January 17, 2008 | By:

CPAWS Selling Out to Off Road Clubs?

This letter ran in three regional southern Alberta newspapers (Ft. MacLeod Gazette, Pincher Ck Echo, and  the Crowsnest Pass Promoter)

Dear Editor,
The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and their Alberta representative have finally removed their robes and exposed a truly vacant environmental and conservation philosophy. They did it in an e-mail solicitation of off road “clubs,” wisely released to the public by a concerned citizen, in which they attempt to placate these ecologically destructive users of public lands by “offering” them continued use of the Castle should it be designated a park or wilderness area. Many Albertans and Canadians are aware of the multiple use, just-about-everything-goes policy often promoted by CPAWS, and they are also aware that such a policy is scientifically, ecologically and socially fraudulent. Just as importantly, it is completely out of synchrony with public opinion and the public interest, even in Alberta, to suggest, let alone campaign for, the inclusion of motorized vehicles in a wilderness or wildland setting.

Establishing the fact that the ecological function and social value of wilderness and parks are incompatible with motorized and mechanized invasion was a battle fought and won in the U.S. over 40 years ago. This foundation principle and practice is widely accepted around the world, including most parts of Alberta. For CPAWS to come along with this senseless and irresponsible discussion aimed at accommodating motorized violation of the Castle landscape is truly offensive.

For close to 40 years many Albertans, people like Bill Michalsky and Mike Judd for example, have battled for honest wilderness designation for the Castle. CPAWS subservience to motorized vandalism (and let me remind Albertans that any motorized or industrialized use on lands intended for wilderness, wildland or wildlife refuge use, is vandalism) in a possible Castle land use designation is an insult to these pioneer (and continuing) activists and the many people who have agreed with them and supported them for close to half a century. If CPAWS and its collaborators were to succeed in gutting efforts to recover the Castle they would cheat Albertans and further damage the landscape they claim they want to manage for conservation purposes.

CPAWS has demonstrated a near total lack of understanding of the ecological destruction and social conflicts associated with thrillcraft (ORVs and snowmobiles). We’ve all heard of fundamentalist corporate and conservative propaganda, including distortion of conservation language, but that is no different than CPAWS suggesting that a park, wildland or wilderness meets acceptable public standards when those areas are subjected to thrillcraft use. CPAWS seems to be unaware of the mountain of scientific ecological and behavioural evidence linking motorized activity to the destruction of fish and wildlife habitat effectiveness, to subsequent population declines, and to human conflicts and displacement of legitimate peace and quiet respecting recreating citizens. Apparently they have not read my report on the significance of the Castle area to grizzly bears (and other wildlife) and the existing state of ecological degradation partly reflected by conflict between motorized and industrialized users and grizzly bears.
This prostitution of park, wildland, wilderness and wildlife security standards helps clarify why CPAWS, and collaborators like the Sierra Club, seem to be avoiding promotion of public hearings and appear instead to be working behind closed doors to keep discussions of the potential Castle wilderness out of the public realm. I’ll throw in the phrase “public hearings” not because I know it will cause CPAWS to duck, but because it is the Alberta public who are legally entitled to, and ultimately shall, decide the future of the Castle area and presently entrenched special interests like off road vehicle use, livestock use, and industrial activity.

CPAWS is not entitled to, nor qualified to, speak for the public. Nor are they entitled to or qualified to speak for me. And they, and their Alberta representative, are not qualified to speak to the environmentally-destructive consequences of motorized users of public lands. Further, they have been careful not to advocate the completion of a professional independent environmental impact assessment that would provide evidence of those hazards, analyze that data, and provide a basis for more informed public interpretation and participation. If CPAWS dares to make a “private deal” with traditional land abusers – and the recent e-mail re: the CNP quaders suggests they relish that idea – they violate the public trust and threaten the public interest.

Their capitulation and / or willingness to capitulate to some of the very forces that have destroyed and degraded the majority of public lands, not only in Alberta but in North America, is disgraceful. The damage this does to honest grassroots citizen and environmental activists is crippling, and so too, as a consequence, is the damage done to the ecological integrity of our already piecemeal remnants of public land.

I would suggest that if CPAWS and their representative can’t and won’t work to reclaim and protect the ecological integrity of the proposed Castle Wilderness Area, and can’t protect the ecological, democratic and social wealth that lies within wilderness, and continue to undermine the already shaky environmental movement by eroding established principles and progressive public lands vision, it would be a welcome gift to Albertans for 2008 if they and their rep were to step aside in favour of the many Albertans that have principles and vision.

It is Albertans, and this includes all citizens regardless of place of residence, that are entitled to public process. Public process is based on public hearings that allow all people who wish to participate to collectively establish the vision and set the agenda for the conservation of public lands like the Castle, even if it is done area by area.

That is, after all, what democracy and freedom is and should be.

Brian L. Horejsi

Spread Rewilding Around the Globe!
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