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UPDATE: Barlow condemns Harper’s closing of Lakes research program

The Globe and Mail reports, “The federal government is closing a research station scientists have used for decades to study how pollutants like acid rain and phosphates affect lakes. The Experimental Lakes Area is in Northwestern Ontario, about 250 kilometres east of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Since 1968, government and university scientists have used its 58 small lakes to test hypotheses about freshwater ecosystems. One experiment has been running for 40 years. Employees were told Thursday, said Roberto Quinlan, a biologist at York University… David Schindler, a professor at the University of Alberta, said employees were told that the facility will be closed as of March, 2013, and that universities, not governments, should be doing this kind of science.”

As noted on the Experimental Lakes Area website, the purpose of the program is:
-To better understand global threats to the environment through knowledge gained from whole-ecosystem, experimental, scientific research
-To monitor and demonstrate the impacts of human activities on watersheds and lakes
-To develop appropriate environmental stewardship strategies for the preservation, restoration and enhancement of ecosystems
-To educate and promote environmental protection and conservation through an integrated approach to ecosystem stewardship

The news article notes, “The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada is criticizing the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for withdrawing funding from the Experimental Lake Areas program. ‘A region of remote lakes has been dedicated, since the late 1960s, to whole-lake ecosystem research. It has been the site of groundbreaking studies into the effects of pollutants, acid rain, freshwater aquaculture, and hydroelectric dams on freshwater ecosystems,’ the union said in a news release. …John Smol, a professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, said closing the facility is a ‘travesty, not just for Canada but for the rest of the world’. He said data from experiments carried out at the lakes ‘were critical in showing we can’t have phosphates in detergents and that acid rain causes marked ecosystem changes.'”

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow, who is currently on an eight-city tour to defend the Great Lakes and promote their protection as a commons, public trust and bioregion, has condemned the Harper government for its decision.

Barlow says, “The Harper government is waging war on Canada’s freshwater. We don’t start with a strong record. Our national water laws are out-dated, we don’t properly enforce the ones we have and we chronically underfund source water and watershed protection. And consecutive governments refuse to consider the effect on freshwater when creating economic, industrial, energy or trade policies. Yet the Harper government appears intent on systematically dismantling the few protections that have been put in place at the federal level to protect our freshwater heritage.”

She has highlighted the impacts of the Budget Implementation Act (now in second reading), the gutting of Fisheries Act protections, the decimation of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, and the cutting of a long-standing international water monitoring program. “In a mean spirited move, the Harper government is killing the Global Environmental Monitoring System, an inexpensive project that monitors over 3,000 freshwater sites around the world for a UN database and that Canada has proudly hosted for decades.”

Barlow adds, “The United Nations says the world is experiencing an unprecedented ecological and human water crisis. Governments and communities around the world are moving to protect their precious water systems to ensure they will be here for future generations. What a travesty Stephen Harper has decided to sacrifice our freshwater heritage in order to please his industry friends. We will all live to regret this.”

Barlow will be speaking in Thunder Bay tonight on the need to protect Lake Superior and all the Great Lakes. For more on her tour, please see http://canadians.org/water/issues/Great_Lakes/index.html.