Fernie confronts giant government coalbed methane scheme

Media Advisory from East Kootenay Environmental Society

Recreation Town Confronts Impact of Coal Bed Gas Extraction on Rocky Mountain Lands Covered by Nature Conservancy Moratorium

Fernie Town Hall Meeting March 16 Will Debate BC Government Auction of Coal Bed Gas Rights for Grizzly Bear and Lynx Habitat Under Conservation Moratorium

The City of Fernie is sponsor of a public town hall meeting scheduled for 7 p.m., March 16 at Fernie Community Centre. The meeting has been called to consult local citizens about the provincial government’s determination to rush coal bed methane extraction on the town’s perimeter – without prior assessment of social, economic or environmental impact. Three test wells were drilled in the area late last autumn by ChevronTexaco.

An auction of tenure rights now underway is the first step in the government’s declared intention to convert the wilderness forestlands above the entire Crowsnest coal deposit into a vast coalbed methane gas field, consisting of thousands of closely spaced wells and extending across the breadth of the BC Rocky Mountains.

Two of the three blocks whose gas rights are currently up for auction are covered by a 10-year development moratorium announced in January by the land owner, Tembec, and The Nature Conservancy of Canada. Both the forestry company and The Nature Conservancy identified those lands as critical habitat for protecting biodiversity in the Yellowstone-to-Yukon ecological corridor. The third more southerly block spans a portion of the headwaters of the Flathead River and covers core grizzly bear habitat as identified by the provincial government’s own Southern Rocky Mountain Management Plan.

At the March 16th meeting Fernie residents will be invited to express their opinions following presentations by a panel of experts invited from the British Columbia government, the oil and gas industry, and environmental organizations.

n recent years the City of Fernie has been transformed from a coal mining town into a world-renown ski and fly fishing destination and is now the site of luxury recreation properties. The largest of the coal bed methane tenures the BC government intends to auction immediately is less than two kilometers from a Greg Norman signature golf course and housing development that was to break ground this spring. The golf course project was the object extensive environmental impact studies and approvals by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans to ensure the integrity of Coal Creek water and riparian ecosystems. No such studies are planned by the British Columbia government for the impact of coalbed methane exploration or production in the same Coal Creek watershed.

For more information please contact:

Casey Brennan
Southern Rocky Mountain Campaign Spokesperson
East Kootenay Environmental Society
250-423-2603
caseygb@telus.net

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