Five Alaska Native tribes filed a lawsuit Dec. 23 challenging the Trump administration's move to allow logging in the 17 million-acre Tongass National Forest. The tribes are represented by nonprofits Earthjustice and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and are joined as plaintiffs by other environmental groups, commercial fishing groups, and tourism businesses. In October, the Trump administration announced that it would exempt the Tongass from the Clinton-era Roadless Area Conservation Rule, or the "roadless rule." The roadless rule blocks logging and road construction in specified forests. Alaskan state leadership petitioned for the reversal, which puts nine million acres of the Tongass at risk. According to the United States Forest Service, the Tongass is the "largest intact temperate rainforest in the world."
Native American activist Winona LaDuke and a small group of opponents of the planned Line 3 oil pipeline project braved frigid winds Dec. 15 to demonstrate outside the Enbridge Energy office in Park Rapids, Minn. LaDuke and her self-proclaimed "water protectors" carried signs reading "Mother Earth Revolution," "We are here for the future," and "Protect climate, water, treaties." The planned pipeline would bring more shale oil from northern Canada to US markets. Local Ojibwe bands in Minnesota have brought legal challenge against the pipeline, asserting that the potential for oil spills from the line poses a risk to their treaty-guaranteed hunting, fishing and gathering rights.
The Trump administration on Nov. 16 announced formal proceedings to sell oil and gas leases in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Alaska State Office issued a call for "nominations" on several lease tracts considered for the upcoming Coastal Plain Oil & Gas Lease Sale, covering approximately 1.5 million acres of the refuge along the coast of the Arctic Ocean. The notice launches the beginning of a 30-day public comment period before the agency moves forward with lease sales.
The Innu Nation of Labrador announced Oct. 6 that it is seeking $4 billion in damages from Hydro-Quebec over its mega-dam on the Upper Churchill River. The suit, filed in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland & Labrador, seeks compensation for the theft of ancestral Innu land in 1967 to build the Churchill Falls hydro-electric project, leading to devastation of their community's culture and way of life. "The impact of Churchill Falls has been felt across generations of Innu. What happened, it was not right. Our elders deserved better treatment then, and we demand better treatment now," said Grand Chief Etienne Rich. He charged that Hydro-Quebec and the provincial utility in Newfoundland, now called Nalcor Energy, "stole our land and flooded it in order to take advantage of the enormous hydro potential of the Churchill Falls. This project was undertaken without consulting us and without our consent."
Oscar Eyraud Adams, a community activist in the Mexican border town of Tecate, Baja California, was assassinated in an attack on his home by what local accounts described as an "armed commando" Sept. 24. The following day, his brother-in-law, Óscar Sotelo, was gunned down in a convenience store along the Tecate-Ensenada highway. Adams had been a prominent advocate for the Kumiai (also rendered Kumeyaay) indigenous people in their struggle for irrigation concessions for their remote communities in outlying rural areas of Tecate and Ensenada municipalities, which have been denied by the National Water Commission (ConAgua). Friends and supporters of Adams are blaming the assassinations on the "narco-state" and demanding that authorities investigate them as political crimes.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on July 9 issued a ruling in favor of the US government, allowing oil drilling to proceed in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPRA). The court rejected a claim by environmental groups that a 2012 impact statement prepared for earlier drilling within the NPRA was inadequate to cover new planned operations by oil companies elsewhere in the reserve, a critical caribou habitat.
The Supreme Court of Canada dismissed an appeal by the Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations in British Columbia, ending their years-long battle against the construction of the Trans-Mountain Pipeline. The pipeline is a controversial project to carry crude oil between Alberta and British Columbia's coast. The First Nations filed their appeal after a February decision by the Canadian Federal Court of Appeals that upheld the pipeline's legality. "The consultation process initiated by Canada invited the participation of 129 indigenous groups impacted by the project," stated that ruling, "and more than 120 either support or do not oppose it." The Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh contested this. In a 2018 appeal, the Tsleil-Waututh nation asserted sovereignty over the land, and their "freestanding stewardship, harvesting and cultural rights in this area." Both nations further claimed that the pipeline's construction would obstruct access to water, game and agricultural resources.
International climate negotiations will be delayed by a full year because of the coronavirus pandemic, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the UK government announced May 28. The next summit, officially dubbed the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), was due to take place this November in Glasgow, but has now been put off to November 2021. Delaying the talks could encourage governments, industrial concerns and financial institutions to adopt recovery plans with high climate costs. The postponement is particularly critical given the failure of last year's summit, held in Madrid, to reach any agreement. Instead, critical decisions were put off for COP26. This means a full two years will have passed before any progress can be made. (STV)