Everyone DUCK!

Everyone DUCK!

The notion that tailings pond duck deaths should be trivialized because of how many birds die through other means is getting under my skin. (On occasion I read comments associated with online media, which I have to admit is the source of this frustration.)

Duck deaths in tailings ponds are the result of intentionally dumping duck-deadly effluent into environments where they are likely to land.   We really have little idea how many ducks have died in tailings ponds over the years.

Tailings ponds have been present since the 1960s.  There appears no reason to believe that duck deaths have not occurred in the past, and we have no way to know the frequency or abundance of these deaths (although we can make estimates).

This is not to say that other causes of deaths to migratory birds should not be addressed.  We have legislation that could address some of these issues if it was enforced.  Specifically “incidental take” (read “collateral damage or death”) under the Migratory Birds Convention Act goes largely unenforced by Environment Canada.   Incidental take is described as when a migratory bird is “inadvertently destroyed by activities such as mining, forestry and agriculture, electrical generation and transmission, fishing, management of infrastructure, and urban development.”

Certainly incidental take is a significant issue and needs to be addressed, but it appears that political leadership in this area may be lacking.  In my assessment, calls for changes to the legislation around “incidental take” have been focused on allowing it to occur rather than altering practices or requiring offsetting programs to preserve bird populations.  This is not surprising when one considers the potential liability (or additional costs) forestry, agriculture, electrical transmission lines and tall building owners would face.

Until we see incidental take addressed, specific actions and compliance responses to minimize duck deaths should be applied vigorously….including remedying the tailings pond problem and the imposition of a “no-net-loss” wetland policy.

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2 Comments
  • Everyone Duck (from the Environmental Law Centre) « Northern Exposure
    Posted at 15:20h, 29 October Reply

    […] Read more here. […]

  • Jeff Gailus
    Posted at 15:17h, 29 October Reply

    Nice post, Jason. Shaun Fluker, Barry Robinson and I have been discussing the legal complexities of this by email, and I’m glad you added the ethical and broader context as well.

    My own earlier post (http://jeffgailus.com/2010/10/28/dead-ducks-and-the-rule-of-law/) on this doesn’t reflect eveything we talked about, but it does reflect my frustration with the misrepresentations made by columnists and editorial boards across the country on this issue. Only the Toronto Star seems to have come close to the mark. The others either don’t understand the law or don’t understand the ruling made by the judge in the Syncrude case. Or they’re wilfully misrepresenting it in their rush to promote tar sands development over good governance and responsible development.

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