There’s no question that the Keystone XL pipeline is a huge source of controversy. The 1,700 mile-long pathway will cut through the pristine Canadian boreal forest through the U.S., crossing more than one thousand rivers, lakes and streams along with tens of thousands of acres of precious wetlands.
With more than 800,000 barrels of oil set to barrel through the pipeline on a daily basis, there are good reasons for concern. Any spills could devastate the air and water and the health of communities. An estimated 34,000 tons of oil are expected to be spilled annually.
But just building the pipeline is damaging enough. According to Jane Kirchner of the National Wildlife Federation , the health of several species of animals will be severely compromised by the pipeline.
1. The Northern Swift Fox
“Once considered abundant in the short grass prairies from central Alberta though the Great Plains to Texas, the swift fox was wiped out of 90 percent of its historical habitat by the latter half of the twentieth century,” Kirchner writes in One Green Planet. “Keystone XL would bring the world’s dirtiest oil right through the foxes’ remaining habitat. Dens crushed by pipeline construction and industrial roads carving up habitat—not to mention leaks or breaks in the massive Keystone XL pipeline — would put swift foxes in grave danger.”
“Thankfully, conservation efforts have helped swift foxes make a comeback. But with the looming threat of the massive Keystone XL pipeline, they are not out of the woods yet.”
2. Whooping Crane
According to Kirchner, the majestic whooping cranes would be facing death by electrocution from the 300 miles of power lines supporting the pipeline. Already, power lines are responsible for 40 percent of juvenile whooping crane deaths. “This is a big deal when you’re talking about a bird that has a population of about four hundred in the wild,” Kirchner writes.
3. Pallid Sturgeon
The rare pallid sturgeon is so protected that if you catch one while fishing, you must release it immediately. A beast of a fish, growing more than five feat and weighing in at 80-some pounds, the pallid sturgeon can live 100 years! But, says, Kirchner, the pipeline would roll right into the Missouri, Yellowstone, Platte and Niobrara rivers. If oil spills there, it could wipe out the grand fish for good.
4. Canada Lynx
According to Kirchner, researchers are already quite worried about the Canada Lynx. They fear that the development of the pipeline alone could force it into extinction because its habitat in the boreal forest will be too compromised.
5. Woodland Caribou
The pipeline construction could start a stopwatch on woodland caribou that expires in the next several decades. The boreal forest roamers are rapidly losing habitat to tar sand mining and any further losses could drive them to extinction in thirty years or less.
Image via U.S. Fish and Wildlife
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