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 with Rob Miskosky

Sparring Over the Bighorn

The following is portions of an email sent to me in late July by hunters who suddenly lost the ability to access their hunting camp after the area was limited to OHV use only on designated trails.

My father, my wife Brenda and I have a hunting camp back in White Creek, which is in WMU 402. We are avid hunters and have had great success hunting in that area. Our camp has been there since 1960...

“Access to long-time hunting camps will surely be lost to many.”

Our camp is not in The Bob Creek Wildland Park but we can only access it by crossing the Livingston River. We have just learned that the government, in it’s infinite wisdom, have now taken all access away from us due to a “no motorized vehicle law” implemented at the crossing ...We are devastated that our only means of accessing our hunting area via ATV’S is being taken away. Continuing to hunt the area outside the park should not require us to hire an outfitter, or become horse owners, which we can ill afford.

Unfortunately for these hunters, their hunting camp is in the newly created Livingstone and Porcupine Hills Public Land Use Zone where they are now required to use the newly designated trail system. Of course, this designated trail system was developed with little thought given to longtime users of the area, such as our hunters who have hunted from the same camp since 1960.

These folks and many more are now feeling the effects of Alberta’s commitment to, in Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) Minister Shannon Phillips’ words, “17 percent protection for our natural landscapes by 2020.” Falling in line with Canada’s commitment to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.

Now the more than 5000 square kilometre Bighorn Backcountry is next in line. And while groups like Y2Y, Alberta Wilderness Association and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society appear to have the ear of the NDP Government and are all onboard, many others are opposed to the Bighorn proposal, including Brazeau County who have many concerns.

“As one of the regions hit the hardest by the economic downturn, we cannot afford any reduction to the industries that are our economic engines, nor can we have any uncertainty about opportunities for development and investment,” said Reeve Bart Guyon. “We have serious concerns about the effects of this proposal on the oil & gas, forestry, agricultural, and gravel extraction sectors, which are crucial to the County’s existence.”

In a CBC interview, Cal Rakach, who has been fighting for years to maintain motorized access in the Bighorn said, “You make it a park, and the people are kicked out of it.” Rakach was suggesting the same will happen to the Bighorn as has happened to the Castle Wilderness Area where OHV use is being completely phased out.

In a letter from AEP to stakeholder groups, the “Bighorn Country is a proposal to strengthen the existing management of the area and ensure an appropriate balance between conservation, recreation, and economic diversification. The goal is to ensure safe and positive outdoor recreation and tourism experiences, protect critical headwaters and sensitive landscapes, and support the economic opportunities this area provides Albertans.”

Just ask our hunters if a “positive outdoor recreation experience” was had after losing access to their hunting camp, a camp they’ve used since the 1960s. And while we’re at it, how will the proposal “support the economic opportunities this area provides Albertans.” Brazeau County certainly do not believe it will.

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