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 with Rob Miskosky

Resurrecting the AOC

Environmental groups in Alberta have long been pushing the provincial government towards protecting public lands through the creation and expansion of provincial parks and protected areas, often called wilderness and conservation areas”, “wildland parks”, “wildlife corridors”, “wildlife sanctuaries”, “heritage sites”, “natural areas”, and other fancy names. And with any creation or expansion of a protected area or provincial park comes restrictions on land-use within these areas.

Long ago, environmental groups recognized the need for strategic alliances with parks’ departments to steer the course in which land-use decisions are made. Almost always, industry, grizzly bears and wolves are used as the reason for the need to expand, create, or to further protect these areas from human use. However, far too often, land-use restrictions affect hunters, anglers, trappers and recreational users of these same lands once a creation or expansion of a protected area or provincial park comes to fruition. People living and working within close proximity to these areas are also affected with a loss of income, as fewer opportunities become available to them. 

Recognizing that user groups of public lands were under threat of being denied access to many of their traditional areas, in January of 2006, the Alberta Off Highway Vehicle Association, Alberta Trappers’ Association, Alberta Fish and Game Association, Alberta Snowmobile Association, Alberta Bowhunters Association, Alberta Professional Outfitters Society, Willmore Wilderness Foundation, and Wild Sheep Foundation Alberta met to discuss concerns regarding past and current processes used in land-use planning. This meeting led to the creation of a group called the Alberta Outdoors Coalition (AOC) with a clear intent to work towards the preservation of responsible recreational access and the enhancement of Alberta’s wilderness and natural resources. In other words, the groups felt there were serious concerns regarding the process for designating potential wildland and provincial parks and wanted an equal voice to the Alberta Environmental Network—a non-profit, non-partisan organization comprised of groups throughout the province dedicated to helping preserve and protect Alberta’s environment.

While it took a couple of years for the AOC to be fully recognized by government, the coalition formed a common front with diverse interests at a provincial organization level, ran a successful campaign to alter the proposed Rock Lake/Solomon Creek Provincial Park boundaries, and provided advice to then Alberta Tourism Parks and Recreation Minister, Cindy Ady, for the design and implementation of the Alberta Plan for Parks 2009-2019 (

The AOC were being heard and recognized in the same light as the Alberta Environmental Network groups were.

The prospect of such a large group of outdoor users having an equal voice had most of us extremely excited; finally, a group that could ensure that the traditional, heritage, and social aspects of all outdoor activities are recognized and respected by government, planners, and society.

But then something happened; the AOC went quiet... its potential lost to the volunteer vacuum that can easily suck the life out of many that find themselves with far too much on their plates. However, not all is lost; I’m happy to say that several have recognized the importance of the AOC’s voice where land-use decisions are being made.

On October 21, representatives of the AOC member groups once again held a meeting, recognizing that the NDP Government is pushing forward with many land-use decisions that will alter the way hunters, anglers, trappers and recreational users access or use certain public lands.

It’s being suggested that the Alberta Parks department have become bed partners with the Alberta Environmental Network and that between the two of them, a massive land-grab is about to begin. Some feel that most of the eastern slopes are within their sights and with the push for the Bighorn to become a park and the resulting loss of access into caribou range, where seismic line restoration is about to begin, traditional users of these lands could be shut out. There is also concern that big changes could be coming for Willmore Wilderness Park, including another attempt at a UNESCO designation.

The resurrection of the AOC could not have come at a better time; perhaps, for all of us, it’s just in time.

For previous Outdoor Pursuits click here.

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