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 with Rob Miskosky

Ignorance Knows No Bounds

Almost all trappers that own registered traplines in Alberta will face the inevitable; industry invading the landscape of their particular Registered Fur Management Area (RFMA).

Oil and gas exploration as well as forestry operations always affect trapline operations, more so forestry but both generally hold little regard for the trapper and his or her operation. In fact, many traplines are sold because of too much industrial activity that results in a loss of habitat for many of our furbearing animals, which in turn affects the trapline for all the wrong reasons.

Trappers are trappers because they enjoy the solitude of the forest and the animals that reside there, not the sounds of a Feller Buncher cutting trees or a flare stack burning whatever it is that flare stacks burn. This also holds true for the hunter who has become intimate with the area he hunts, and the angler with the area he fishes.

Industrial activity on the author’s trapline.
When accessing my RFMA, I actually phone ahead to the Semcams Gas Control Centre in Edson to let them know I will be on the land in case of an emergency, such as a pipeline explosion or a gas leak at one of the numerous wellsites that blister my RFMA.

It is a travesty really, because in Alberta there is a notion that we have to get it all and we have to get it all now—there is no middle ground, no timeframe that allows the land to heal before the next extraction takes place.

As a trapper, I get to witness this raping of the land first hand, and I get to read about it regularly. And I don’t mean by reading articles in newspapers or online; I get the goods firsthand, in the mail, as shown by the massive binder I keep at home outlining the activities taking place, or about to take place, on my RFMA.

Therefore, being as good a sport as I can be, I keep in regular contact with those companies that are leaving their footprints in the area. Most often, this goes over well, but sometimes it doesn’t; it is hard being the little guy on the landscape that industry would rather not see there. For this reason, trappers fight hard to protect what they can.

Not long ago, I wrote about a plan that West Fraser Timber had for logging within riparian areas in Alberta; a poor decision at best and one that would surely affect our water quality and put more pressure on our threatened bull trout and Arctic grayling.

Disguised as a “new science” kind of way to manage riparian areas, this riparian management strategy was merely a poorly designed scheme to get the bigger trees that grow there—to hell with water quality or the fish that live there, there’s money in them thar trees!

So, it was with great pleasure that I read an email announcing West Fraser had decided to abandon their poorly thought out plan. However, my smile turned to a frown when further reading revealed they were considering “adapting a peer reviewed, monitoring and measuring system already in place and being used in BC.” We’ll dredge that plan soon enough I’m sure.

My question to West Fraser would be, why don’t you just stay out of riparian areas altogether? I’m pretty sure I already know the answer to that “million-dollar” question.

My attention soon turned to Alberta’s new Wetland Policy, a policy many hoped would be the answer to protecting our wetlands from industry. Human-related disturbances to wetlands, rivers and streams have resulted in poor water quality and quantity in not only Alberta, but in much of North America, so this one was extremely important.

However, as soon as Alberta’s new Wetland Policy was released, environmentalists jumped all over what appears to be a policy written more for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, rather than for the very wetlands it was meant to protect.

Much has been written about this policy and I’m sure you haven’t heard the last of it in this magazine either, because our water is the single most important resource we have. Water is essential to life as we know it, yet we appear to be ignorant of that fact and continue on a hellbent course to destroying as much of it as we can while paying lip-service to an urban society that has little idea our water sources are not infinite.

Listen, I understand the need for industry, I do. I worked in the oil patch for many years as a pipefitter, cashing paycheques because of oil and gas extraction. And I grew up in a small town where logging was the bread and butter for most of the people that lived there. However, back then these industries were still in their infant stages and not the landscape scars they are today. Perhaps we didn’t see the environmental impact that was coming. Or, perhaps we really are just ignorant of the importance of our lands and water and whether these lands and waters are healthy and sufficiently protected. It is much easier now to protect with the long-term in mind, rather than trying to restore lands and waters later, after it is far too late. ■

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