Is Nothing Sacred? Audubon Society Might Allow Oil Drilling in Sanctuary

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Is Nothing Sacred? Audubon Society Might Allow Oil Drilling in Sanctuary

By Beth Buczynski on Care2.com

In an unprecedented act of submission, the Audubon Society is now considering a measure that would once again allow oil and gas drilling inside the sanctuary.

America's coastlines are under attack, and whether you're watching house-sized chunks of the Alaskan coast fall into the ocean due to climate change, or observing the Louisiana shore erode away thanks to leveeing along the Mississippi River and drilling for fossil fuels, it's clear that they are losing the battle.

We normally look to well-known environmental protection and wildlife conservation organizations, like the National Wildlife Federation and the Sierra Club to take the lead on reducing and preventing this kind of degradation, but in these oppressive financial and political times, even they are struggling to maintain order.

The National Audubon Society's Paul J. Rainey Sanctuary, a 26,000-acre rest stop for thousands of birds migrating south for winter, is one of Louisiana's best-kept wetlands, but coastal erosion and the attack of seasonal hurricanes, and pooling water caused by nearby oilfield canals is threatening to destroy this pristine area.

In an unprecedented act of submission, the Audubon Society is now considering a measure that would once again allow oil and gas drilling inside the sanctuary.

"It's getting to the point where there is so much damage, and it just costs so much money to contain the damage," said G. Paul Kemp, director of Audubon's Gulf Coast Initiative told NoLa.com. "We know we're fighting a losing battle."

Although the organization is claiming that profits from the concession would be used to pay for marsh restoration and expensive land-building projects that it can't currently afford, one can't help but wonder if they are simply giving up on protecting this marsh from the pressures of the fossil fuel industry which is closing in all around it.

The Audubon Society knows that it is entering dangerous territory by even considering this proposition, as in the minds of most environmentalists, the oil and gas industries are in complete opposition to everything that they are working to protect. In the past, the Society itself has reinforced this view, and staunchly opposed drilling for oil in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Rather than viewing this move as a complete act of surrender, the Audubon is trying to justify it in terms of the control that it would give them over what still remains of the marsh and sanctuary, and the ability to demand that the oil and gas companies meet or exceed current standards for maintaining the area.

NoLa.com reports, "Even today, Paul J. Rainey is surrounded by active oil and gas fields, both on land and out in the Gulf of Mexico. ExxonMobil owns nearly 150,000 acres, and private holders - including the McIlhenny family, which manufactures Tabasco - lease land to smaller energy firms.

'There's no way of stopping the development of oil and gas out here,' Kemp said. 'A lease gives us some ability to control things.'"