By Chris Wood. This article originally appeared on The Tyee.
The sound of water is loud in a land muffled by snow. No human sound penetrates this broad valley between tapering extensions of the Rocky Mountains, 100 kilometres southwest of Grand Prairie, Alberta. A stray beam from the low winter sun washes the landscape in pink. A young doe caribou makes her way to the water. She's thin, ribs visible beneath her winter coat. At the water's edge she lowers her head to drink.
Suddenly grey shapes burst from the shadows. The swiftest comes racing over her own hoof-trail, leaps and sinks sharp teeth deep into her haunch, lacerating ligament. Within minutes, the doe's struggle is over. The wolves settle in to eat.
For Alberta's foothills caribou, death row is a fraying triangle of pine, spruce and aspenforest and meadows, stretched along the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains and running roughly from Banff, west of Calgary, some 630 kilometres north and west over the provincial border into British Columbia. A broad thumb of forest thrusts east toward Slave Lake.
A second area with a similar ecological community, not quite as large, straddles the provincial borders north of Fort St. John, B.C. Anchored on Alberta's Chinchaga Wildland Park it holds the headwaters of the Hay River. The two areas are isolated from each other by the trans-border Peace River and its development corridor of gas fields, forest mills and a soon-to-be-built third hydroelectric dam and reservoir on the river.
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