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 with Rob Miskosky

Parading A Park

According to Alberta’s Biodiversity Policy, biodiversity is “the assortment of life on Earth – the variety of genetic material in all living things, the variety of species on Earth and the different kinds of living communities and the environments in which they occur.”

Of course, the conservation of biodiversity is extremely important to all of us, especially after reading the above. However, the conservation of biodiversity and how it should proceed are open for debate and often that debate can be heated.

Aichi Biodiversity Targets are a set of 20 measureable targets agreed to by the “Parties” to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan in October 2010. Canada, with support from provincial and territorial governments, adopted national biodiversity goals and targets to “ further action by all on the conservation and sustainable use of living resources in Canada and provide the basis for measuring and reporting on progress.”

Is the Bighorn Backcountry soon to become a park?
According to, a website of the “federal, provincial and territorial working group on biodiversity, which was established following Canada’s international commitments under the United Nations’ Convention on Biological Diversity in December 1992”, Canada’s Goal A, Target 1 is “By 2020, at least 17 percent of terrestrial areas and inland water, and 10 percent of coastal and marine areas, are conserved through networks of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures.”

The key words here, of course, are “networks of protected areas.” Which falls in line with the vision of the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y), which states, “An interconnected system of wild lands and waters stretching from Yellowstone to Yukon, harmonizing the needs of people with those of nature.”

Sounds beautiful, but I remain skeptical.

In late February of this year, Environment and Parks Minister, Shannon Phillips, announced that Alberta would seek to reach “17 percent protection for our natural landscapes by 2020.” Falling in line with Canada’s commitment to the Convention on Biological Diversity.

According to environmental groups, Alberta currently sits at 12.4% protected, well short of the 17% goal, even with the 2015 announcement of the Castle Provincial Park and Wildland Provincial Park where industrial activity has been curtailed but recreational activities such as hunting are still permitted.

However, not good enough, according to the Alberta Wilderness Association who say, “...the parks contain some activities, such as motorized recreation, grazing and hunting. When some of these activities are allowed to continue, the restoration that this fragile land needs cannot occur, and the already-damaged ecosystem will continue to degrade.”

Moving on from the Castle, a recent poll done for Y2Y suggests that 83 percent of Edmonton respondents support the idea of the Bighorn Backcountry becoming a provincial park, while 68 percent of the people living near the area also agree. I’m unaware of how the question was put to the respondents but the protection of Edmonton’s water supply was certainly used.

The Bighorn Backcountry lies directly east of both Banff and Jasper National Parks and includes more than 5,000 square kilometres (1.2 million acres) of public lands used by hunters, anglers, trappers and recreationists. Considering that Banff National Park spans 6,641 square kilometres and Jasper National Park 11,000 square kilometres where recreational activities like hunting and trapping are not permitted, many are concerned environmental groups are looking for the same protection for the Bighorn.

While most would agree that industrial activity in some of these areas should be curtailed, and that water protection is extremely important, the loss of these public lands to recreationists, hunters and trappers is unacceptable to the outdoor organizations that make up the Alberta Outdoors Coalition (AOC).

“There appears to be a conceit among many environmental activists and their respective associations that the average Albertan on his or her own is not capable of appreciating, conserving, and using our wild places respectfully,” said Gordy Klassen, President of the AOC. “Instead, these activist’s mission is not to preserve these places for Albertans of today and tomorrow. Their agenda, through legislation, is to protect these wild places from what they untiringly paint as an incorrigible Alberta appetite for environmental degradation.”

Meanwhile, Alberta’s environmental groups continue parading a park in front of a minister that’s made promise to protect a significant portion of Alberta’s landscape.

Alberta’s outdoorsmen and women hope that landscape isn’t being protected from them.

For previous Outdoor Pursuits click here.

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