Alberta's hunting, fishing and trapping community is a relatively small one.
But it is a community that faces many challenges. In fact, I would venture a guess and say that our small community faces challenges on a daily basis that larger communities wouldn't see in a lifetime. Let's face it; when something dies because of what you do, there are going to be issues that have to be dealt with. It's as simple as that.
The pages of this magazine are quite often filled with hunter, angler and trapper concerns and for the most part many of those concerns are born of political decisions that seldom make sense... that is until you look at it from the point of view of the politician of course.
A very good politician once told me that grizzly bears don't vote and that the environmentalists consumed with the protection of the grizzly wouldn't vote for him either. This politician's concern was more with appeasing those who would vote for him while keeping an honest perspective on issues like the grizzly bear. Why try to sway those who would never listen to your reasoning anyway? This politician gets the vote of the hunters, anglers and trappers because that is the way of his riding. Unfortunately for us, there are far more politicians making decisions that aren't getting their hands dirty in the outdoors.
And because of this our political clout is seldom taken seriously and is quite often neglected in the thought processes that influence and impact many of the things we do outdoors. You've heard it before: our society has become far too urbanized and we've lost our voice when it comes to many of the issues that impact hunting, fishing and trapping.
But we are beginning to fight back.
Let's take the grizzly bear as an example.
|Grizzly bear or puppet? - photo Duane Rosenkranz
There are far too many Jim Pissot's out there blowing smoke up the general public's ass. You know Pissot, the director of the Defenders of Wildlife Canada who seems to garner the attention of the media at will by using the grizzly bear as a puppet.
Combine Pissot with Y2Y guy Harvey Locke, who wants to put a corridor along our Rocky Mountains that would essentially keep you and me out, and we have reason to be concerned.
These two environmentalists, backed heavily by U.S. based groups, are bleeding the uninformed general public of money and using the grizzly bear to do so. A healthy grizzly bear population would put an end to that stream of money and because of that at all costs the grizzly bear must be shown to be at near deathly numbers, regardless of the truth (read Voices of the Land by Brian Bildson on page 59).
While grizzly bear numbers in Alberta are not accurately known (unless you listen to the ramblings of Pissot and others then there might be four or five kicking around) there is much evidence to show that in many parts of Alberta the grizzly bear is doing just fine. Declaring the grizzly bear to be on the verge of extinction province-wide and needing to be protected at all costs is just a plead for more money.
And then here comes Y2Y's Harvey Locke and his pursuit of a corridor along our eastern slopes that will protect the grizzly (read requires lots of money) and you can suddenly see a pattern take shape—a pattern that bodes well for sucking money out of an uninformed general public who eat up the message delivered by a media that seems far too focused on doom-saying environmentalists.
And at the end of the day, regardless of your hunting, fishing or trapping pursuits, the eastern slopes, as envisioned by these environmentalists, will never be the same.
Environmentalists will use whatever animal or environmental concern they can to raise money; after all, paycheques, regardless of who you are, have to keep coming in and the bigger they are the better they are.
And because of this it is not surprising to see Pissot claiming that evidence collected by the Willmore Wilderness Foundation's (WWF) grizzly bear study should not be used in determining the great bear's numbers. I don't think we have to ask, "Why not?"
In a recent article written in the Calgary Herald by Kelly Cryderman, Pissot suggests that the WWF data is more than likely skewed by hunters that want the grizzly bear hunt reinstated.
That statement is equal to calling hunters liars, something that doesn't sit well with this hunter.
Pissot has suddenly declared that any grizzly bear study outside of biologist Gordon Stenhouse's grizzly bear DNA survey, doesn't count.
And while Stenhouse's work may be state-of-the-art as he suggests, unless the province was wrapped in a ball of barbed wire, I can't imagine, state-of-the-art or not, how this survey is going to determine exactly how many bears we have across the province.
The WWF survey was conducted to compliment Stenhouse's work, not question it. But this is something that Pissot and other environmentalists dependent on the grizzly bear for financial gain, won't accept. Instead, hunters are liars trying to skew the numbers.
The WWF has been more than honest in their collection of data and even admit that there is a good chance that some bears may have been counted twice.
But the reported sightings are much higher than even the WWF expected, leading many to believe, including SRD minister Ted Morton, that at least a good percentage of the WWF sightings have to be accounted for.
And at the end of the day, that was all that was ever asked for.
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I have long been an opponent of the game farm industry and have published numerous articles within Alberta Outdoorsmen regarding this tainted industry.
From a very suspect beginning where elk were purchased and illegally brought into this province before game farming was even considered legal—a move that also required a change to the Wildlife Act (thanks Don Getty)—this industry has confirmed all of the concerns expressed by scientists that tried to stop the industry from happening in the first place. From disease to poaching, the game farm industry has lived up to its billing.
Recent suggestions that this industry is once again pushing for high-fenced hunting has the hunting community in another uproar. To even consider that someone in government (more than likely agriculture, who seem to never get it right) is entertaining this idea is ludicrous.
High-fenced hunting is the game farm industry's last hope for survival because the rest of the golden goose has left the barnyard. The market is virtually non-existent.
And while many of our public servants of fish and wildlife stature won’t come clean and say it publicly, behind closed doors they’ve told anybody who will listen that game farming is a very unnecessary business and one that, finally, needs the last nail hammered into its coffin. To move forward is simply not acceptable.
When questioned whether or not SRD would consider hunt farms to bail out the game farmers the department claimed there would have to be "broad public support" before hunt farms would ever be considered. Not likely to happen.
Let's hope this is the last time we hear from the game farmers and that government does the responsible thing—buy them out. After all, it was government that started this mess and encouraged the industry without proper due diligence. Now, in light of its failures, government should stand up and be held accountable for the actions of its former leadership. ■
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