More than 300 species of birds— including the common loon, the whooping crane, and the white-throated sparrow—roost in Canada’s Boreal Forest several months of the year. But tar sands oil development threatens the survival of the forest’s resources and the migratory birds that depend on them.
A report by the Natural Resources Defense Council found that if all the tar sands development projects currently proposed were completed, 166 million migratory birds would perish over the next 50 years. “Virtually every facet of tar sands oil development has the potential to harm migratory birds,” the report states, including strip mining of forests, the creation of tailing ponds that store toxic materials used in the tar sands extraction process, and air and water pollution that decimates wetlands and reservoirs.
If tar sands development continues apace, we can expect more sad stories like this one: In 2008, 500 ducks landed in an oil company’s pollutant-filled tailing pond in Alberta, Canada, thinking it was a safe place to take a quick swim. Pretty soon, hundreds of decomposing ducks floated on the surface of the water—only three ducks survived the ordeal.
Photo: Todd Korol/Reuters