scientists working in environmental and natural resource fields. Some conservation groups speculated the rules are aimed at preventing researchers from making public the full scope of the environmental impacts associated with tar sands development. Continue reading

Avalanche pros pow-wow at Leadville workshop

A huge turnout at the annual Colorado Snow and Avalanche Workshop in Leadville.

Communication, organization the key to successful rescues; smart phone technology helping pinpoint victims in some recent missions

By Bob Berwyn

LEADVILLE — Good organization and communication are the keys to successful avalanche rescues, experts said Friday morning during the first few presentations at the annual Colorado Snow and Avalanche Workshop, discussing a couple of recent missions as case studies.

Summit County search and rescue veterans Dan Burnett and Aaron Parment said a series of linked decisions last May during a tricky rescue on Peak One, high above Frisco, enabled the rescue teams to move an injured snowboarder to a spot where a U.S. Army Blackhawk helicopter could ultimate evacuate him just before darkness.

Even though it was too windy earlier in the day for a helicopter rescue, mission coordinators stayed in touch with the choppers. When the wind died right around sunset, all the pieces were in place for a quick airlift, Burnett said.

The avalanche happened about three miles into the backcountry, and the rescue teams had to carefully evaluate the spring snow conditions to decide how best to reach the snowboarder, who suffered an open tib-fib fracture in the snow slide. In spring weather, the snow often can’t support the weight of snowmobiles, but quick temperature measurements near the staging area helped the teams decide that they could advance at least part way up the mountain with the help of the snowmobiles. Continue reading


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