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Shannon Phillips: Moving Forward To Protect Southern Alberta's Headwaters


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I appreciate the work that Shannon Phillips is committing to. If successful, we will see real and meaningful protection for critical habitat in southern Alberta. I sincerely hope this is not another case of a government talking the talk and failing to walk the walk.

 

http://calgaryherald.com/opinion/columnists/phillips-moving-forward-to-protect-southern-albertas-headwaters

 

This government must be held accountable to deliver on these commitments. It is an exciting time for the conservation community in Alberta.

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As soon as I hear the government say "we must engage with all stakeholders" or words to that effect, I know they won't be making

any meaningful difficult decisions. So get ready for ohvs and hunting to continue in the Castle region.

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As soon as I hear the government say "we must engage with all stakeholders" or words to that effect, I know they won't be making any meaningful difficult decisions. So get ready for ohvs and hunting to continue in the Castle region.

 

Better hope hunting is allowed to continue, that's the group that actually gives back to wildlife management financially in this province. The province has promised no changes to this low impact land use thus far during consultations and in planning documents. If hunting is not permitted, I sure as hope fly fishing isn't as well. I mean, why should one means of low impact harvest based recreation (fishing was traditionally a harvesting method) be allowed to continue while another is removed? Heck, how about nobody leaves their houses anymore, that would probably benefit the resource right???

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Now I can't recall my source, so take this for what it's worth:

 

I recall reading a few years back that responsible hunting has actually increased the size and health of elk herds in the eastern slopes. By targeting the big bulls in a herd, younger males can finally start reproducing. It is my understanding that the big males dominate during the mating season and prevent many of the younger bulls from contributing (think wolf pack).

 

Would be interesting to see someone with a bit more of a hunting background that could confirm or refute my bogus claim.

 

The moral of the story is: by being responsible and having proper regulations, our activities can actually make a positive contribution.

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There is some truth to that pinkster. I know lots of hunters that are having trouble filling tags since all the 6 points get taken every year and the smaller elk seem to reproduce more. There was a time when a 6 point was your minimum to take and you would go for bigger bulls but now people are happy with finding 6's. Not sure if that is increasing the health of the herd or not but it does help with numbers.

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Now I can't recall my source, so take this for what it's worth:

 

I recall reading a few years back that responsible hunting has actually increased the size and health of elk herds in the eastern slopes. By targeting the big bulls in a herd, younger males can finally start reproducing. It is my understanding that the big males dominate during the mating season and prevent many of the younger bulls from contributing (think wolf pack).

 

Would be interesting to see someone with a bit more of a hunting background that could confirm or refute my bogus claim.

 

The moral of the story is: by being responsible and having proper regulations, our activities can actually make a positive contribution.

I'd say the shooting big bull part may be bogus but hunters and their conservation dollars have protected a pile of key habitats and contribute to range management by targeting surplus animals/ pressuring elk off of certain areas they are not wanted/ tolerated. Just like fish, it's mostly about the habitat and a very small segment of the population has done the majority of the "lifting" in this respect over the past 100 years. The reason I feel the bull part is bogus is there has been discussion about changing the management of elk to protect more mature bulls with the justification being that may promote a more natural herd dynamic. I have discussed this with researchers from state side a few times and my personal feeling is Alberta probably could adapt a bit in terms of overall herd management but, not to distract from the original discussion. Also, protecting many of the mentioned habitats has had some positive impacts on fish and fish habitat. I know of one excellent spring creek which has some amazing trout and the dollars which payed to protect/ enhance it came mostly from levies of hunting and fishing licenses. Be careful not to bite the hand that feeds you.

 

I am less positive than the OP regarding the work our honorable minister will accomplish, I sure as hope you're right but then again, from what I've seen so far In terms of fake consultation/ ignoring the science I wouldn't be getting my hopes up.

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I am less positive than the OP regarding the work our honorable minister will accomplish, I sure as hope you're right but then again, from what I've seen so far In terms of fake consultation/ ignoring the science I wouldn't be getting my hopes up.

 

I only find the Minister's comments encouraging when you consider the degree of radio silence we have had over the last 30 years. This government will have to prove that they are willing to take flashy words and turn them into meaningful outcomes.

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Better hope hunting is allowed to continue, that's the group that actually gives back to wildlife management financially in this province. The province has promised no changes to this low impact land use thus far during consultations and in planning documents. If hunting is not permitted, I sure as hope fly fishing isn't as well. I mean, why should one means of low impact harvest based recreation (fishing was traditionally a harvesting method) be allowed to continue while another is removed? Heck, how about nobody leaves their houses anymore, that would probably benefit the resource right???

 

First off, let me make it clear that I am not anti-hunting -- I've done some myself over the years. I also accept that hunters, just like most fishermen have an interest in preserving our wilderness areas and therefore serve a role as stewards.

 

However, as an aside, I'm not sure I buy the argument that wildlife populations need human hunters to remain healthy. If so, then I guess we should reinstate hunting in Waterton, Banff, Jasper, Kananaskis etc. Also, it is an unfortunate fact, that hunting activity in the Castle area seems to generate an inordinate amount of "RV city style" random camping not to mention off-trail quad activity. Not sure either is a good thing.

 

Anyway, the point of my original post was simply that we appear to be heading toward a process that will ultimately try to keep everyone happy rather than do the right thing to protect the area. Unfortunately in this era of polls, governments don't lead anymore -- they just try to please everyone and get re-elected. Hope I'm wrong on this one.

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First off, let me make it clear that I am not anti-hunting -- I've done some myself over the years. I also accept that hunters, just like most fishermen have an interest in preserving our wilderness areas and therefore serve a role as stewards.

 

However, as an aside, I'm not sure I buy the argument that wildlife populations need human hunters to remain healthy. If so, then I guess we should reinstate hunting in Waterton, Banff, Jasper, Kananaskis etc. Also, it is an unfortunate fact, that hunting activity in the Castle area seems to generate an inordinate amount of "RV city style" random camping not to mention off-trail quad activity. Not sure either is a good thing.

 

Anyway, the point of my original post was simply that we appear to be heading toward a process that will ultimately try to keep everyone happy rather than do the right thing to protect the area. Unfortunately in this era of polls, governments don't lead anymore -- they just try to please everyone and get re-elected. Hope I'm wrong on this one.

I think you raise a really valid point, and it is one thing I am struggling with most in municipal government:

The only folks that have their voices heard are typically ones on polar opposite sides of an issue. The vast majority of reasonable folks lie somewhere in the middle, and we have no way of hearing their voices. We get so caught up on what occurs on social media that we ignore what public sentiment actually is.

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How in the hell did I hunt for 30 years without a quad?

Those damn things are the reason a lot of us have given up hunting.

I wish our new Govt success in the Castle and like many others after near 50 years of "getting consulted" we are well trained in not expecting much from Govt.

 

Don

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I think they do because we keep killing the apex predators that normally keep the herds in check.

Try this on -- maybe in a protected area, you don't kill anything. Rather like what goes on in a National Park, or even all the other Provincial Parks.

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Try this on -- maybe in a protected area, you don't kill anything. Rather like what goes on in a National Park, or even all the other Provincial Parks.

I'm not talking about parks or any area in particular. I'm just saying that we've already messed everything up by screwing with the apex predators whether through hunting, logging, OHV use, farming, or whatever. I'm not a hunter but I agree with albertatrout that we need to be careful about banning activities outright especially if there's no science to back it up. At the backcountry trails open house I had an OHV user ask me why it was ok for us to torture cutties by catching them, releasing them, then catching them again but it isn't ok for them to use certain trails in Waiparous any more.

 

More to the point, section 32(1) of SARA "prohibits killing, harming, harassing, capturing or taking individuals of a species listed as endangered, threatened or extirpated" but there's an exception made to it for catch and release angling in the case of west slope cutts. I really don't want people to take a look at that and wonder why there's a special exemption, especially when we all know there's still fish mortality that occurs through catch and release no matter how careful you are.

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At the backcountry trails open house I had an OHV user ask me why it was ok for us to torture cutties by catching them, releasing them, then catching them again but it isn't ok for them to use certain trails in Waiparous any more.

I've heard this comment made a few times by the OHV guys. The natural reaction for an angler is to get really defensive towards this statement, but I think this is an important thing to keep in mind. All users leave a footprint. By being responsible, anglers and OHVers can mitigate the impacts they make in critical habitat. To be clear, I'm not suggesting that ripping a quad through a bunch of redds is the same as catch and release angling...but anglers are kidding themselves if they believe they aren't leaving some kind of footprint even with the most responsible catch and release practices.

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Try this on -- maybe in a protected area, you don't kill anything. Rather like what goes on in a National Park, or even all the other Provincial Parks.

Unless you fence off the protected area (which would be ecologically disastrous) this does not work out so well. Friend's of mine farm along the elk migration route out of the Castle, as is there is probably $5000 worth of fence damage per year. If you double the herd, is that fair to the people who have been farming there for a long time? Apparently there were far less elk moving out onto the flats even 15-20 years ago, and it's hard to deny (unless you're AEP who are playing politics by delaying the grizzly report) the predator population is doing very very well in the region and seem to have a hankering for Alberta beef. If hunting is stopped, pretty hard to justify any form of angling or road access whatsoever. Elk, sheep, and deer are not endangered/ threatened, cutties and bullies are, I recommend people think this through before they get what they ask for.

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How in the hell did I hunt for 30 years without a quad? Those damn things are the reason a lot of us have given up hunting. I wish our new Govt success in the Castle and like many others after near 50 years of "getting consulted" we are well trained in not expecting much from Govt. Don

I don't quad, and a full out ban would greatly benefit me in terms of recreation and employment. However, I do think they need somewhere to go, and I would be happy if they are kept out of the water and kept away from sensitive areas such as class A and B habitat units. When I see what they have done in certain reaches my attitude shifts to outright ban, when I think critically about it/ cool off I realize certain properly constructed trails can probably be operated without causing more damage/ any further sedimentation. I really like Wildland Park's and enjoy them regularly, not sure how AEP is going to allow OHV's and maintain that status so still waiting on the actual plan just like everyone else.

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I don't quad, and a full out ban would greatly benefit me in terms of recreation and employment. However, I do think they need somewhere to go, and I would be happy if they are kept out of the water and kept away from sensitive areas such as class A and B habitat units. When I see what they have done in certain reaches my attitude shifts to outright ban, when I think critically about it/ cool off I realize certain properly constructed trails can probably be operated without causing more damage/ any further sedimentation. I really like Wildland Park's and enjoy them regularly, not sure how AEP is going to allow OHV's and maintain that status so still waiting on the actual plan just like everyone else.

I have a guest blog coming up for the Oldman Watershed Council. I talk a little bit about properly constructed trails and how those might be funded in a sustainable way. I'll share it when it gets published.

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Attended the presentation of "trails" in Rocky last night. From what I saw there were no OHV owners or organizations in attendance. The audience was mostly composed of hunter outfitters and horse clubs.

The money for the construction is coming from a disaster insurance fund and is done this year.

I asked where the OHV riders were while pointing out the audience probably represented 200 people and 30,000 quads go through Rocky on a single long weekend. Seemed like the program wasn't reaching the problem.

It was obvious that the trail builders were in as much as possible keeping off lower reaches and protecting trout habitat. But their stance didn't effect some audience members who stated they were going to use the river as access.

 

Don

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But their stance didn't effect some audience members who stated they were going to use the river as access.

Unfortunately those folks exist in every user group. Hopefully enforcement will catch up with them eventually. If AEP would listen to what the responsible OHV groups have been advocating for years - trail use fees, courses to get licensed, etc. - some of that money could be used to hire more enforcement among other things.

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When I read the word Ban I think about what compromises the ban camp is willing to make. I believe it would be a great benefit to the fish if we left them alone. I don't believe it is fair to ask something of one group if you are not willing to do so yourself. I would think if we really want to benefit the eastern slopes we should all stay out. Ban the quads and ban hunting, ban fishing, ban the cattle and ban hiking, ban logging and oil and gas. Don't just ban what benefits you....If you really and truly want to help, lead by example and stay away from the eastern slopes.

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When I read the word Ban I think about what compromises the ban camp is willing to make. I believe it would be a great benefit to the fish if we left them alone. I don't believe it is fair to ask something of one group if you are not willing to do so yourself. I would think if we really want to benefit the eastern slopes we should all stay out. Ban the quads and ban hunting, ban fishing, ban the cattle and ban hiking, ban logging and oil and gas. Don't just ban what benefits you....If you really and truly want to help, lead by example and stay away from the eastern slopes.

 

 

Lad,

I'm willing to give up washing my truck in the river, mud bogging, running through muskeg till it's a bog, hill climbing which sets up erosion of the land i'm OK with banning my activity - are you OK with doing the same. Also I won't break my heart to give up leaving campfires burning when I leave, shooting fireworks most of the night, running off several thousand rounds of 9mm. Oh and throwing garbage all over the bush. Hot damn, I could ban a lot of things.

 

Don

 

 

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Lad, I'm willing to give up washing my truck in the river, mud bogging, running through muskeg till it's a bog, hill climbing which sets up erosion of the land i'm OK with banning my activity - are you OK with doing the same. Also I won't break my heart to give up leaving campfires burning when I leave, shooting fireworks most of the night, running off several thousand rounds of 9mm. Oh and throwing garbage all over the bush. Hot damn, I could ban a lot of things. Don

Don I have never done any of the deeds you mention. Put yourself in the other users shoes. If we are always pointing our fingers at the other guy and his destruction of the land to minimize our own it we wont get anywhere because it is not fair.

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Lad, I'm willing to give up washing my truck in the river, mud bogging, running through muskeg till it's a bog, hill climbing which sets up erosion of the land i'm OK with banning my activity - are you OK with doing the same. Also I won't break my heart to give up leaving campfires burning when I leave, shooting fireworks most of the night, running off several thousand rounds of 9mm. Oh and throwing garbage all over the bush. Hot damn, I could ban a lot of things. Don

Most of these things are already illegal or "banned" so obviously bans don't work.

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Most of these things are already illegal or "banned" so obviously bans don't work.

 

You are right as it stands now. Bans don't work on the people doing the most of the damage. Bans with adequate enforcement, and good options for redirected use into low impact areas would be a big improvement. Enforcement is critical.

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