Thursday, January 29, 2009

Good news for Suffield grasslands

Good news for native prairie is about as rare as its endangered plants and birds, but in Wednesday's Calgary Herald there is an article that gives hope for people who are trying to defend one of the continent's last great remnants of native prairie.

Here is how the article reads:

"A joint federal-provincial panel has denied a controversial EnCana application to drill shallow gas wells in Canadian Forces Base Suffield's national wildlife area.

But the report said if certain requirements are met, all or a part of the project in southeastern Alberta may go ahead in future.

The report's recommendations will now go to Alberta's energy regulator and the federal environment minister for final decisions.

The 210-page document from the joint review panel, released Tuesday, cited concerns about five species at risk:Ord's kangaroo rat, the Sprague's pipit (a songbird) and three rare plant species. It also said a government-established committee tasked with overseeing development in the area is not adequately funded.

The panel held public hearings last October. On Tuesday, EnCana spokesman Alan Boras said the company is encouraged by its interpretation of the report that if preconditions are met, there is not likely to be any significant adverse environmental effects resulting from the proposed project.

However, Cliff Wallis, vice-president of the Alberta Wilderness Association, which has argued the development will cause irreparable damage to the grass-lands and the animals there, said he hopes this report blocks the development.

'There's some good recommendations that will make it impossible, in our view, for EnCana to proceed,'Wallis said."

If Wallis and others working on this issue can keep the shallow wells out of Suffield the pipits and other grassland birds will have escaped a significan threat to their wellbeing on this 450 square kilometre sanctuary north of Medicine Hat, Alberta.

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