“Tides” Turn Positive for Conservation


“Tides” Turn Positive for Conservation

by Amy Lignor


A great majority of the American people wish to hear more good news when it comes to the Earth, wildlife and conservation. Politics, as well as big corporations, have a far more frequent tendency to stop any good headlines from ever coming to fruition. This month, however, is only half over and the news for conservation has been granted one truly amazing headline!


For those who are unaware, the Gateway Pacific Coal Export Terminal has been a constant source of aggression, protests and pain for those who wish to stop the creation of this terminal which would run along the Puget Sound coast in Washington State. Good news came about late last week when the opposition to the high costs of coal landing on wildlife and fragile habitats were heard once again on May 9th. The result was, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied the creation of the Gateway Pacific terminal.


The massive project is a design that will be able to transport 54 million metric tons of (mostly) coal on an annual basis. This would most definitely threaten everything from fishing to wildlife, including the endangered orca. The Corps, upon its denial, stated that they were highly concerned over the historic fishing rights of the Lummi tribe. If the terminal was built, major docks would end up interfering with over 140+ acres of water and vessel traffic that would “significantly increase interference with fishing.” But with the denial most definitely comes a huge win for the life of the orca.


The Southern Residents spend most of the summer in and around Puget Sound chasing salmon that are returning to their natal streams to spawn. Credit: NOAA

The Southern Residents spend most of the summer in and around Puget Sound chasing salmon that are returning to their natal streams to spawn. Credit: NOAA


It is a sad but true fact that fewer than 90 orcas live in Puget Sound in 2016. Known as Southern Resident Orcas, they rely solely on salmon and other fish as their primary food source. Not only would coal export terminals based along the Pacific Northwest coast destroy food that orcas depend on (seeing as that burning coal will increase acid rain and mercury pollution), but the thousands of new cargo ships that would be filled with coal would bring harm to the orcas and their already fragile habitats by pushing through and filling up the harbors and estuaries.


The Lummi tribe, as well as other tribes, fishermen, communities and conservationists, have consistently shown the threats that exist to both wildlife and cultural resources from the terminal project; resources that are necessary to maintain the natural world in the Pacific Northwest. And the Gateway Pacific Terminal is just the latest of several other coal projects that have been cancelled or denied. Tribes and communities are not backing down on this point. They are demanding that people see the massive impacts of the coal industry, where habitats and waters have already been strip-mined and turned barren.


Other projects shot down include the Otter Creek mine, which was so-far the largest proposed mine in the United States that would have caused devastating impacts on local tribes as well as a prime wildlife area located in eastern Montana. Another is the Tongue River Railroad, which would have transported coal from mine to port and caused major threats to elk, mule deer and other wildlife populations.

Gateway Pacific Coal Export Terminal, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Lummi tribe, Orcas in Puget Sound, Otter Creek mine, cleaner energy sources, people standing up for rights, victory

So what’s the bottom line? With the refusal by the Corps comes the realization that the country needs to set their sights on creating newer, cleaner energy sources. This win came from hard work done by many people standing up for the rights of the wildlife, as well as public health, climate, and native culture. Victories may seem few and far between, but this is one win that can be counted as huge for people who are striving each and every day to protect the land and water that is necessary for not only wildlife’s survival, but our very own.


Source:  Baret News


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