On a crisp, bright may morning, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar stood at a podium in front of a pond in Washington’s Kenilworth Park. As a flock of Canada geese flew by and a group of schoolchildren rested at a picnic table after a bird walk with Salazar, all seemed right with the world. Then Salazar spoke about the release of the 2011 State of the Birds Report. “About 25 percent of species in the U.S. are in danger,” he said. “This is a call to action to move ahead with a conservation agenda” (see “Galloping Ahead”).
This issue of Audubon is a call to action, too. Ted Williams ventures out to the Sandhills of Nebraska, seasonal home to majestic sandhill cranes and whooping cranes, of which there are only 400 left on the planet, to report on a horrific 1,661-mile-long proposed pipeline (see “Tarred and Feathered”). A Canadian company would pump some of the world’s dirtiest oil from Alberta through six U.S. states to Texas refineries. Our map by Peter Hoey shows the risk the pipeline poses to the Ogallala Aquifer, the earth’s largest underground reservoir, which, Ted writes, “charges rivers, lakes, and marshes and supplies drinking and irrigation water to eight states.” Pity the farmers and ranchers trying to defend their property from fragmentation, pollution, and eminent domain condemnation.
Wait, there’s more. This project would necessitate trucking 200-foot-long, 600,000-pound “megaloads” of gargantuan mining and refinery equipment through pristine wild areas in the Rocky Mountains (see “Monster Trucks”). “It is flat wrong-headed to assert that we should tear up every inch of earth in every way possible to obtain every last drop to feed our addiction, and that we should give leaders and politicians carte blanche to do industry’s bidding rather than the future’s bidding,” writes Rick Bass from Montana. “If we who use it will not speak against it and demand that it be set aside, then who else will?”
During Salazar’s announcement, I was struck by an individual in another flock of Canada geese passing by: an albino, its wide body streaking against the pale blue sky. Having never seen one before, it buoyed my spirits and inspired me to answer Rick Bass’s question. You will.
Hip, Hip, Hooray. Audubon has won the Utne Independent Press Award for best environmental coverage: “Audubon rightly believes that if you care about birds, you care about the environment. The Audubon Society’s magazine is a must-read for nature watchers of all kinds, digging into its subjects with a keen eye for both natural beauty and the forces that threaten it.” In addition, the American Society of Magazine Editors honored Audubon as a finalist for the 2011 National Magazine Awards for General Excellence, the industry’s equivalent of an Oscar for Best Picture. This marks the third such nomination for Audubon during the past five years.
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