There’s no shortage of environmental concerns associated with the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. From projected annual spills of 34,000 gallons of oil to the ticking carbon bomb of 360 to 510 billion tons worth of emissions locked up in the tar sands, there’s a lot to be worried about. Now a new report from the Center for Biological Diversity has documented the threats to the animal kingdom, and finds that at least 12 threatened and endangered species along the pipeline’s route face serious harm—and even possible extinction—if Keystone XL goes ahead.


Keystone XL, Pipeline, Environmental Destruction, Tar Sands, Oil, Center for Biological Diversity, whooping crane, Fish and Wildlife ServiceWhopping Crane Photo via Shutterstock

Among the creatures whose habitats are threatened by the pipeline is the whooping crane. Around 300 of these birds remain outside of captivity, and each spring they take a migratory path from Texas to central Canada, passing through Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota and Montana. Sound like a familiar route? It’s remarkably similar to the course of Keystone XL, and in one state it’s too similar. The report notes: “Almost all of KXL’s route through Nebraska is within the migration corridor used by 90 percent of whooping cranes each year.”

Alongside the whooping crane, the report highlights threats faced by the black-footed ferret, the American burying beetle, the northern swift fox, the greater sage grouse, the pallid sturgeon, the piping plover, the interior least turn, the western prairie fringed orchid and the Sprague’s pipit.

That’s endangered birds, mammals, insects, fish and flowers—all imperiled by a single pipeline. The Center for Biological Diversity breaks down the risks. Some are quite obvious; oil spills are bad for wildlife everywhere, particularly for birds and fish. One of the greatest threats to birds however, is the 378 miles of new power lines that would be constructed. These power lines are particularly bad news for the “lanky” five-foot-tall whooping crane and the not-so-swift greater sage grouse.

Additionally, the 15,493 acre construction site that would be (and in areas already is) the Keystone XL pipeline, causes serious ground disturbance. This is exceptionally bad news for the dens of the northern swift fox, and for any other animals who have their habitat on that land. The construction work will “require the utilization of [a] massive amount of soil compacting heavy machinery, water withdrawals from sensitive waterways, air pollution, and intense noise resulting in enormous disturbances to the ecosystems,” according to the report.

It’s a substantial threat to a huge array of wildlife, not only to these valuable endangered species, and it’s a threat that ought to have been properly assessed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. But the Center for Biological Diversity alleges FWS has been negligent in their duties. As the State Department claimed the 1,700 mile-long pipeline would have “little environmental impact,” FWS “virtually ignored the fate of these animals,” according to Noah Greenwald, of the Center for Biological Diversity.

As Greenwald summarized in the Huffington Post “Failure to truly evaluate and consider the danger that Keystone XL poses to wildlife is no mere bureaucratic oversight. These are flaws that will have real and tangible and potentially deadly effects on some of America’s most precious imperiled species.”

+ Center for Biological Diversity: In Harm’s Way [PDF]

Lead Photo (Black-footed ferret) (cc) USFWS on Flickr