Eco-Terrorism and the Laurentians.

On Monday, October 19, one of the most destructive recorded acts of eco-terrorism took place in Vail Colorado and was directed at the Vail Associates Ski Resort. The Earth Liberation Front has claimed responsibility.

This raises an important question: is eco-terrorism something we should be concerned about in the Laurentians? Are the public officials and the private development companies here aware of this growing movement across the globe that is moving outside the mainstream political channels that have brought few resolutions to their concerns to a new activism that adopts destructive tactics to block or hamper development?

Isolated individuals such as the American unabomber are being replaced by clearly organized groups intent on destruction and damage as the attack on Vail illustrates. This incident was well organized and required co-ordination among several participants as 4 installations were destroyed. Whether Earth Firsters, Earth Liberation Fronts or Animal Rights Groups, all these groups are getting better organized and may well turn out to co- ordinate organized guerilla operations. They are not religious fanatics. They are well educated and well connected. They view themselves not as criminals but as instruments to protect the natural environments around the world against what appears to be an endless onslaught of development and destruction of forests and animal species.

One can draw the conclusion that the individuals involved in Vail were perhaps not solely from the area, but terrorists in the true sense, who have come in from the outside to make their brutal point.

Perhaps we should give some thought to our exposure in the Laurentians. Are we doing enough to address ecological/environmental concerns to prevent a similar incident here? Let's just take the time to examine some of the unresolved environmental issues in the Mont Tremblant area.

The widespread application of B.T. (bacillus thurigensis) to destroy mosquito and black fly larvae is of great concern to many. Little information is forthcoming and long term studies of the ecological impact of its use simply don't exist . The Quebec government has authorized the widespread use of this "natural" bacteria across regions of Quebec where summer tourism is an important economic engine. Since it apparently has little impact on human species, it is assumed to be safe.

Many of us remember when a pick-up truck used to drive around the south end of Mont Tremblant with a "fogger" machine on the back dispersing DDT. It was considered a miracle chemical for many years eradicating moquitos and black fly. It was only after 15 years of widespread use around the world that people began to question the devastating environmental impact. Rachael Carson's, The Silent Spring, woke many up to what was happening to our environment. Today DDT is banned. Widespread dispersion of B.T. may well have the same results as DDT. We simply do not know until the damage is done. Clearly it does have an impact.

A casual observer and amateur naturalist will tell you that if you go into the Devil's river and turn over rocks, there are few larvae. Northern freshwater streams normally teem with larvae. Is it true that gallons of B.T. are periodically dumped into the Devil's river in the spring? I am unable to confirm this but it is my understanding that the authorities who operate the water treatment plant in St. Jovite are notified of an impending application and suspend pumping of water to their system for a time period in which the B.T. may pass downstream of their intake.

The effects of B.T. on the local ecology are pretty clear. First it kills the insect larvae which is a food for trout and other fish. It kills the black fly, mosquito and moths that provide a substantial food source for avian species and bats. It certainly has an impact on tadpole and frog populations. There used to be several nesting osprey on Lac Tremblant. Has anyone seen one lately? Loons once plentiful are now rare sightings.

As one bikes through the forest around Tremblant this past summer you might notice fewer birds, fewer warning calls of blue jays as a human intrudes into the forest and fewer squirrels. Is this a result of B.T.? Only time will tell but long term studies are not available and it is clear to any but the most unintelligent people, we are playing God right now in a major intervention in a food chain.

Examples of poor ecology management abound. The marsh area at the southern end of Lac Tremblant has been land-filled for the parking lot for Tremblant. This was, along with the Caché river marshland at the north end, a nesting habitat and environmental nursery for many species. Its destruction is a great loss to Lac Tremblant that will probably only be recognized many years from now. Nothing justified its destruction and I daresay if proper environmental hearings similar to those held in the U.S. when such wetlands are threatened, the area would have been protected. Many can remember ducks nesting in this area. Wetlands are protected in many other areas and they should be here.

The use of a special chemical that alters the molecular structure of snow crystals is employed widely in snowmaking now. No one knows how much of this is used on Mont Tremblant's snowmaking operations and the consequent environmental impact. But it is clear that the run-off all goes into the lake. Is there anyone who can honestly say this will not have an impact?

More and more concern is expressed on the use of nitrogen fertilizers and their impact on water supplies. There are valid questions that should be addressed on the use, quantity and run-off from the new golf courses at Tremblant and Gray Rocks and the proposed development of Domaine St. Bernard that may include a gold course as well. Certainly the municipality of St. Jovite should be raising a concern. If chemical pesticides such as Dursban and other fungicides are applied in conjunction with the nitrogen fertilizers there is indeed a real threat to human health in the water supply.

It has not escaped anyone's attention of the enormous amount of softwood logging that has being going on in the region lately. The mills in St. Faustin and St. Jovite have expanded to meet a huge demand south of the border for framing lumber. The timber yards are full of thousands of logs. We have picked up supplying what the west coast, with logging restrictions, has been unable to supply to north eastern U.S. and european markets.

This logging is a huge environmental question mark. Most of us express concern at the destruction of the Amazon rainforest but the cutting of our northern forests for firewood and softwood lumber approaches the same type of destruction. Cutting without a very defined level of sustainability is no less a question we should address than leaving the next generation our public debt to pay off. At some point a public policy decision must be made to protect the forests in the region from being cut out completely.

Forest management and re-planting is important but there are even longer term consequences of harvesting mid-life trees. Anyone with any Darwinian logic would grasp that very large trees that have resisted disease over many years provide the best genetic seed stock and it is precisely these trees that have been cut-out. This situation is no-less different than the fishing out that has taken place in the Atlantic fishery.

There are many other environmental issues such as noise pollution from scenic air flights, more cars on the roads, displacement of wildlife, building on mountain sides and tops and watercraft pollution that need addressing. Although these are discussed in a general sense and everyone acknowledges the general problems, little if any, defined resolution takes place.

We see more and more environmental degradation around us even though we have taken major steps in the right direction cleaning up dumps and implementing re-cycling plans.

Perhaps it is time we took notice of the early warning in Vail. Sooner or later in every society a balance must be struck. A balance between long term goals and short term needs. At the close of the twentieth century we are looking down the gun barrel, so-to- speak, of a world seriously out of ecological balance even though we, humankind, have made quantum leaps in our knowledge of ecological issues. We simply do not have the resolute will around the world.

All thinking peoples across the globe realize that global environment issues are now on the table. We simply can no longer ignore what is happening in the Amazon and in the ecology of coral reefs and we cannot ignore our own backyards. If the sovereign governments that govern threatened areas cannot act, then international bodies on behalf of humankind will have to act otherwise people will turn to quasi-terrorist enforcement groups. We are all our brother's keeper in preserving the globe as a habitable environment for all species including our own. Perhaps this is the globalization we should be addressing. In the long run, it is the one that counts.

And perhaps that is why when one reads of the events in Vail, we should take heed right here in the Laurentians. No one wishes it to become a war with people hurt but the corporate/government alliances around the globe surely must recognize that a counter- revolution has started and it may be easier to deal with it in its nascent stages before it becomes a full blown global eco-terrorism effort.

It is clear to everyone many issues have to be addressed and better now than face destructive acts such as have happened in Vail when groups feel they have no opportunity to be heard and no stake in traditional channels.

For more reading on these issues, you can find a lot of useful information starting at:

Counter opinion can be found at the Center for the defense of free enterprise at:

The Denver Post has a piece on the attack at Vail under:

There are press releases from the Vail area sherrif's office at:

Two other sites dealing with ecological issues are:
An animal rights site and
A site which is a webring of environmental sites

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