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 with Rob Miskosky

Critter Concerns

There are those who feel Alberta Outdoorsmen would be better suited to leave the issues alone and strictly focus on being a hook and bullet magazine. In fact, recently we were chastised for columns relating to the oil and gas industry, being told that if it weren’t for oil and gas there wouldn’t even be an Alberta Outdoorsmen.

And that nobody puts more back into the environment than oil and gas companies do.

And perhaps that is true, on both accounts.

How do we balance our need for oil and gas while protecting the outdoors and the critters that live there?

It is understandable that those who work in the oil and gas industry would be protective of it. After all, this is an industry under constant attack by environmental groups, many of which are nothing more than extortionists. Unfortunately, many oil and gas companies pander to these same groups. Kind of makes me sick to my stomach when we’re lumped in with them.

However, I can understand their frustration when an outdoor magazine joins the fray; a magazine that many who spend countless hours hunting, fishing and trapping, and obtain their income from oil and gas, reads.

But there is a belief among many in that protective group that because our economy revolves around oil and gas that to criticize it is blasphemous. That what it gives back to our economy and the environment should be equal to a free pass.

In my eyes, not a chance.

I worked in the oil and gas industry for many years as both a pipefitter and a welder, so I’m not blind to its importance to Alberta and other places where it can be drilled for, dug up, piped etc. I’m also not oblivious to the fact that it is important to our way of life.

But I’m also not blind to the impacts it has on our environment and believe that it is the responsibility of this magazine, of outdoorsmen and women everywhere, to take interest in those things that may cause environmental damage, regardless of what those things are. After all, the critters we so profess to love and concern over depend on us for exactly that.

Recent statistics provided by Alberta’s own Energy Resources Conservation Board (see Bob Scammell’s column on page 30) show there is need for concern. Even those protective of the oil and gas industry cannot shy away from the fact that oil spills are becoming far too frequent in this province.

Especially with three spills in the last couple of months, including one into the Red Deer River (475,000 litres of light sour crude) that is most likely creating havoc with 30 kilometres of the riparian zone of that river.

Studies show that 80 percent of all wildlife species depend upon riparian zones. These zones, when healthy, provide shelter, food, and migration corridors for wildlife, as well as act as water filters ensuring clean water enters our waterbodies, thus keeping our fish and our wildlife happy.

With more than 400,000 kilometres of ageing pipeline, some of it 40 to 50-years old, crisscrossing every land type in Alberta, including miles of muskeg, flood plains and riparian zones, somebody better be paying attention. The next spill could be catastrophic.

Ignoring the problems the industry faces isn’t responsible. As outdoorsmen and women concerned with our environment, the onus is on us to try to keep the industry held accountable for its aging infrastructure, which in turn would add hundreds if not thousands of jobs to that very same industry.

Alberta Outdoorsmen will never become a pure-strain hook and bullet magazine; rather, it will remain focused on the issues that affect our backyard and the outdoor pursuits we strive to maintain. It is our responsibility.

We can keep growing the industry for our children, but we still need to protect the outdoors for them as well. ■

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