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 with Rob Miskosky

Twenty-Five Years of Conservation

I’m old enough to remember when the Alberta Conservation Association (ACA) took over the old “Buck for Wildlife Program” that was run by the Fish and Wildlife Division (government) of the day. Buck for Wildlife was established in 1973 as a program to “preserve and enhance habitat for fish and wildlife throughout Alberta.” The Buck for Wildlife Program was administered by the Alberta Fish and Wildlife Division and was funded entirely through a levy on the sale of fishing and hunting licences and tax deductible donations.

“Buck for Wildlife conserves and enhances habitat through hundreds of habitat improvement projects throughout Alberta. Projects are proposed by individuals, clubs, private organizations and government agencies and are approved on the basis of expected benefits to the resource and to all Albertans.”

Buck for Wildlife also provided grants to various organizations to “improve fish and wildlife habitat in their own areas.”

When the ACA took control of the Buck for Wildlife Program back in 1997, there was an uproar from many hunters and anglers that linked the ACA to other not-so-friendly groups that held little use for hunters or anglers. While the conservation movement in Canada began in the late 1960s, by 1997 it was in full swing in Alberta and had moved beyond just saving habitat to also stopping many forms of animal use, including the hunting of various animals and hunting types. Some groups were making their mark trying to shut down Alberta’s eastern slopes to many outdoor activities, so it wasn’t surprising to see “conservation” as a possible enemy by many Alberta outdoorsmen and women. And if you had “conservation” in your name, surely you didn’t have hunters and anglers at heart.

And so the Alberta “Conservation” Association was viewed suspiciously by many and it was often suggested that the money they received from levies on hunting and angling licences was being misused on things like bugs, slugs and dickie birds. Member groups of the ACA were also being questioned, as some that had a say in ACA spending did not pay levies to the Association, as hunters and anglers did. And in 2009, a resolution was even passed at the Alberta Fish and Game Association Conference that asked government to disband the ACA.

However, twenty-five years later, the ACA still stands strong and those early suspicions and calls for dissolution are just memories for those of us with grey in our beards.

With the help from levies on hunting and angling licences, for twenty-five years the ACA has been doing incredible conservation work on Alberta’s landscape that assists Alberta Environment and Parks with their management plans, helping to form hunting and fishing regulations in the province.

And, along with delivering many conservation programs in Alberta, the ACA also continues to provide grant money to various individuals, groups, and communities involved in worthy conservation projects.

Recently, and for the second time, I had the opportunity to participate in the ACA’s Community and Education Grants (CCEG) application review process. This year, 112 proposals were submitted to the ACA for a funding request of more than $1.69 million for 2022-2023. With only $970,000 available for granting, some tough decisions needed to be made, as there were many projects worthy of support. In fact, the process again opened my eyes to the number of projects taking place across the province that would benefit Alberta’s fish and wildlife populations and their habitat. There are a tremendous amount of people in Alberta doing some serious on-the-ground, behind-the-scenes conservation work for the benefit of us all, and supported by the ACA.

Unfortunately, not all projects can be awarded a grant and after six or seven hours of discussion, between 10 reviewers, a final tally is made, a line is drawn, and those above the line are presented to the ACA’s Board of Directors for final approval. This year, 71 of the 112 applications made the grade for either full or partial funding.

I tip my hat to Amy MacKinven, ACA Grants Coordinator, for the outstanding work she does in what is surely a difficult job. I’d also like to thank the Alberta Conservation Association for twenty-five years of service to the hunters and anglers of Alberta. Job well done!

For previous Outdoor Pursuits click here.

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