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Wildlife - the forgotten victims of Site C dam in northeastern BC

NDP/Green alliance proceed with Canada's most ecologically devastating project ever approved

by Roslyn Cassells

Western Toad
Western Toad

The newly elected BC NDP/Green Party alliance in British Columbia has shown their true colours today when they gave the go-ahead to the most ecologically devastating project ever approved in Canada to date - ignoring the laws of the land which protect nature and indigenous rights, to pursue their political ambitions with complete disregard to their duty to the people of BC and their campaign promises to "end Site C".

BC Premier John Horgan today announced the continuation of the destruction of the last remaining portion of the Peace River Valley today, known as Site C.  The river valley, home to over 63 species of endangered animals and 38 plus species of rare plants will be flooded to complete this damaging and contentious mega project - opposed by Treaty 8 First Nations, local farmers, and ecological groups.

A violation of the Species At Risk Act, recommendations of the Committee On the Status of Endangered Wildlife, the BC Wildlife Act, and the Migratory Birds Convention Act, this project will drown an area of land similar to from Vancouver to Chilliwack.  Over 83 kms of core wildlife habitat, the only east-west passage through the Rocky Mountains below 1000m in the Yukon to Yellowstone Conservation Initiative - a wildlife corridor essential to large mammal migration, breeding, and biodiversity.

Over 300 animal and 400 plant species will be effected, some will become extinct as they only exist in Site C.  A myriad of living creatures - billions - will die...little insects, worms, spiders, beetles, flies, wasps, dragonflies, caterpillars, grasshoppers, salamanders, newts, snakes, mice, voles, moles, wood rats, squirrels, shrews....burrowing beasts, raising their young deep in the earth or high up in a hollow tree...the winged ones - bats, hawks, owls, eagles, songbirds, thrushes, woodpeckers, sparrows, duck, geese, eagles, shorebirds...the four legged - Grizzly Bear, Black Bear, lynx, fox, coyote, wolf, wolverine, martin, weasel, fisher, beaver, river otter, cougar, muskrat, bison, mink, moose, elk, deer, sheep, wild many will die as their world is flooded?  When they cannot flee the flood waters because they are too little, not fast enough, not able to outrun the waters or fly away?

In addition to violations of Treaty 8 and UNDRIP the Joint Review Panel which reviewed the project noted that BC Hydro, the project proponent, made no attempt t assess traditional medicinal plants used by local first nations.  It further stated that some ecosystems and ecological communities would be entirely lost to the project...such as riparian and floodplain forests, tufa seeps, mari fens which "cannot ever be recreated...their loss complete, permanent, irreversible."

Environment Canada noted 3/4 of BC's 247 bird species use the Peace region and that the project would cause "significant adverse effects on migratory birds which cannot be mitigated" - a violation of provincial, federal, and international laws.

The Little Brown Myotis Bat, Barn Swallow, and Northern Myotis Bat are threatened according to COSEWIC, and the Bull Trout, Grizzly Bear, and Horned Grebe are of special concern.  Provincially listed species include the blue-listed Fisher, Broad-winged Hawk, and the ground-nesting Short-eared Owl.  The Eastern Red Bat is red-listed, as are Nelson's Sparrow, the Yellow Rail, and 5 species of butterflies.  The Sharp-tailed Grouse and the Baltimore Oriole are yellow-listed.  Additional listed birds include Bay Breasted Warbler, Black-throated Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Conneticut Warbler, American Avocet, American Golden Plover, American White Pelican, Brant Goose, Cackling Goose, California Gull, Double-breasted Cormorant, Foster's Tern, Great Blue Heron, Hudsonian Godwit, Red-necked Phalarope, Short-billed Dowitcher, Wandering Tattler, and the Western Grebe - all effected by the destruction of Site C.

Provincially listed effected fish include Arctic Grayling, Goldeneye, Lake Trout, Pygmy Whitefish, Rainbow Trout, Large-scale Sucker, Northern Pike Minnow, Northern Redbelly Dace, Pearl Dace, Spottail Shiner and Spoonhead Sculpin.

The Western Toad, Bull Trout, many of the above named species as well as listed butterflies will see their status worsen due to Site C destruction.  Also on the brink are woodpeckers, Northern Goshawk, Rocky Mountain Elk, Moose, and Mule Deer - currently listed as of special concern.

The Peace Daisy and Persistent-sepal yellowcress are found only in the Peace River Valley and would be extinguished according to BC Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resources, while Herriot's Sage and Old Man's Whiskers are found only in the Peace Region - their status increasingly imperiled.

As Berta Caceres said "Mother Earth - militarized, fenced-in, poisoned, a place where basic rights are systematically violated, demands we take action".  Caceres, a Lenca woman, was assassinated for her fight against a dam in her territory in Honduras in 2016.

Union of BC Indian Chiefs Grand Chief Stewart Philips called the decision to go ahead with Site C dam "collosally STUPID" and declared December 11th "Black Monday"..."The sordid saga of Site C continues...stay tuned...the fight continues".  West Moberley First Nations Chief Roland Willson will be filing for injunctions against the project as well as treaty infringements.  Horgan has destroyed the reputation of the NDP according to Willson, and the chief encourages the Greens to bring down the government over this issue.



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