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 with Rob Miskosky

It's About Responsibilities

“I am glad I will not be young in a future without wilderness.”  – Aldo Leopold

“I signed up for my first year of Alberta Outdoorsmen magazine about six months ago. This will be the first and last time I ever give this organization any money. I’m sick and tired of their writers and the constant hate on anything they don’t believe in. Every second magazine bashes the Alberta Oil industry, to which many Albertans make their living from. Very poorly written and managed magazine the whole way through.” – disgruntled AO subscriber. That statement came from a subscriber of Alberta Outdoorsmen.

I imagine he is young, not realizing that what he cherishes—which I will assume would be our outdoor pursuits, or he would not have invested his time and money into this magazine—is fraught with challenges.

The Canadian boreal forest is home to almost half of North America’s migratory ducks, geese and songbirds. Many ornithologists, entomologists and wildlife biologists agree that habitat fragmentation, caused by industrial development and resource extraction is taking a toll on these birds.
- photo purple finch
He has yet to realize that our outdoor pursuits are solely dependent on a healthy environment that is able to sustain wildlife of all manners. Each of which is solely dependent on the other; but more importantly, dependent upon those of us who have the ability to shape or change its environment.

The loss of just a single species because of man’s footprint is unfathomable, regardless of its rank among the outdoor community.

Alberta is a province that can boast the mountains, the foothills, the parklands and the prairies. And with this comes an abundance of wildlife, from the majestic bighorn sheep to the speedy antelope, and from the handsome golden trout to the not-so handsome burbot, each with its own role to play, provided each receives proper stewardship.

Alberta is also the land of opportunity, as shown by a burgeoning population, foreign investment, and the want of its resources.

According to the Alberta Land Institute, “The province holds a diverse resource portfolio that includes coal, conventional oil, natural gas, oil sands, coal bed methane and unconventional gas. While the economic contributions of Alberta’s energy sector are significant, so too is its ecological footprint of 1.5 million hectares.”

And, “To date, Alberta has harvested 2.6 million hectares of forested land, and another 4.7 million hectares are expected to be logged by 2055.”

That “want” of our resources does not come without a heavy price; unfortunately, that price is paid for by wildlife that has no say in the matter. And once that wildlife no longer has suitable habitat, be it forest, prairie or river, then we too will be paying the price.

Alberta Outdoorsmen and its writers do not have a “hate on” for resource extraction, as suggested by the aforementioned subscriber. That is just plain silly. We need fuel for our vehicles, heat for our homes and wood for our shelters, just as every person does. We are not calling for an end to these industries. Our concern is for the manner in which our resources, both renewable and non-renewable, are being exploited and the rate at which that exploitation is taking place.

Do we really need to get it all this very minute? Do we really need to ship it to foreign countries for their use, not ours?

It is a balance we seek. A balance that will guarantee the sanctity of wild places and the wild creatures that inhabit them, guarantee to our children and their children that our outdoor pursuits will remain whole and intact for them as they are to us, not reduced to the remember when’s of old.

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches, or its romance.”

And while old Teddy was most certainly referring to our American counterparts, his words, most certainly, can be applied here, to each and every Albertan.

To ignore industrial destruction for the want of money is to violate the responsibility given to us by nature herself. Governments cannot be counted on, for their successes and failures are measured by that same want of money.

If you have witnessed the solitary rise of a trout in waters so clear it bends the mind, have walked to the ends of the treeline just to behold ancient rock, have felt the hair rise on the back of your neck upon finding the great bear’s track in one of your own, or listened to the sound a flock of chickadees makes while flying over frozen snow, it is your responsibility to make sure those coming behind us can feel, see, and hear those same things. If not, you, we, will have failed to preserve what we love and live for. ■

For previous Outdoor Pursuits click here.

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