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COVID-19 on P.E.I.: What's happening Monday, July 13

COVID-19 on P.E.I.: What's happening Monday, July 13A new case of COVID-19 was announced Sunday, which does not appear to be related to the cluster connected to Whisperwood Villa last week.The testing station for COVID-19 is back up and running again at Confederation Bridge, after complaints from truckers.A second round of tests at Whisperwood Villa have all come back negative.The Downtown Farmers' Market returned to Charlottetown with COVID-19 precautions in place.Health PEI told employees in an email earlier this week that all staff who come in contact with patients and who aren't able to physically distance must now wear medical masks.Education Minister Brad Trivers gave more details to CBC News on how schools will operate in the fall — students will not be required to physically distance in classrooms or on buses, he said, but may have to wear face masks in hallways.P.E.I. has had a total of 34 COVID-19 cases, with 27 considered recovered.Also in the newsFurther resourcesMore COVID-19 stories from CBC P.E.I.


Scientist ankle deep in bog water to better understand unique wetland

Scientist ankle deep in bog water to better understand unique wetlandOn this particular overcast day, Sean Blaney, executive director and senior scientist with the Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Centre, left the house at 5:00 am, a little later than he would have liked, to perform his field work at the Alward Brook Bog. It's located down a network of exceedingly difficult to manoeuvre logging roads, north of Havelock.Blaney is compiling a list of flora and fauna he sees at the bog in order to better understand how significant these wetlands are.The plants found in the open, damp conditions of a bog are specialized, and often don't occur in other habitats. "They're very good at tolerating the harsh conditions of the bog but they aren't good at surviving in better conditions in competition with other plants," said Blaney.Blaney, senior scientist at the centre, is leading a study of peat bogs in New Brunswick to better understand the rare species that are living within.He describes a bog as like a "a giant sponge on the landscape." "It's an area that's composed of peat that's thousands of years of dead plants, built up in a thick mat sometimes metres thick," he said.Blaney had made two significant findings, a bog fern, a.k.a. Massachusetts Fern (Coryphopteris simulata) and a small orchid, the Southern Twayblade (Neottia bifolia).He'd found 'an impressive amount' of the fern just outside the north side of the bog. It was the rarest species Blaney found that day. "It was previously known in New Brunswick only from the Grand Lake to the Minto area," said Blaney.The Southern Twayblade is a species provincially listed under the NB Endangered Species Act.To many people a fern is a fern, and it's hard to see how long days in ankle deep bogs are worth the possibility of coming across an unexpected variety, but Blaney's findings affect policy and industry."That information is digitized and put into our large Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Centre database where it's available for conservation decision making through the future," said Blaney.All the information he and two other botanists find in the field this summer is compiled in the fall. "If there was a peat extraction proposal for this particular bog, then the proponent would have to come to the Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Centre and get our data, they would find out that I did find that Southern Twayblade," said Blaney.And that small orchid could be a large factor in whether peat would be allowed to be extracted from the site. And it's a question Blaney expects will be asked sooner than later."I think there's a good chance that in the future, with the financial situation of the province, there will be more pressure to allow more Crown leases in peat lands for extraction," he said.Peat extraction on crown lands is managed by the Department of Natural Resources and Development. It's website states 70 per cent of peat lands with commercial potential are located on Crown land.Companies that extract peat on Crown land are required to have a reclamation plan to restore it to a wetland. But it takes thousands of years to for a peat bog to form.Blaney is hoping that some of the land he's studying will be considered when the province goes through with it's promise to double the amount of protected land by 2021."Bogs are one of the areas, one of the types of habitats that is perhaps relatively easy to protect in comparison to forested landscapes," he said. "There's less demand for bogs overall than there is for forests and for the wood in the forest."The peat bog study is funded by the New Brunswick Wildlife Trust Fund and will look at bogs along the southern and eastern parts of the province."We have a bunch of bogs near Moncton, a few bogs in Grand Lake area and a few in Kouchibouguac," he said.Bogs make up about two per cent of New Brunswick's land mass, with most of the peat extracted used for horticultural.


P.E.I. petting farm re-homing zebus for zoo season

P.E.I. petting farm re-homing zebus for zoo seasonBrudenell Miniature, a seasonal petting farm in Montague, P.E.I., will be getting some new additions this summer: two miniature zebus.Five-year-old Cindy Lou Moo and her daughter Willow are soon being transported to P.E.I. from Cherry Brook Zoo in Saint John, N.B. Paul Matheson, owner of Brudenell Miniature, agreed to re-home the zebus once Cherry Brook Zoo announced its permanent closure at the end of April. "I'm excited. It's going to be a nice addition to the little farm here and the whole idea of bringing them here," Matheson said. According to Matheson, animals are currently being re-homed to other farms from Cherry Brook Zoo. He has agreed to re-home the zebus as well as black Indian runner ducks. Transportation problemsThe zebus were meant to be brought to P.E.I. months ago, but plans to transport them faced delays because of COVID-19. Easing restrictions around interprovincial travel in the Atlantic region have made things easier."I put a post on Facebook ... and within 30 minutes they had somebody else lined up in New Brunswick to take them over," Matheson said. "Now that the bubble is here, there hasn't been an issue."The zebus are scheduled to be transported on July 16. They will be featured at Matheson's farm, along with approximately 150 other birds and animals.Matheson hopes to open the petting farm within the next two weeks. He is waiting to hear back from Health PEI for additional public health guidelines before he opens.More from CBC P.E.I.


Cape Breton campgrounds facing a very different season this year

Cape Breton campgrounds facing a very different season this yearDespite the creation of an Atlantic bubble, there are far fewer happy campers in Cape Breton.That's a problem, especially for campgrounds that rely on visitors from outside of Atlantic Canada.John Bennick and his family own and operate the Arm of Gold Campground and Trailer Park in Little Bras d'Or. Bennick's family has owned the campground since 1975.Most summers, his 135 sites are full of campers from Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland, and the United States. Some days, he has less than a dozen Nova Scotians renting those sites."I'm just going on a wing and a prayer because nobody outside of the Maritimes is looking to come here and the Americans can't get over the border so I'm in limbo," said Bennick.The campground rents to transient or overnight campers, meaning they only stay a few days. Arm of Gold is only a few minutes drive from the Marine Atlantic ferry terminal and relies heavily on people using the service. With Marine Atlantic limiting capacity, Bennick is seeing a drop in customers.Arm of Gold isn't the only campground in Cape Breton dealing with both a change in the demographics of their customers and  drop in the amount of campers. But some campgrounds and RV parks have been fortunate to have some loyal regular customers. Shane Thompson owns Adventures East Campground and Cottages in Baddeck. His campground has some seasonal renters, so campers rent a spot for the entire summer. Most of those customers are from the nearby Sydney area."The [campgrounds] that have the seasonal campers are all pretty much in the same boat," said Thompson. "We're losing but we're doing better than some of the campgrounds that are basically strictly overnighters.… I can't imagine what they're going through."That doesn't mean business hasn't been difficult in light of the pandemic. Thompson's overnight rentals have plummeted and as a result the campground isn't employing as many people as they normally would, or offering as many services.All of the campground owners who spoke to CBC said they had fewer staff members. Those that remain have new responsibilities surrounding cleanliness and making sure campers are following the rules.Around 99 per cent of Thompson's overnight campers right now are Nova Scotian, which he appreciates. But he said every campground is trying to draw from the same tourist base, which is making the situation difficult.A campground just across the highway from Thompson is seeing a jump in local visitors, at least some of the time. The Baddeck Cabot Trail Campground is getting nearly the same amount of traffic they normally get on the weekends and most of them are from Nova Scotia. On weekdays, though, the campground has seen a 60 to 70 per cent decline in bookings.Owner Daniel Schlemmer said Maritimers seem to be buying into the idea of shopping local. "I know that our campground store is doing very well compared to last year's, we go through the same amount of merchandise and groceries even though we are very less busy so it seems like people are trying to support our store," said Schlemmer.Schlemmer said one of his concerns is just keeping up to date with health and safety protocols. He expressed some disappointment that campgrounds were not alerted by the province before the announcement was made that they could open."[The province] is doing a great job keeping the numbers down but in informing us in what to do and not to do, I think there was a pretty big lack of communications," said Schlemmer.He said he realized he was allowed to open his campground because would-be campers started calling him. Schlemmer is hoping to see better communication with businesses as restrictions loosen.A more subdued experienceKluskap Ridge RV and Campground in Englishtown is also being buoyed by their seasonal customers. Darrell Bernard and his wife have been running the campground for four years. Most of their seasonal campers at the campground are elderly. That led Bernard to cancel their regular events. The campground usually offers programming around Mi'kmaw culture and heritage as well as activities like Christmas in July, karaoke, and musical events. They also have a no-visitor policy. "This is a tough season, I know we're lucky we were able to open at all," said Bernard. Looking to the futureBernard thinks camping is going to pick up in popularity because it's a safe activity to do during the pandemic, but he's still worried for the tourism industry and the economy as a whole.  "We're either going to have to tighten our belts and get used to a new way of life or we're going to have to get used to COVID being part of who we are," he said.As for Bennick, he's accessing some of the federal support for businesses including the $40,000 line of credit. However, he'd like to see some direct help for the tourism season from the provincial government. Bennick believes that if small businesses begin to shut down and there are fewer things for tourists to do, the situation will spiral out of control."It will be interesting to see what the fall brings, I'm afraid there's going to be a lot of businesses that won't be around next year and that's sad."For now, he's hoping the pandemic gets under control so his usual customers can travel again.MORE TOP STORIES:


Indigenous groups paying the price for Russia's massive Arctic fuel spill

Indigenous groups paying the price for Russia's massive Arctic fuel spillIn 2017, the New York Times called Norilsk "Russia's coldest and most polluted industrial city." It may not be getting colder but it's certainly now much more polluted than before.The Arctic town, built on the site of a former gulag, is the site of a massive fuel spill that environmentalists have compared to the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster.On May 29, an aged fuel tank at the Norilsk Nickel plant lost pressure and released 21,000 tonnes of diesel into the Arctic subsoil and the waters of the nearby river Ambarnaya."In modern history, this is the biggest spill that I have ever seen," said Alexey Knizhnikov, a leader with the World Wildlife Fund in Russia. It's the biggest on-land spill in Russia since 1994."The scale of the damage to Arctic waterways is unprecedented," said Dmitry Kobylkin, Russia's ecology minister, in a statement.The incident is an embarrassment for a Russian government that has tried to pursue an environmental agenda in some places while also aggressively expanding industrial operations in the Arctic. It's also a devastating blow to an already withered landscape and the people who rely on it for their way of life."If you look at the country around Norilsk, it's a real dead zone," said Rodion Sulyandziga, an Udege Indigenous advocate and director of the Centre for the Support of the Indigenous People of the North. "It's affected … people's river, reindeer, lakes [and] soil."Historic amount of 'voluntary compensation' requestedThe fallout from the spill has been swift. On June 10, Russian state investigators had arrested three plant managers. A few days later, the mayor of Norilsk was charged with criminal negligence for his delayed response.Even before the arrests, Russian President Vladimir Putin scolded the region's governor in a live television address for learning of the incident only days after the fact, on social media. He also castigated Norilsk Nickel's executives in a widely-televised conference call."If you had changed [the fuel tank] on time there would not have been this ecological damage," he said to a grim-looking quartet of executives, speaking from a field in Norilsk. "Study this as closely as possible inside the company."Norilsk Nickel is the world's largest producer of nickel and palladium. It has made its majority shareholder, Vladimir Potanin, the richest man in Russia.Facing Putin's public disapproval, Potanin said his company would cover clean-up costs, which he estimated at nearly $200 million.But Russia's regulator, Rosprirodnadzor, came in with a higher estimate: $14 million for soil restoration alone, plus a further $2.8 billion for cleaning up the waterways."This is definitely a huge amount. We've never got such penalties for other environmental violations," said Knizhnikov.The company is contesting the request for "voluntary compensation" — which is equivalent to about one-third of one year's profits. There is precedent they may succeed."Very often companies go to the court, and unfortunately, very often, [the] company wins," said Knizhnikov. "It's very likely this huge amount will not be paid."Kobylkin said the company had "every right" to contest the fine in court. But for Knizhnikov, it may be in the company's long-term interests to take a bigger hit."If they refuse to pay big money, they will get [an] even worse image, not only in Russia but on a global scale," he said.Spill undermines Russia's development agendaOne reason the spill has attracted such a severe response, experts say, is its consequence for Russia's own image.Small spills are a chronic issue in the Russian Arctic, according to Laura Henry, a Russia expert at Bowdoin College — just yesterday, Norilsk Nickel reported another one, of 45 tonnes of aviation fuel, from a pipeline to the west of Norilsk. But Henry says, more often than not, they are covered up before they make the headlines.The magnitude of this spill meant images were spreading on social media before Russian authorities were even informed, attracting international attention and marring Russia's environmental image.Vladimir Chuprov, the campaign director for Greenpeace Russia, says it also "hit Putin's image personally."Russia will chair the Arctic Council again next year and Putin has publicly stressed environmentally sustainable Arctic development as a key part of its mandate, he said.The spill has domestic consequences as well. Putin has suggested the economic opportunity posed by a warming Arctic means climate change is "maybe bad for the world but not so bad for Russia," Henry said. The spill — originally blamed on melting permafrost — has undermined that message.It has also thrown into relief Putin's complex relationship with oligarchs like Potanin. Henry said many already complain that Potanin's "special relationship" with the Kremlin has allowed Norilsk Nickel to escape close environmental scrutiny, even as it makes public commitments to sustainability."Potanin is making an incredible fortune off of this company," Henry said. That such a lucrative company failed to update such basic infrastructure "is probably frustrating" for Putin, she said.Russia's other oligarchs may also balk at this setback to their country's environmental image. Bruce Forbes, a researcher at the University of Lapland's Arctic Institute who studies Indigenous land use in Western Siberia, said many companies working in the Russian Arctic are actively increasing the amount of Indigenous consultation and environmental review they perform."They're doing a job like Western countries would have to do if they went into the Arctic [National Wildlife] Refuge," he said."The kinds of processes that need to go on, remarkably, have been going on. But that isn't counting the spills."Indigenous groups bear the brunt of disasterFor the Indigenous people of the region, this spill can be seen as another indication of the "gap between declarations and reality," Sulyandziga, the Indigenous advocate, says."On the one hand, the Russian constitution guarantees Indigenous people's rights but in terms of implementation … it's poor. It's nothing," he said.The Dolgans, Nenets, Nganasans, Evenki and Enets all hunt, fish, and herd reindeer among the lakes and rivers north of Norilsk. But the land has long been poisoned by industrial waste.In 2016, local Indigenous groups noted with alarm that the waters of the nearby river Daldykan had turned blood red, which Norilsk Nickel suggested was natural. They later acknowledged a spill of industrial wastewater was responsible.The waters of that river eventually flow into Lake Pyasino — now so toxic it is almost entirely devoid of fish. The waterways downstream are crossed by the world's largest wild reindeer herd, which has shrunk by more than 40 per cent since 2000."The legacy of the past, it's very destructive," said Sulyandziga. "It is still very dangerous to hunt, to eat."Sulyandziga said once the scale of the environmental damage is clear, work should start on a "working plan for Indigenous people … [to address] access to traditional food, access to traditional activity."But Indigenous people's power to advocate for their interests is weakening. Government crackdowns on foreign-funded NGOs led to Sulyandziga's own Centre for the Support of the Indigenous People's of the North being deemed a "foreign agent" and liquidated by the courts last year.Indigenous activism, as a form of ethnic activism, can be interpreted as separatism, said Sulyandziga."We should be very careful," he said.But in light of this latest spill, Sulyandziga said, Indigenous advocacy is even more important."I believe nature already is avoiding us because something is wrong," he said. "Indigenous people should continue fighting, not only for our cultural heritage but also for our natural heritage."


Monday 13th of July 2020 10:41:21

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