Swift Action Needed for Swift Foxes
Last week, three newborn swift fox kits made their appearance at the Endangered Wolf Center in Missouri–offering visitors a rare look at the tiny and elusive nocturnal foxes, and creating new milestones at the facility and nationally in the federal breeding program.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 as a consequence of the increase in agriculture and the disappearance of the native prairies.
Thankfully, conservation efforts by the Endangered Wolf Center and many more organizations, individuals, and wildlife management agencies have helped swift foxes make a comeback by reintroducing them into their native habitat. Today, it is estimated that swift foxes occupy about 40 percent of their historic range.
Although the future is promising for the swift fox, they are not out of the woods yet. Habitat loss and climate change remain very real threats to the species. And an imminent new danger–the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline–could bring the world’s dirtiest oil right through the foxes’ remaining habitat.
Leaks or breaks in the massive Keystone XL pipeline–like the one in Michigan two years ago that dumped one million gallons of tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River–would put swift foxes in grave danger. And because the carbon emissions from tar sands oil production are three times those of conventional oil, it would amplify the impacts foxes are already feeling from climate change.
In January 2012, following the opposition raised by hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens across the country, President Obama denied Canadian pipeline giant TransCanada’s request to build the 2,000-mile Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta, Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast.
Now, TransCanada is back, after deciding to split the project in two–a northern, transborder segment from Alberta to Steele City, Nebraska and a southern segment from Cushing, Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast–in an attempt to move the project piecemeal and evade meaningful review by the U.S. State Department.
The “new” route for the 1,200-mile northern segment of the Keystone XL pipeline does not solve the problems raised by the original route that President Obama rejected. It would still cross vital wildlife habitat and water resources, expand habitat-destroying tar sands operations in Canada, and accelerate climate change.
There are only two weeks left to weigh in with the U.S. State Department–we must make sure they conduct a thorough review of Keystone XL that reveals the far-reaching and unacceptable impacts to swift foxes and many more precious wildlife.