"A reason or a season”
These words have been swirling in my head like a mantra lately. Dave Jensen spoke these words at Fish Tales' 20th anniversary celebration to encourage anglers to get involved in conservation issues and he's regularly shared this same message with me.
I've been part of the Calgary fishing community since we opened Fish Tales in 1997. During that time I've been a quiet and (I hope) steady voice on conservation and industry issues. As a board member of Trout Unlimited's Bow River Chapter 20(+) years ago I took on e-newsletters, a website overhaul, and the role of dinner chair for the annual Fall Splash. Since before the flood of 2005 I've been President of three different renditions of an Outfitter/Guide Association in Alberta.
I've participated on citizen science/third party reviews of attempted changes to regulations on the Ram River and sat on the Bow River regulations review committee prior to the 2013 flood. Since that flood I've worked with provincial biologists on a trout and drought policy, Bow river access issues, and more.
For the most part I've done this quietly with the hope that my voice elicits some benefit to the watersheds I love and the industry I've chosen as my career.
I can no longer be quiet.
I am disgusted with the UCP government's decision to rescind the decades-old coal policy. A decision that was made without public consultation (I have had some experience with public consultation...)
I am concerned about the impacts this decision has on watersheds in areas that are home to species-at-risk.
I don't understand the logic behind this decision that allows international corporations - Australia, China, and others - to benefit from Alberta's natural resources while putting fish and wildlife, watersheds, drinking water, tourism operations, and irrigation sources at risk.
To what end?
- 1% royalties?
- Coal being stripped from the mountains and shipped overseas?
- Nominal rental fees for the land.... ?
Where does that leave
- the ranchers who have grazed cattle on that same land for generations
- the farmers downstream who rely on clean water to irrigate the crops that Albertans eat
- the backcountry guides - fishing, hiking, horseback, hunting - who work in those areas and leave minimal traces
- the recreational hikers and anglers that return to these areas every year
- the species-at-risk - bull trout, west-slope cutthroat trout
Premier Lougheed recognized the risks of open pit mining and the benefits of protecting wild spaces 45 years ago when he signed Alberta's Coal Policy. The wisdom of his decision was trampled last year when Premier Kenney and the UCP government rescinded that Policy.
Generally, I don't speak out politically.... Sometimes standing up for what you believe in backfires especially in the days of social media. But when so much of the Eastern Slopes - from Hinton to the US Border - is at risk of being turned into open pit coal mines I can no longer be quiet.
A reason or a season...
Right now speaking out against the proposed coal mines and asking to have the 1976 Coal Policy re-instated is my reason. The season is short - cutoff to provide input on the proposed Grassy Lake mine near Blairmore is January 15.
Please educate yourself on the issue surrounding coal mining on the Eastern Slopes and if it upsets you like it does me then let your voice be heard. (Links to related articles at bottom of post)
If this isn't something you share my outlook on it's ok - afterall we live in a democracy. But I do encourage you to help conserve the rivers that you recreate on. I've always believed that anglers should be a strong voice for the resource.
As per Dave's words - get involved for a reason or a season. And frankly when it comes to the environment and fisheries resources we all have too many reasons to be loud and too few seasons to be heard.
Kevin Van Tighem's recent article "Coal vs Trout" in Outdoor Canada
Bringing Coal Back - CBC News
Government of Canada's Page on Grassy Mountain Coal Project - read through and provide comment.
- David Blair's comment on the GOC page.
- Nancy Storwick's comment on the GOC page.
- Bow River Guide John Roggensack's comment on the GOC page.
- Courtney Neal’s comment on the GOC page.
Numerous other online sources are available.