Thousands March in St. Paul to Protect Wildlife from Tar Sands

As we were just beginning to understand what a momentous day we had ahead of us, a bald eagle swooped over the gathering crowd at Lamberts Landing in St. Paul, Minnesota and then out over the Mississippi River in search of fish.

Such a sight would have been rare just years ago.  It told us of the progress we can achieve when people come together to protect wildlife.

bald eagle
Bald eagle skimming across the water. Photo donated by National Wildlife Photo Contest entrant Derek Brusse

Turning the Tide for Wildlife

In what may be remembered as a day the tide again turned in favor of wildlife, I was proud and humbled to march with over 5,000 people to demand a better future for wildlife at the Tar Sands Resistance March in St. Paul.  The message was simple: let’s build an energy future where wildlife and communities can thrive.  Let’s turn away from a risky future of extreme fossil fuels like tar sands that place our water, wildlife, communities and climate in peril.

As we close in on rejection of the controversial and dangerous Keystone XL pipeline, it appears the U.S. State Department still hasn’t fully gotten the message.  Last Spring, it approved a behind-the-scenes illegal scheme to approximately double the amount of tar sands entering the Great Lakes region.  This is despite having promised to conduct a public permitting and review process before allowing any additional tar sands into the region.

Delivering a Message: Wildlife Can’t Afford Tar Sands Oil

On Saturday, 5000 people delivered a message.  Tar sands oil is all risk and no reward for the Great Lakes region.  The additional tar sands oil illegally approved by the State Department will almost certainly pass by the at-capacity refineries in the Great Lakes and head to the Gulf Coast, where it will be exported.  The tar sands oil already entering the region is currently sickening nearby communities and rivers.

Thousands gather to march for a clean energy future.  Photo by Jim Murphy, National Wildlife Federation.
Thousands gather to march for a clean energy future. Photo by Jim Murphy, National Wildlife Federation
Along the way, tar sands oil will inevitable spill, as it did in July of 2010 in Marshall, Michigan when a major pipeline burst.  This disastrous spill of almost impossible to clean up tar sands – the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history – still pollutes sections of a forty mile stretch of the Kalamazoo River.  It killed thousands of wildlife, including almost 65% of all small mammals injured by the spill.

Red tailed hawk. Photo by National Wildlife Photo Contest entrant Janice Sommerville
Red tailed hawk. Photo donated by National Wildlife Photo Contest entrant Janice Sommerville
This is not a future wildlife can afford.

After marching over a mile to the State Capitol, speaker after speaker spoke of hope and of a better future for our children, where we don’t have energy sacrifice zones for energy, but instead gain our power from clean energy that doesn’t imperil people and wildlife.  It voice grew louder than the next.

All the while, a red tailed hawk perched on the State Capitol dome encircled the crowed, drawing the crowd’s attention, reminding us of what we were there to protect.

Take Action Tell the State Department: Do not allow expansion of the Alberta Clipper tar sands pipeline!