We all knew it was coming.
The official launch of the 2019 Alberta provincial election finally happened on Tuesday (March 19) and that means the entire province goes to the polls on April 16 to decide what party will be incharge for the next four years.
Speculation around when the writ would drop had been ongoing for weeks, but it is clear Premier Rachel Notley chose to take advantage of recent controversial headlines and revelations around her opposition – United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney.
While Kenney is focused on making the election about the economy, jobs and pipelines, Notley is clearly focused on Kenney’s record and the controversy swirling around his nomination and the so-called kamikaze candidate.
But when it comes to the Bow Valley and communities like Canmore and Banff - there are other important election issues related to land use management and conservation.
Kenney was in the Bow Valley last week to officially unveil his party’s conservation platform and while the background matched the topic, the content is not up to snuff by local standards.
If Kenney and the UCP want to equate conservation with conservative they still have a lot of work to do.
Kenney called it a “common sense” conservation plan and that phrase is a cause for concern for some. When it comes to politics, phrases like common sense, sustainable and balanced are wishy washy at best and somewhat devoid of any real meaning. Common sense for one person, is not necessarily so for another.
When it comes to conservation, however, the residents of the Bow Valley value science – the impartial application of metholodogy to understand how natural systems work and how our presence as humans on any particular landscape effects those processes.
The values that many people have for conservation in this region hold up natural, intact and untouched wilderness as the goal of managing land use and wildlife at the landscape level.
Values of conservation within the UCP fold seems to be focused on how these lands can be used by humans for resources, recreation or economic development. The priority seems to be placed on human use, and not on mitigating or addressing our impacts.
This perspective places value on intact natural wild places fo their intrinsic value – for the ecological processes and wide open landscapes that species like grizzly bears and wolverines need to survive and thrive. These values protects streams, rivers and waterways for the habitat they provide to species like the threatened westslope cutthroat trout. They also recognize that places like the Rocky Mountains and the eastern slopes are where drinking water for millions of residents of this province and Saskatchewan originates.
There is space in this province to meet everyone’s needs reasonably, unless that need is to go unchecked in how we as humans make our mark in the wilderness.
Leave no trace has always been a concept naturalists have respected and if this province is serious about conservation of these special wild and natural places for the future, then how they are managed should take that into account.
The conservation policy plan Kenney detailed last week in Canmore did contain several objectives that could support increased areas for conservation and create a revenue source for work within them. The first is a significant increase in funding for the provincial land stewardship trust to $15 million. This fund helps landowners who wish to keep areas in pristine condition to dedicate them towards those goals.
There was also a licence fee proposed for OHV and camping trailers to create dedicated fund for resoration of trails. This proposal is a good first step, but should also be accompanied by education for quad users around how their activities impact the landscapes they are on. This idea should be leveraged to prevent damage, not just fix it.