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LETTER: Responding to Ron Orr’s backcountry claims

A Ponoka News reader speaks to the province’s goal to protect the Bighorn area

Dear Editor,

MLA, Ron Orr’s comment, “They intend to create a provincial park in the Bighorn area,” almost leaves the reader thinking this is a bad idea?

The Alberta Government website describes provincial parks as:

• preserving Alberta’s natural heritage through support of outdoor recreation, tourism and

activities compatible with the natural environment.

• protecting both natural and cultural landscapes and features.

Albertans support the preservation of our natural heritage not only for our use and enjoyment but, also, that of future generations.

At the end of the day, the government — elected by the people — is responsible for decisions concerning Alberta, not Orr’s supposed “foreign funded” Y2Y or CPAWS consultants. To set the record straight, Y2Y is a joint Canadian/U.S. non-profit seeking to preserve the Rocky Mountain wilderness from Yellowstone to the Yukon and CPAWS is an entirely Canadian non-profit seeking to protect Canada’s land and water resources for future generations of Canadians.

Perhaps Mr. Orr’s named “local user groups” could collaborate with these scientific-based conservation consultants in their discussions with the government to achieve a win-win solution?

Mr. Orr’s statement, “If they succeed, all the local user groups may find themselves shut out of camping, hiking, fishing, cycling, horse riding, OHV and snowmobile use…” is misleading.

Based on CPAWS website statement under the heading, “Why is the Bighorn Important?” states “…the Bighorn provides stunning recreational opportunities including hiking, camping, climbing, horse-riding, fishing, and hunting.”

What really appears to be Mr. Orr’s concern focuses on OHV usage and random camping, “…You may never again have the freedoms you are about to lose. Your children will be curtailed to parking lots and government run campgrounds.”

Freedom is not a license to use publicly-owned land in whatever manner one wishes.

However, while driving on Hwy 11 west of Nordegg one can readily view random camping along the tributaries emptying into Abraham Lake, and one is more likely to observe quads utilizing the highway ditches than observe wildlife foraging.

Children need to learn responsibility as much as rights and freedoms.

Further, Mr. Orr notes that, Alberta collected almost $50 million in OHV registration fees, which could enhance the backcountry. How do you enhance an ecosystem once it has been damaged or abused? What has been driving the exponential OHV registrations?

More importantly, what is the end use of these OHV units? Would they be the hiking, biking, mountaineering, fishing, horseback pleasure riders and horse outfitting hunters and wildlife viewers?

Can our wild spaces handle the growing pressures of increased OHV traffic and random camping?

Ironically, Mr. Orr concludes we should support conservation groups. Is not that the very mandate of Y2Y and CPAWS? Maybe the government hasn’t “shut you, the local Albertan, out of the conversation”?

Perhaps they have heard and seen the concerns regarding the Bighorn backcountry and are taking action? Responsible stewardship of our natural history and resources ensures future generations of Albertans will see and experience our province’s vast biodiversity.

John Pilon, Ponoka constituent