In the 1970s and early 80s Peter Lougheed created Alberta’s first government departments for protection of the environment.
As part of this, he hired a handful of Fish and Wildlife habitat protection biologists and positioned them around Alberta to ensure industrial developments were done in ways that protected wildlife habitat. That was Alberta’s ‘CONSERVE-ative era’ of wildlife management.
In the late 1980s and 90s the Getty and Klein governments continued to establish approval and referral processes and maintained an effective Fish and Wildlife Division to serve Albertans. This was Alberta’s ‘con-SERVE-ative era’ of wildlife management.
From the mid 1990s to 2010 there was an erosion of the Fish and Wildlife Division. Habitat protection biologists were eliminated. Industrial referral systems were dismantled. Habitat development was privatized. Up until that time, the Fish and Wildlife Division had paid for itself with hunting and fishing license revenues being similar to annual expenditures. It was a government department funding itself! But since 1997, what you pay for hunting and fishing licenses has been shunted over to a non-government corporation.
The conservatives were coming under attack from right and left. Nothing survived unless it was for ‘the party.’ This was demonstrated in 2010 when the premier and his minister killed the work on Alberta’s Species at Risk Stewardship Act. Had they read it, they would have understood the legislation would have brought species at risk back into provincial jurisdiction. But paranoia ruled during this ‘conservative PARTY era’ of wildlife management.
Now they’re disassembling the last remnants of the Fish and Wildlife Division, like a vulture picking at the final scraps of an old carcass. Fish and Wildlife enforcement officers have been sent down the road to the highway sheriffs, fish have been farmed to agriculture and wildlife skidded to a forestry minister who owns a hunting outfitting company – surely a case of the fox guarding the hen house! Only the tiny species at risk group stays with Environment, but with no legislation to support them. Is it fish and wildlife management?
No – it’s all a big con-job. And you guessed it, we’re now well into Alberta’s ‘CON-servative era’ of wildlife management.
wildlife biologist (retired)