By Lethbridge Herald on September 1, 2021.
I’ve noticed that many people, and seemingly all Government of Alberta (GoA) officials, are quick to proclaim provincial land-use regulations are excellent. Are they? What are they worth?
It matters not how many wonderful words are written to paint a picture of a fully-clothed emperor if the emperor, naked, reveals the naked truth.
Each year I visit Alberta’s special places. Each year I find them in ever-worsening condition. This legacy of unrelenting degradation hurts at a deep and visceral level. It cuts into my heart.
The ghost town of Lille, one example, has witnessed this decades-in-degradation devastation of its historic structures. There, interpretive signs, relatively new, are riddled with bullet holes. Nearby, other signs, smashed, litter the ground. Their message, lost in the mud and ruts of creek-crossing vehicles, describes the need for vehicles to stay out of the creek in order to protect threatened native trout. The truth, ugly, lies at my feet.
The Provincial Land-Use Zone (PLUZ) at Tecumseh Mountain provides another example of issue-defining outcomes. There, muddy ruts make it clear the existing maze of off-road “trails” is not sustainable. Countless tons of soil have been eroded, and the so-called “trails” cross mountain streams where water, diverted, courses down off-road “roads.” It gets worse. This brand of “Mountain Freedom” exposes the raw essence of a landscape on which there are no rules. Waist-deep trenches cut by churning dirt bikes go straight up the mountain, and in the ruts lie wheel-excavated mountain lady’s-slippers (orchids) and other rare plants.
The GoA erected signs. The message: NO MOTORIZED USE is posted at the trailheads.
The signs feature pictures of a snowmobile, a dirt bike, a truck, and an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) in the event someone might wonder what NO MOTORIZED USE might mean.
The result: Motorized off-road abuse accelerated. Here, as everywhere on public land, many off-road motorists continue to entrench the tragic destruction of Alberta’s headwaters.
The posted rules and regulations are a joke, a visual affront to the raw, naked truth, the exposure of wanton degradation, the debasement of a priceless heritage.
GoA staff have been contacted year after year to address this mess. Decades have passed in which pictures of the devastation have been sent along with heartfelt letters.
I recently wrote to Alberta Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon with a request that he take action.
I received a form letter response. The message: “Environment and Parks endeavors to strike a balance of responsible recreational use and protection of watersheds, habitats and species.”
I see no evidence of balance. I see a catastrophic diminishment of Alberta’s cultural and natural resources, the muddying of streams and rivers, the ongoing loss of at-risk native plants and animals. I see a problem that can’t be fixed with words.
I wonder this: To whom should I write in order for action to be taken?
There’s an old saying: Tell someone who cares.
I wish I could find that person.
Monica Field lives in southwestern Alberta in the shadow of the Livingstone Range. She’s in love with the land at her doorstep, and has worked from it to manage Provincial Historic Sites in Alberta.
Monica is a singer/songwriter and has also been an active educator specializing in diverse cultural resources and natural history disciplines. She has extensive knowledge of Alberta’s archeology, botany, paleontology, geology, and the province’s history of coal mining and oil and gas exploration.