Tar Sands & the Boreal Forest

Alberta’s Boreal forest is one of the last wild forests left in the world. It is home to thousands of plants and animals, contains 35% of Canada’s wetlands and, as a functioning whole, stores carbon, regulates climate and filters water. The Boreal forest is an incredible ecosystem that needs protection from the unrelenting pressures of increased oil sands development.

The enormous extent of development is devastating our natural systems and is only getting bigger

* Approximately 23% of Alberta is affected by oil sands development - 50 times the area of the actual mining zone
* Leases have been issued that will threaten 3000 km2 of boreal forest
* An area the size of the state of Florida (149,000 km2) can be leased to oil sands development in the future
* Surface mining diverts rivers, drains wetlands and strips soil, fundamentally altering the landscape
* Our groundwater is threatened by contamination from both mining and drilling
* Infrastructure for In Situ projects alone will clear 296 000 ha of forest and over 30 000 km of access roads will be built
* The ever-increasing web of roads, well pads, seismic lines and pipelines create isolated patches of wildlife habitats that are forcing native animals such as the Woodland Caribou out of their homes
* Seismic operators are not required to reforest the lines they cut and studies have shown that 88% of lines older than 20 years have still not regenerated

The land altered by tar sands development will never be the same

* After 40 years and 420 km2 of mining, no land has been certified as reclaimed by the Government of Alberta.
* No maximum levels of disturbance have been established
* Given so little success in actual reclamation, the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) reports resort to theories of reclamation in order to justify development
* Companies such as Suncor and Syncrude claim to have performed land reclamation- 9% and 22% (1,160 ha and 3,404 ha) respectively. These amounts are insignificant in the face of the total land disturbed (10,000 ha and 18,335 ha respectively)
* More soil has been excavated by Syncrude (only one of 4 operating mines) than from the construction of the Great Pyramid of Cheops, the Great Wall of China, the Suez Canal, and the 10 biggest dams in the world combined

All information on this fact-sheet is from the following sources:
The Pembina Institute (2007). Oil Sands Watch. Retrieved on May 10, 2007, from http://www.oilsandswatch.org/
The Sierra Club, Prairie Chapter (2007).
Wilderness Committee (2007). Dollars and Sense: The True Costs of Alberta’s Oil Sands. Retrieved on May 11, 2007, from http://www.wildernesscommittee.org/campaigns/boreal/reports/Vol15No10/sense
Schneider, R. & Dyer, S. (2006). Death by a Thousand Cuts: The impact of in situ oil sands development on Alberta’s Boreal forest. The Pembina Institute & CPAWS: Edmonton.

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