Here in Alberta, the provincial conservatives choose not to follow their own guidelines to stop any further encroachment into valuable caribou habitat required to try to maintain an undisturbed land base required for the woodland caribou to thrive and maintain a viable population. Instead, they choose helicopter gunships, snaring and poisons to be used to hunt down and exterminate wolves that have traditionally co-habitated with caribou for centuries. Along with the dead wolves are numerous by-catch that is also killed off by the poisons such as wolverine, scavenging birds, coyotes, lynx, black and grizzly bears as well as intentionally shot ungulates that are used as poison laced bait. Oil and gas exploration, pipelines, roads and cut blocks are all depleting and opening up the remote old growth timber lands where the caribou live. Other ungulates such as moose, elk and deer move into the logged off cut blocks and road fringes feeding upon the new deciduous tree growth while bringing with them the predatory wolves doing what wolves do naturally. Unfortunately for caribou, they are easier to catch and kill than moose or elk. Black bears also move into these newly exposed areas which bring them closer to where caribou are found. Now the black bears have learned to catch and eat caribou calves so we have made it even more difficult for caribou to survive. I will guess we will now start poisoning and shooting black bears.
The next issue that I hate to see is the round up of the feral horses in western Alberta. These horses are ancestors of horses turned loose from abandoned and closed down coal mines, logging operations, homesteaders and outfitters as well as Indian ponies that have wandered off. They have lived here for more than 100 years. I have travelled to the eastern slopes region west of Sundre, north of Cochrane around the Mountainaire Lodge region to spend time with the wild horses. I am not much of a horse person but I truly do like to spend time with these wild horses. I guess I admire their stamina and recognise the challenges they live with in this rugged landscape. They seem to fit into this land very well. The wildies feed on grasses that grow on newly exposed cutblocks, roadsides and in river and creek valleys. They paw through deep snow to expose grass during the winter months. There are not great numbers of them scattered in small bands across hundreds of thousands of acres of wildland. Generally accepted numbers show about 800 horses scattered in bands ranging in size from two or three to more commonly eight or ten to less than twenty animals led by a stallion with his mares, colts and young studs.
|Feral Horses Grazing in Cutblock|
This year, as in others, the government led by the ESRD ( Environment and Sustainable Resources Development) division, rounded up several bands and shipped them off to auction to be sold off to private investors or slaughter for profit. After a huge donnybrook last season where several people protesting the horse capture were arrested and charged with interfering with the capture, the ESRD used a contractor to try to trap and round up the horses. These guys were using questionable methods of chasing horses through cutblocks and try to rope them along with baited traps. They were not concerned about the welfare of pregnant mares, horse family dynamics or possible injury to wild horses or their own stock. Some of the illegal and immoral methods were filmed by dedicated horse watchers and photographers. The ESRD have not said anything about numbers of horses rounded up or living on the wild range.
|ATV Damages To Hillside|
In my travels I have seen many different users of this region that are not very friendly to the land. Huge cut blocks, by huge I mean greater than section size, 500 acres and larger. We used to consider 1/4 section, or 160 acres to be large cut blocks. I saw areas where ATVs, (all terrain vehicles) have torn deep ruts up hillsides and through bogs causing erosion and sediment to enter sensitive creeks and streams, home to endangered Bull Trout. Gravel pits, roads and wash outs as well as tremendous damage caused by the flood of 2013 all seem to me to be of greater concern than a few wild horses.
There is also the concerns of cattlemen who graze their cattle on grazing reserves in this area. I don't understand where the boundaries of these grazing reserves are as there are few fences. There are several Texas gates along the Forestry Trunk Road with no fences connecting them to any kind of border line. There is often a bit of barbed wire winding a few feet through the ditch into the bush but it would be ineffective at keeping anything but a wandering photographer at bay. They are not maintained in any way. I assume then that the cattle can wander the countryside free range. I was there in Late November last year and found a few cattle still wandering along the roadside looking for grass and seemed to hope I was there to take them home to the comfort of the barnyard. The ranchers are apparently concerned that the horses are eating grass that their cattle should have.
|Eating on Exposed Hillsides|
|Eating Grass on Road Right-of-ways|
There are other environmental issues that we have to contend with. I recall our premier, Jim Prentice bragging about Alberta's environmental record while making a speech in the USA to supporters of the Gateway Pipeline. I disagree after hearing about oil spills, seeing mountains moved for coal, land base opened with little regard for the wildlife, and valuable farmland being paved over for building cities and industrial plants. I do realise that we cannot totally halt progress and industry, but do we need to do it all right now? Can we not reclaim some of the destroyed land base before proceeding with new development? Is there going to be anything left for our children and grand kids? We have seen man's destructive practises in other countries so can we not use them as warnings to our own mad rush to extract every dollar from the ground immediately?
I will be asking questions of the other political parties as I have asked of the present governors. I hope to get better responses than the form letters I have had in the past.