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Canadian Supreme Court Recognizes First Nation Land Title 27 June 14

The Supreme Court of Canada has granted declaration of aboriginal title to more than 1,700 square kilometres of land in British Columbia to the Tsilhqot'in First Nation, the first time the court has made such a ruling regarding aboriginal land.

The unanimous 8-0 decision released Thursday resolves many important legal questions, such as how to determine aboriginal title and whether provincial laws apply to those lands. The decision, written by Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, also has implications for future economic or resource development on First Nations lands.

"British Columbia breached its duty to consult owed to the Tsilhqot'in through its land use planning and forestry authorizations," the 81-page decision states.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, was with Chief Roger William, who brought the case, and other Tsilhqot'in chiefs when they learned of the top court's decision, and said the mood in the room was "absolutely electrifying."

"We all heard the decision at the same moment, and the room just erupted in cheers and tears. Everybody is absolutely jubilant. It's very emotional," Phillip told CBC News.

"It only took 150 years, but we look forward to a much brighter future. This, without question, will establish a solid platform for genuine reconciliation to take place in British Columbia."

"I didn't think it would be so definitive," Phillip added. "I was actually prepared for something much less. It's not very often that I'm without words, and I'm quite overwhelmed at the moment."

The decision rejected the narrow view of what qualified for protection under aboriginal rights from a 2012 ruling by the B.C. Court of Appeal. While the lower court had said aboriginal groups must be able to prove intensive historical use of a specific site, Thursday's decision accepts a broader set of criteria particularly important for the Tsilhqot'in, a historically "semi-nomadic" people.

Indigenous groups must now prove a looser definition of occupation, continuity of habitation on the land, and exclusivity in an area in order to be granted a title.

The Supreme Court of Canada currently has other similar cases to rule on, with the June 26th decision as a precedent. Analysis is beginning as to how this decision affects both provincial and federal governments and First Nations across Canada.

View June 26, 2014 CBC News article
View June 26, 2014 Common Dreams article
View June 26, 2014 Financial Post article
View June 26, 2014 Global News article
View June 26, 2014 Aboriginal Peoples Television Network article
View June 26, 2014 Rabble.ca article
View June 25, 2014 The Star article

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Manitoba Surface Water Plan Out For Comments 27 June 14

Manitoba recently announced its first comprehensive Surface Water Management Strategy. A multi-year surface water management investments to protect Lake Winnipeg and mitigate flood and drought damage, Conservation and Water Stewardship Minister Gord Mackintosh and Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Steve Ashton announced.

"Manitoba faces three water woes: excessive nutrient loading of waterways that is harming Lake Winnipeg, damage from flooding and the risk of drought," said Minister Mackintosh. "All three can be mitigated with a new, sustainable approach to managing drainage and investing in flood control infrastructure."

About 75 per cent of original wetlands in Manitoba have been drained since industrial development began on the prairies, much of that in areas such as the Red River basin, impairing the natural ability of waterways to retain, release and refresh water over time, Minister Mackintosh said, adding this strategy seeks to end further loss of the benefits that wetlands provide and includes a plan to overhaul drainage licensing that would streamline approvals for routine drainage while protecting seasonal wetlands.

Public comments are being requested until December 31, 2014, through the government web site.

View Manitoba's Surface Water Management Strategy
View June 11, 2014 The Manitoba Chambers of Commerce article
View June 11, 2014 Winnipeg Free Press article
View University of Manitoba Innovative surface water and nutrient management initiatives on farm page
View Manitoba Government Towards Sustainable Drainage page

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Manitoba's Blue Mosaic 27 June 14

As the world struggles with fresh water shortages and water pollution, a new report from Ducks Unlimited Canada and the Boreal Songbird Initiative urges greater protection of Manitoba's still-unspoiled water assets.

The report, Manitoba's Blue Mosaic, ranks the province's water and wetlands as among the most ecologically significant in the world. It says Manitoba is one of the few jurisdictions where large-scale conservation of those resources remains possible.

"Manitoba is really special among Canadian provinces. Although people think of it as a prairie province, it has one of the largest boreal forest areas in Canada, and one of the most intact boreal forest ecosystems," said Jeff Wells , science and policy director with the Boreal Songbird Initiative and a co-author of the report.

"And it is all interconnected via water. The Manitoba boreal is dense with wetlands—rivers, lakes, ponds, bogs, marshes, and peatlands—that support a vast amount of wildlife and provide incredible services to the environment. It's just this massive living system," Wells said.

Manitoba's Blue Mosaic details how water is the thread connecting Manitobans to a boreal realm that—at 570,000 square kilometres (140 million acres)—is daunting in scale.

View June 2014 Ducks Unlimited and Boreal Songbird Initiative report
View June 16, 2014 Winnipeg Sun article
View June 16, 2014 Yahoo! Finance article
View Winnipeg Realtor's article

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Desmond Tutu: 'Tar Sands Filth Is Negligent And Irresponsible' 13 June 14

Archbishop Desmond Tutu pulled no punches and upset a lot of people with some harsh language to describe the oilsands at a two-day conference in Fort McMurray.

"The fact that this filth is being created now, when the link between carbon emissions and global warming is so obvious, reflects negligence and greed," said Tutu, a Nobel Prize winner and widely respected human rights advocate.

Archbishop Tutu was the main attraction this weekend at a Fort McMurray conference focused on treaty rights and the environment, and spoke to a room of about 200, including First Nations members from across the Prairies and Northwest Territories – many of whom spoke about their struggles their loss of traditional territory and concerns about safe drinking water due to energy projects.

The renowned human right crusader was in Fort McMurray to attend the As Long As the Rivers Flow conference, sponsored by Toronto law firm Olthuis Kleer Townshend LLP and the Athabasca Chipewyan.

View June 3, 2014 Edmonton Journal article
View June 2, 2014 Common Dreams article
View June 1, 2014 CBC News article
View May 31, 2014 The Globe and Mail article
View May 31, 2014 Huffington Post article

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Oil Is Out Of Time 13 June 14

It is becoming more and more clear that big oil is in trouble. Current data for the decline in oil fields' production indicates around 3 million barrels per day of new production must be achieved every year to sustain current supply levels. This is equivalent to finding another Saudi Arabia every 3–4 years.

Over the last decade, rising oil prices have been driven primarily by rising production costs. After the release of the IEA's World Energy Outlook last November, Deutsche Bank's former head of energy research Mark Lewis noted that massive levels of investment have corresponded to an ever declining rate of oil supply increase:

"Over the past decade, the oil and gas industry's upstream investments have registered an astronomical increase, but these ever higher levels of capital expenditure have yielded ever smaller increases in the global oil supply. Even these have only been made possible by record high oil prices. This should be a reality check for those now hyping a new age of global oil abundance."

View June 10, 2014 The Guardian article
View June 4, 2014 Eco-Business article
View May 20, 2014 Los Angeles Times article
View May 12, 2014 The New York Times article
View March 25, 2014 Oil & Gas Journal
View February 20, 2014 Chemistry World article

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Open Doors To Electric Vehicle Technology 13 June 14

Electric carmaker Tesla Motors is handing over the keys to its technology in an unusual effort to encourage other automakers to expand beyond gasoline-burning vehicles. Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, promised to give away the company's entire patent portfolio, as long as they promised not to engage courtroom battles over intellectual property.

"If we clear a path to the creation of compelling electric vehicles, but then lay intellectual property landmines behind us to inhibit others, we are acting in a manner contrary to that goal," Musk wrote in a blog on the company's website.

At the start of 2014, Tesla had been issued 203 patents covering its batteries and other key features that distinguish its electric cars from gasoline-powered vehicles. Another 280 patent applications are still pending in the US and other countries, according to Tesla's regulatory filings.

View June 13, 2014 The Guardian article
View June 12, 2014 EcoWatch article
View June 12, 2014 CBC News article
View June 12, 2014 The Globe and Mail article
View February 28, 2014 EcoWatch article

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President Obama's Climate Action Plan 6 June 14

In 2009, President Obama made a pledge that by 2020, America would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels.

The Obama administration unveiled historic environment rules cutting carbon pollution from power plants by 30% on Monday, spurring prospects for a global deal to end climate change but setting up an epic battle over the environment in this year's mid-term elections. The new rules, formally announced by the Environmental Protection Agency, represent the first time Barack Obama, or any other president, has moved to regulate carbon pollution from power plants – the largest single source of carbon dioxide emissions that cause climate change.

The EPA said the regulations, which would cut carbon pollution from power plants 30% from 2005 levels by 2030, would "fight climate change while supplying America with reliable and affordable power".

The EPA administrator, Gina McCarthy, said the new rules would be critical to Obama's efforts to deliver on his promise – to Americans and the international community – to fight climate change.

"The EPA is delivering on a vital piece of President Obama's climate action plan by proposing a clean power plan that will cut harmful carbon pollution from our largest source – power plants," she said in a statement.

View The President's Climate Action Plan
View June 5, 2014 The Globe and Mail article
View June 5, 2014 DeSmog Canada article
View June 3, 2014 CBC News article
View June 2, 2014 The Guardian article
View February 18, 2014 Huffington Post article

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300 Scientists To Harper: Northern Gateway Flawed 6 June 14

A letter signed by hundreds of scientists from around the world is urging Prime Minister Stephen Harper to reject a flawed federal panel report recommending approval of the Northern Gateway pipeline. The federal government must announce the final decision by June 17 on the 1,200-kilometre pipeline that would link the Alberta oil sands with a tanker port on the B.C. coast.

The letter sent to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and several key cabinet ministers said the report by the joint review panel is "indefensible as a basis to judge in favour of the project."

It was signed by 300 scientists from universities from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island, along with colleagues from international institutions including Stanford, Cornell and Oxford.

"There have been references to the review being science-based," said Eric Taylor, a University of British Columbia zoology professor and letter co-author. "We thought we should test that assumption by looking at the joint review panel report almost as we would a scientific publication, to see if it was rigorous."

Kai Chan, a University of British Columbia associate professor who helped pen the letter, calls the report a failure.

"The consideration of how the benefits outweigh the costs and risks was really given almost no space and no logic. It's absolutely insufficient as a basis to make a decision as to whether the project is in the public interest," says Chan.

View June 5, 2014 CBC News article
View June 3, 2014 The Star article
View June 3, 2014 Vancouver Observer article
View June 3, 2014 The Globe and Mail article
View June 3, 2014 The Vancouver Sun article

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Honeybees: Death Rate Outpacing Action 6 June 14

A U.S. government report admits that the honeybee species are dying off at a rate too high to 'guarantee their long term survival'. It has been proven that the primary factor leading to this extinction is the presence of neonicotinoid poisons, present in insecticides sold by and/or used by corporations such as Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, and Dupont.

A recent study from Harvard, published on March 27th, 2014, has definitively confirmed what scientists outside the US have been saying for years: neonicotinoids are the cause of colony collapse disorder(CCD). The study showed that 50% of colonies populated by bees who had been in contact with these pesticides collapsed, compared to only 1 in 6 not in contact with neonicotinoids.

The study published in the June edition of the Bulletin of Insectology, concludes that corn, potato and soybean pesticides containing neonicotinoid chemicals are directly to blame for colony collapse disorder (CCD). Worker bees are thought to absorb trace amounts of the neonicotinoids during the pollination process before bringing those chemicals back to the hive.

View June 3, 2014 Live Free Live Natural article
View May 10, 2014 CTV News article
View May 6, 2014 Bee Informed report
View March 27, 2014 Bulletin of Insectology report
View June 17, 2013 Nature World News article
View April 29, 2013 The Guardian article
View January 21, 2013 The Journal of Experimental Biology article

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Clean Beaches In Canada & Manitoba 30 May 14

Ten years ago, the City of Toronto raised the first Blue Flags in Canada - giving a clean bill of health to four beaches: Cherry, Hanlan's Point, Ward's Island and Woodbine. For Toronto, this was a huge accomplishment. Because of major improvements to stormwater and wastewater infrastructure, water that was once brown and smelly was clear and safe to swim in. The Blue Flag celebrated these beaches and encouraged people to reconnect with the waterfront.

Blue Flag is a highly respected and recognized international eco-label. Blue Flags are awarded to beaches and marinas that meet strict criteria for water quality, environmental education, environmental management, and safety and services.

Blue Flags are flying at 24 beaches and 4 marinas in Canada. Environmental Defence Canada manages Blue Flag Canada.

Three Manitoba beaches have received Blue Flag status, which recognizes them around the world as clean and safe beaches. The main beach at Winnipeg Beach Provincial Park and the west beach at Grand Beach Provincial Park are certified by Blue Flag Canada.

View May 28, 2014 Environmental Defence article
View May 28, 2014 CBC News article
View Blue Flag Canada
View The Weather Network article
View June 6 Newswire article

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California: No More Microbeads 30 May 14

In a historic vote, the California Assembly passed the Microplastic Nuisance Prevention Law to ban the sale and manufacturing of personal care products containing tiny, synthetic plastic microbeads. Thanks to 5 Gyres Institute, the group that authored the bill sponsored by Assembly Member Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), California sets a precedent for holding companies liable for products that harm aquatic species and pollutes our water.

"Legislation levels the playing field," said Stiv Wilson of 5 Gyres. The ball began rolling early last year when another organization in Europe called the Plastic Soup Foundation campaigned heavily resulting in the company Unilever banning microbeads in their products by 2015.

View May 24, 2014 EcoWatch article
View February 13, 2014 Bill Number AB 1699
View February 17, 2014 EcoWatch article
View Beat the Micro Bead Microplastics: scientific evidence
Visit 5 Gyres website

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Oil Industry Not Ready For Spills In Arctic 30 May 14

A new study from the U.S. National Research Council is warning that neither the science nor the currently available public or private response infrastructure is anywhere near prepared for an oil spill in the Arctic Ocean.

A changing climate is increasing the accessibility of U.S. Arctic waters to commercial activities such as shipping, oil and gas development, and tourism, raising concern about the risk of oil spills. The report from the National Research Council says that proven oil response tools are needed to address potential oil spills in arctic waters, but not all of them are readily available.

"The lack of infrastructure and oil spill response equipment in the U.S. Arctic is a significant liability in the event of a large oil spill," the report warns. "Building U.S. capabilities to support oil spill response will require significant investment in physical infrastructure and human capabilities, from communications and personnel to transportation systems and traffic monitoring."

View May 27, 2014 EcoWatch article
View May 2, 2014 EcoWatch article
View April 23, 2014 The National Academies news release
View 2014 National Research Council report
View Center for American Progress report

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Manitoba Wildlands2002-2014