Retired Canadian Mountie Sentenced to Prison

narwhal and tusk

Narwhal tusks can grow more than 8 feet in length and demand high prices on the black market. Paul Nicklen/Getty Images photo.

Retired Canadian Mountie Gregory Logan, 60, of Saint John has been sentenced to five years and two months in a United States federal prison for smuggling nearly 300 Narwhal tusks with a value of $1.5 – $3 million US into Maine. The contraband tusks were hidden in false compartments in Logan’s vehicle according to U.S. prosecutors. Once in the United States, they were shipped from a post office box in Ellsworth, Maine, to wealthy buyers all across the country.

This story was first reported on in a March 2016 blog post on this site.

Narwhals, protected in the United States and Canada, grow ornate, spiral tusks that can grow longer than eight feet and are coveted for use in carvings, jewelry-making, and general display. Under the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act, it is illegal to transport any parts of a Narwhal across federal borders.

According to the indictment, Logan smuggled the narwhal tusks into the U.S. in 2000 while he was working as a Mountie. He retired from the police force in 2003.

Logan filled orders with his U. S. co-conspirators according to what they wanted in terms of quantity and size and then contacted northern Inuit hunters to supply the tusks.

“Unlawful wildlife trade like this undermines efforts by federal, state, and foreign governments to protect and restore populations of species like the narwhal, a majestic creature of the sea,” said acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood of the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

U.S. District Court Judge John A. Woodcock sentenced Logan to money-laundering and conspiracy charges to which he pleaded guilty. Smuggling charges were dropped under a plea agreement. Logan has paid $350,000 in fines and served four months of home detention on a related wildlife – smuggling charge to which he plead guilty.

Co-conspirator and U.S. resident Andrew Zarauskas, of Union, N.J., was convicted and sentenced to 33 months.  A Tennessee man had charges dismissed. Logan was pinned as the leader and organizer of the scheme and therefore sentenced most harshly.

“He directed and organized the way in which the tusks were smuggled and shipped as well as the ways in which the proceeds would ultimately be laundered into Canada. In sum, (Logan) was the ‘hub’ without whom the ‘spokes’ could not have succeeded in their joint criminal enterprise,” they said in court documents.

The U.S. Department of Justice detailed how the scheme worked in a news release:

“Logan knew that his customers would re-sell the tusks for a profit and in an attempt to increase that resale price, Logan would occasionally provide fraudulent documentation claiming that the tusks had originally belonged to a private collector in Maine who had acquired them legally,” it said.

“In addition to shipping the tusks from Maine, Logan maintained a post office box in the Ellsworth shipping store as well as an account at a bank in Bangor. Logan instructed his customers to send payment in the form of cheques to the post office box, or wire money directly to his Maine bank account.

“Logan then transported the money to Canada by having the shipping store forward his mail to him in Canada, and by using an ATM card to withdraw money from his Maine bank account at Canadian ATM machines. At times, Logan also directed his customers to send funds directly to him in Canada.”

Canadian Government Will Protect Caribou Herd

woodland caribou

Caribou gather near Roundrock Lake west of Lac de Gras in N.W.T. Anne Gunn/COSEWIC photo.

 

The Canadian government will be implementing a protection plan for the threatened boreal or woodland caribou herd in the north. The decision comes three months after the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPWS) filed a judicial review application in Federal Court this past April outlining how Environment minister Catherine McKenna concealed protection plans from the public regarding the herd.

The federal plan reaffirms the jurisdiction of territorial and provincial governments over the land responsibility where the caribou naturally roam. Progress reports will be required by federal officials ensuring recovery and protection efforts are being carried out effectively. Over 80 per cent of the country’s woodland caribou herds are considered in decline.

An attorney for the CPWS, Frederic Paquin, has cited the Species at Risk Act as a reason to open the discussion to “form opinions regarding whether or not the critical habitat of the woodland caribou is being protected in a sustainable manner.” Federal government press releases have qualified the new plan as “fulfilling Canada’s commitments under the federal Species at Risk Act.”

Environmental activists are skeptical of the scope of the new plan in informing Canadians what the federal government is doing toward conserving the various caribou herds in a timely and comprehensive manner.

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society emphatically states that it will continue pushing for transparency from Environment Canada through legal action even after government action.

CPWS biologist Alain Branchaud, states Minister McKenna is required to report on which herds remain unprotected and what actions are being taken to preserve the caribou herds. Branchaud does not believe the outlined government plan successfully does what is needed for complete protection.

Churchill Sea Walls Murals Top Choices

Churchill received a makeover recently and the murals that now adorn some formerly vacant walls are nothing less than breathtaking. Sea Walls: Artists for Oceans is the official sponsor and organizer for these magnificent art works. The foundation seeks to convey ocean conservation to communities around the world through art work murals. Over 200 international contemporary artists have created close to 300 murals in 12 countries since 2014.

Sea Walls is seeking, through their public art displays, to educate the public in a non-confrontational manner and educate all on the impacts of climate change, plastics pollution, overfishing, development and many other types of pollution taking a toll on our seas planet – wide. Through the visual stories portrayed in these murals more people will tend to ask more questions and feel compelled to get involved in protection processes. Churchill is known for the magnificent polar bears that migrate to its shores though the ocean in the form of the Hudson Bay is habitat for many marine wildlife species!

Artists selected for the murals volunteer their time and talents to the noble cause of protecting our life – giving oceans. Research material is provided prior to the project to help artists familiarize themselves with issues threatening the animals in the particular marine environment. The talent these artists have continues to reach high levels and attracts more and more attention to the cause of conservation of our planet!

Churchill Sea Walls mural

Churchill Sea Walls mural by artist Charlie Johnston. Tre Packard photo.

 

Churchill Sea Walls mural

Churchill Sea Walls mural by artist Kelsey Eliasson. Tre Packard photo.

 

Churchill Sea Walls mural

Churchill Sea Walls mural by artist Li Hill. Tre Packard photo.

Churchill Sea Walls mural

Churchill Sea Walls mural by artist Kal Barteski. Tre Packard photo.

 

 

Churchill Sea Walls mural

Churchill Sea Walls mural by artist Case Maclaim. Tr Packard photo.

Seed Vault Needs Repairs After Leaks

Global seed vault Svalbard Norway

The Global Seed Vault in Norway will undergo improvements. Getty Images photo.

Norway will make critical improvements to the Global Seed Vault located on Svalbard Island in the  Arctic. Melting permafrost in an unusual Arctic summer caused water to enter the front section of the vault. No stored seeds were damaged though safeguards will be taken to prevent future incidents of risk.

The storage facility lies predominantly inside a mountain with consistent cool temperatures ideal for preserving seeds from around the world.

Ironically the protected storage facility stores seeds in case a country sustains a disaster of some sort that necessitates replanting of key vegetation and plants. Nobody anticipated that the facility would have its own near – disaster. Water from melting permafrost seeped into the entry tunnel though never made it further into the storage area.

Plans to waterproof the walls as well as install drainage ditches outside the vault entrance are underway to ensure the precious seeds are safe. Scientists describe the vault as the most important room in the world.

When the vault was constructed, the idea of permafrost melting this far north was unheard of. In a short period of time we have seen climate changes of an extreme measure. Last October temperatures rose from a normal of -10C to around 0 C…causing meltwater to appear.

Statsbygg, the agency that administers the vault, are committed to conduct research to monitor the permafrost on Svalbard and the surrounding Arctic.

The vault stores seeds from nearly 5,000 crop species from all over the planet. The dried and frozen specimens can be preserved for hundreds of years in the vault. Most countries on Earth have their own emergency supply of seeds though they also store back-ups at the Global Seed Vault.

Environmental Groups File Lawsuit to Protect Alaska’s Arctic

Trump executive order to open up Alaska's Arctic

President Donald Trump signs an order along with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, right, on, April 28, 2017. The Executive Order gives the Interior Department directions to review restrictive drilling policies for the outer-continental shelf. Associated Press photo.

Alaska continues to fight to preserve the wild spaces that give the state its incredible natural character. A number of Alaska environmental and Native groups filed a lawsuit against the federal government challenging President Donald Trump’s executive order attempting to reverse regulations that restrict and ban oil and gas drilling, inland and offshore of Alaska’s Arctic.

Natural Resources Defense Council, Earthjustice, The League of Conservation Voters and other green agencies jointly filed the complaint in Alaska’s federal district court last week after Trump’s April 28th order, signed amid members of Alaska’s congressional delegation. The crux of the filing was that President Trump’s order exceeded authority under federal law.

Prior to the new administration taking office, then-President Barack Obama signed into law the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act designating areas of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans off limits to oil and gas drilling.

The contending environmental groups argue that Trump’s action is illegal since Obama’s enacted law doesn’t have a provision explicitly allowing the order to be reversed.

Trump’s “executive order attempting to undo President Obama’s historic protection of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans from drilling is part of a plan to sell off our oceans to polluting corporations at the cost of the safety of coastal communities, the fate of marine wildlife and our children’s future,” said Earthjustice president Trip Van Noppen.

“These areas have been permanently protected from the dangers of oil and gas development. President Trump may wish to undo that, and declare our coasts open for business to dirty energy companies, but he simply lacks the authority to do so under the law,” said Niel Lawrence, NRDC senior attorney.

Trump’s “executive order attempting to undo President Obama’s historic protection of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans from drilling is part of a plan to sell off our oceans to polluting corporations at the cost of the safety of coastal communities, the fate of marine wildlife and our children’s future,” said Earthjustice president Trip Van Noppen.

Many other entities are involved in the lawsuit including Alaska Wilderness League, Sierra Club, Greenpeace and the Wilderness Society along with a handful of smaller local groups.

In a statement released by The Arctic Energy Center, an oil industry affiliate, rationale behind the lawsuit was challenged.

“There’s no precedent to show a ban should be permanent, there is nothing to suggest a subsequent White House cannot overturn the decision, and that the last administration’s application of the rule conflicts with the act’s wider specification to ensure (the Outer Continental Shelf) is ‘available for expeditious and orderly development,’ ” stated spokesman Oliver Williams.

Supreme Court Denies Groups Opposing Polar Bear Habitat in Alaska

Polar bears in Wapusk National Park

Polar bear habitat protection is becoming a hot issue. Daisy Gilardini photo.

The U.S. Supreme Court stood up against a coalition of organizations within Alaska by declining  to hear a case on Monday which attempts to repeal the previous federal government administration’s policy to designate more than 187,000 square miles of Alaskan wilderness as critical habitat for threatened polar bears.

Lawsuits filed against the Interior Department by the Alaska Oil and Gas Association and the state of Alaska along with Native corporations and local governments were able to reverse the regulation in 2013 though the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that ruling.The state of Alaska and the Alaska Oil and Gas Association — joined by Native corporations and local governments — brought lawsuits against the Interior Department to overturn that decision.

However, the U.S. Supreme Court decided against hearing the case and therefore the ruling reverted back to the original law which was instituted by the  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The area in Alaska’s Arctic was protected by the federal government in December 2010.

polar bear habitat in Alaska

Alska polar bear habitat. State of Alaska photo.

Opposition groups filing appeals against the original designation claimed that the Fish and Wildlife Service overstepped its authority and created major economical consequences with relatively no conservation benefit whatsoever. The argument presented to the Supreme court attempted to overturn the decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals which left Fish and Wildlife open to make “sweeping designations (in this case an area the size of California) that overlap with existing human development (including, even, industrial areas).” further arguing that the designated polar bear habitat interfered with oil industry operations as well as tribal sovereignty.

Mother polar bears avoid having their cubs swim in the ocean until they have the fat reserves to protect them. Jonathan Hayward photo.

“Swept within that enormous block of land are the entire ancestral homelands for certain Native communities, as well as the largest and most productive oil field in North America,” the petition to the oil and gas group gave the Supreme Court. Nearly 96 percent of the protected habitat area is sea ice, the smaller, remaining area includes “industrial facilities, garbage dumps, airports, communities, and homes (from which bears are actively chased away) as ‘critical’ habitat that is purportedly free from ‘human disturbance’ or otherwise ‘unobstructed,’ ” the petition said.

The coalition of various groups argued further that the 9th Circuit Court’s broad ruling would allow for expansion of habitat designations in other regions of the United States.

The government stated that it utilized two rounds of public comment and current, leading scientific data in defense of why the protected habitat was designated by courts initially.

“The Service did not designate any areas outside the geographical area currently occupied by polar bears because it determined that ‘occupied areas are sufficient for the conservation of polar bears in the United States,’ ” the federal government reported to the Supreme Court.

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