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 with Rob Miskosky

Strange Bedfellows

A recent thread on the Alberta Outdoorsmen Forum about a new group called Backcountry Hunters & Anglers setting up shop in Alberta had me thinking about a four-piece treatise I had written back in 2008. My treatise was about the group Y2Y (Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative), where they came from, how they were funded, and what their underlying goals for this region really were. Based on my investigation, over a four-month period, I discovered there was much to be concerned about. Especially Y2Y’s connection to The Wildlands Project (now known as the Wildlands Network), whose goal is to create vast cores of wilderness areas surrounded by protected buffer zones and connected by wildlife corridors stretching across the continent, consuming millions of square kilometres of public and private lands with severe restrictions on the use of that land.

“It defies logic that Y2Y is trying to influence the policies of the eastern slopes when they have no concept of the social structure or the rich cultural tapestry of this region.” – Bazil Leonard, President and Founder, Willmore Wilderness Foundation.

Nine years later, once again, here I was looking into Y2Y to see if they had changed their position and perhaps, even their affiliations. However, not so lucky. Y2Y is still operating with a connection to the Seattle-based Wildlands Network, an organization that has little use for hunting and trapping. Y2Y is also a member of what they call the Connectivity Policy Coalition, which includes HSUS, Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, and other anti-hunting and trapping organizations.

So, when it was mentioned that Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA), whose head office is located in Montana, were aligned with Y2Y, the hair on the back of my neck began to stand up. I then remembered a statement made by Michael Soulé, co-founder of The Wildlands Network. According to Soulé, “We must create real partnerships with those who mistrust us.”

Considering the magnitude of lands Y2Y would like to lock up here in Alberta, creating real partnerships would certainly help their cause. Especially if that partnership looked like hunters and anglers were on board with their vision.

According to AO Forum user alberta_bha, an obvious spokesperson for BHA, “If the opinion is that this hunting/angling group should not associate with any conservation group, then I don’t agree with you. There is much progress to be made in protecting the wilderness that we all have come to cherish, and enjoy, while working alongside other groups that are just as dedicated to conservation, perhaps for different reasons, but for the same result.”

“Perhaps for different reasons?”

Now, I’m not here to badmouth Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, I know far too little about this group to do so. However, I must question why such a group is required in Alberta in the first place, and why they would choose Y2Y as a bedfellow? In my mind, BHA just becomes another splinter group, further dividing Alberta’s hunting and angling community. This became very evident on the AO Forum with six pages of divisive discussion.

Aligning with Y2Y (yes, BHA is listed as a partner on Y2Y’s website) concerns me, as it should predator hunters and trappers; Y2Y does not support these activities. However, having it look as though hunters and anglers are on board with their vision gives them more influence.

Doug Butler, President of the 20,000 plus member Alberta Fish and Game Association (AFGA), doesn’t consider BHA to be a voice for Alberta’s hunters and anglers. Clearly, that is AFGA’s job.

“We neither support nor oppose them,” said Butler, who then went on to say, “We basically have or see no use for their existence. Don’t know much more about them. We have never been contacted by them.”

Why would BHA be aligned and speaking with Y2Y and yet, have not spoken with Alberta’s largest conservation organization, the AFGA?

Strange bedfellows indeed! ■

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