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Wetlands Consensus Policy Gutted After Backroom Industry Pressure

21 Apr 2010

EDMONTON - The Sierra Club Prairie has obtained a leaked copy of the most recent Alberta Wetlands Policy that shows the extent of industry influence over environmental decisions for the province. The confidential document reveals an undermining of the work of the Alberta Water council, a multi stakeholder group that has been developing the tenets of the wetlands policy. The policy, already a compromised position to get the buy-in of 25 multi-sectoral groups, was radically changed after backdoor industry pressure. Language changes in the document gut and water down the policy, changing wording from ‘will’ to ‘may’ in addition to providing companies with ‘non-replacement’ options for wetlands destruction.

“Apparently the oil & gas and mining industries hold the trump card in this province when it comes to environmental policy”, comments Sheila Muxlow, Interim Director of the Sierra Club Prairie. “Simple words like ‘will’ and ‘try’ may not seem like much, but when it comes to policy it can mean the difference about whether companies get a free ride or are actually held accountable for their actions.”

The Alberta Water Council Wetlands Policy Team, is comprised of representatives for 25 different sectors including representatives from the provincial government as well as the forestry, agriculture, municipal sectors. The team arrived at the compromised recommendations after years of deliberation and extensive public consultation. One of the key recommendations was to implement a ‘No Net Loss’ policy where by wetlands that are destroyed due to industrial development need to be replaced. Representatives for the oil & gas, and mining sectors later sent a letter of concern claiming the proposed wetlands policy would be too expensive for companies to uphold. The leaked document provides proof that the Government of Alberta has accepted their changes.

“This is a slap in the face of the public and our democracy. Public stakeholders are expected to engage honestly through official government lines, while the oil and gas industry can waltz in the back door and change all the decisions,” asserted Muxlow. “The public should be outraged. Their views have been completed disregarded. Wet lands will continue to be destroyed and industry continues to set public policy in this province – it’s disgusting.”

Wetlands provide water security for the province. They filter and purify water; recharge groundwater for land owners’ wells and livestock dugouts; provide flood protection, are integral for healthy ecosystems: hotbeds of biological diversity; crucial to migrating songbirds, geese and ducks, and for sensitive species like amphibians and woodland caribou.

Over 60% of Alberta wetlands in settled areas have already been lost.

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For More Information Contact:

Sheila Muxlow, Interim Prairie Director, 780 660 0312

Posted April 22, 2010 by Anonymous

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