This is a letter I just sent to our Provincial Premier, The Honourable Jim Prentice
Our Provincial government is trying to figure out how to save the dwindling populations of caribou in the little Smokey region of north-central Alberta.
The simplest solution is to stop habitat fragmentation in caribou country. I have never been able to understand government and industry need to extract every resource right now! The oil, gas and timber is not going anywhere, it will be there years down the road. The noise and activity of all the traffic and equipment disrupts the very shy and reclusive wildlife even further reducing the land base they have available for use. I suggest opening an area to extraction, do the job, fix the mess, restore the land and move on. Leave meaningful corridors through which wildlife can migrate. Limit the amount of traffic to times of year least disruptive to them. Right now we see miles of destruction with little evidence of restoration. I have looked at several examples over the past year:
Coalmines south of Hinton have literally moved mountains. I see grass growing on some of their reclaim but not a tree to be seen to replace the forest that has been removed.
I looked at logging south of Grande Prairie where I used to work. Instead of an 80 year cycle to maintain an annual allowable cut in perpetuity, there are few mature trees left standing as well as miles of new roads, gas and oil facilities, pipelines and continued logging due to pine beetle, a disaster not accounted for in the past. Forest fire could have also happened instead of beetle. The cut cycle has occurred in 40 years, ½ the time required for a forest to be replaced. Is the company now going to request another, even larger land base and stretch even further into marginal territory which encroaches even further into wildlife territory?
Is anyone actually doing any restoration work in the oil sands mines and settling ponds? Is there any new forest growing to replace those that were removed? Are they going to keep digging and pumping sludge until the companies go broke or quit saying they can no longer afford to clean up? This remediation work needs to be ongoing and finished before new mines started.
Medicine Hat and a gas company want to destroy the last small bit of land that is home to the Sage grouse. They have written that: "It doesn't matter if the grouse is extirpated here, there are still a few of them surviving in the USA!" Is this legacy the will of our population and the heritage that we want to leave our grand children?
The government is extremely concerned about a few wild/feral horses in western Alberta that seem to me to be doing very little harm to their environment. Leave them alone to be enjoyed by tourists and outdoor enthusiasts and get concerned about the habitat destruction by logging companies running amok causing trap line destruction and contributing to massive flooding and river destruction.
The mad rush to get every drop out of the ground today is also probably contributing to the world over supply/ low price issues. Now the government is using this issue to threaten us with dire economic consequences!
The land along the eastern slopes and stretching out into boreal forest was all caribou range a few years ago. I remember when there was a caribou hunt still allowed until almost 1980. This traditional caribou territory was healthy for all types of wildlife until it began to be opened up by logging and petroleum companies. Prey and predators lived in harmonious balance until we began to interfere. It was a spectacular land.
I don't understand but if I am to believe the government, I am sure that poisoning, shooting, snaring and trapping every wolf and wild horse in the area will solve all of our problems and the caribou, and sage grouse will all suddenly thrive!
I must apologize for our recklessness to my grand children now!
Please Mr. Prentice, help us get this madness under control. I don't believe that you want as part of your legacy to be known as a person who had the power to preserve our wilderness and did nothing. You don't want to be remembered as the Premier who lost the last caribou or sage grouse. This is much more real and long term than some corporations profit.