ORR: Back country use at risk in West Country, Bighorn areas

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Calling all West Country, Bighorn area users.

The provincial government is again going through the sham process of consultations to vindicate a decision they have already committed to.

They intend to create a provincial park in the Bighorn area.

They organized a “consultation,” but then official opposition MLAs received a leaked document indicating that they already know what they intend to do.

They partnered with foreign-funded Y2Y (Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative) and CPAWS (Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society) to promote this and garner petition signatures. They got 2,100 signatures, not by going to local people who frequent our backyard but from Calgary and Edmonton environmentalists, with companies like MEC pushing it to customers.

But when a meeting was held in Dovercourt by a consortium of local user groups, no one from the government would even come to hear their concerns.

There are many local user groups that have a deep vested interest in the area and provide stewardship: Alberta Off-Highway Vehicle Association, the Quad Squad, Alberta Fish and Game, Bighorn Heritage ATV Society, Friends of the Eastern Slopes Association, the snowmobile clubs, the Alberta Equine Confederation, an informal group of mountain bike riders and five counties involved in stewardship.

These and others combined have invested well over a million dollars in conservation and thousands of hours of volunteer time. They have created bridges, trails, campgrounds with donated money and labour.

But CPAWS and Y2Y are lobbying the government for more restrictions. They want a park like the Castle created last year.

If they succeed, all the local user groups may well find themselves shut out of camping, hiking, fishing, hunting, cycling, horse riding, Off-Highway Vehicles (OHV) and snowmobile use.

The minister promised that OHV usage would continue on as before in the Castle and that simply is not what ended up happening.

Why does the government partner in private with environmental groups and refuse to talk to local stewardship managers? 

The targeted area is 5,000 square kilometres in the six public land use zones, PLUZs, Blackstone Wapiabi, Dormer Sheep, Job/Cline, Kiska/Wilson, Panther Corners, Upper Clearwater/Ram.

Folks, if you have any interest in your freedom to access and use these public lands you need to lobby the provincial government. 

Learn how to organize. Mobilize people. Unite groups. Pressure government ministers.

If you don’t, or expect someone else to, your plans for next summer in the back country may be radically altered.  You may never again have the freedoms you are about to lose.  Your children will be curtailed to paved parking lots and government run campgrounds.

Support a conservation group. There is more that should be done for conservation, but allowing government to refuse to hear you and then restrict your enjoyment and access to public lands is not the solution. 

We should look to other jurisdictions, like Montana and Quebec for practices that work for all users.

From 2009-2017, Alberta collected almost $50-million in OHV registration fees. This could be used to enhance the backcountry, not general revenue.

This government has decided what it wants to do.  It listens only to their chosen lobbyists for consultation and shuts you, the local Albertan, out of the conversation.

What are you going to do about it?

If you have any questions or concerns regarding this or any issue, feel free to contact my constituency office at 403 782 7725 or email lacombe.ponoka@assembly.ab.ca or write 101 4892 46 Street, Lacombe, AB T4L 2B4.

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