Castle Provincial Park the Facts may Mislead You.
Justified science or activist agenda?
BY LETHBRIDGE HERALD OPINON ON FEBRUARY 11, 2017.
Others have spoken of the Castle South Saskatchewan Regional Plan (SSRP) land-use process and its shortcomings re: ignored input from traditional users such as hunters, fishers and OHV recreation. These are the users targeted with reduced access under SSRP proposed parks. I will focus on other aspects of the process followed by this government.
Minister Phillips has asserted that it is the “science” that drives the decision for the parks. That said, as an average Albertan I have the right and obligation to current and future generations to ensure that such science isn’t biased by the activist environmental NGOs I perceive are driving these park decisions. A critical factor being used to curtail OHV multi-use trails is the concept of linear footprint (LP). While science seems related mainly to wildlife mortality on highways, it is being applied to all linear features from highways to static fence lines and, yes, OHV trails.
Clearly, wildlife fatalities on highways is many orders of magnitude different than, say, a seldom-used, single-track motorcycle trail that may coincide with a cow trail. LP should entail on-the-ground research into intensity of use of LPs, duration of same and whether it is intermittent or continuous along with habitual game movement patterns and seasonality. That is not the case; all LPs are deemed of identical impact intensity and continuous per SSRP workshops. I view this as theorizing given, even the Grizzly Bear Recovery Program June 2016 draft, specifically identifies the need for research “to quantify the effect of OHV use” for their study let alone such possible impacts on 200-plus “endangered plants and animals” per Minister Phillips. Most outdoorsmen will tell you linear features, of themselves, do not curtail game movement and may be routinely used by wildlife.
Then there is the crucial “more than 200 species of endangered plants and animals” in the Castle claimed by Minister Phillips. Hey, I am not a biology expert, but I also know there is science and there is peer-reviewed believable science. This led me to ask who the authority in Canada is – it’s the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC Secretariat). A search of their database of all Alberta species at risk as at Feb. 3, 2017 lists 152 species of which 48 are “Not at Risk” and only 32 are “Endangered.” This puts the minister’s 200-plus “endangered” species at 6.25 times the peer-reviewed numbers for all of Alberta. This is an astonishing discrepancy! Given so much is driven these days by environmental activists inserting themselves into government decisions, I ask what affiliations do the minister’s science sources have with such activists and why doesn’t her science have the authentication of COSEWIC?
There are other questions as well, such as why aren’t Nature Conservancy of Canada vast land positions included in the scope of SSRP land use deliberations? They are substantially paid for by the public in the name of conservation. How is it cattle that defecate in our precious watersheds and stomp through riparian areas aren’t excluded from such parks?
As both a non-motorized and motorized recreationist who has random-camped in Alberta for over 40 years, and raised my family to responsibly enjoy these pursuits, I regard myself as being environmentally responsible and take exception to this rushed closure dictate. I have long promoted environmentally responsible designated OHV trails including proper management, enforcement, training, funding mechanics along with tourism potential thereof. I have worked for same at local, provincial and national levels over 15 years. We know how to build responsible trail systems; check with the Alberta Off-highway Vehicle Association for specifics. My experience has been that politicians are consistently deceptive and have managed to screw up even the best and most responsible of past proposals – that hasn’t changed.
Environmental activists such as Y2Y, CPAWS, AWA and adjuncts, seek to shut down the mountain corridor from some traditional uses. That not only includes motorized access, but also effectively impacts hunting and fishing access along with local community economies that depend on access. Their stated and highly promoted scheme is to have the entire mountain corridor made into a continuum of government designated parks, or equivalents, restricting only some traditional users and negatively impacting local communities all along the mountain corridor of Alberta, B.C. and Yukon. Check a map against Y2Y maps and see how many mountain corridor parks and near-equivalents we already have in Alberta. These activist NGOs are the same tax-subsidized, grant-funded and professionally managed NGOs whose politicalized agendas and lobbying attack and undermine our critical resource industries.
Time all Albertans get involved in this potential monumental impact on public access to public lands which, if Y2Y is followed, will amplify throughout all of Alberta.
Barry Harper is a Lethbridge resident who, in addition to being an active outdoorsman, has been involved in seeking responsible solutions to issues of OHV at the local, provincial and national level for more than 15 years.