Good, bad and ugly in southwest Alberta

A recent trip to Waterton Park in the southwest corner of the province brought to light some interesting observations

A recent trip to Waterton Park in the southwest corner of the province brought to light some interesting observations not all of them positive. The park itself remains a stunning picture of immense geography and visceral beauty — but it’s the road to get there and the immediate vicinity that should be a cause of concern. It seems our bureaucrats and government politicians are rapidly letting a pristine area of the province become a victim of environmental trendiness and flawed conservation policies.

First the good, a trip on an 86-year-old iconic lake passenger ship to some hiking trips on the USA side certainly was one of the highlights. On the ship were two American custom agents who were assigned to a curious U.S. border crossing station.

The only way to get to their posts was to drive from the U.S. cross the border to Waterton and then take the lake trip to their post. Upon arrival in the U.S. they then checked our passports at this remote outpost. Not that it mattered as the boat was the only way out unless you were an extreme backpacker. Canada Customs does not reciprocate on the return to Canada with no agents anywhere to be seen. It must be one of the few border spots where you can enter Canada without going through customs.

One annoyance with this park and most other Mountain parks is the endless obsession with the well-being of the bear population. Trails and entire sections of parks are regularly closed whenever bears are sighted. God forbid we upset the daily routine of bears. I get the feeling that some park rangers get a perverse delight in thwarting the hiking plans of citizens by sealing off whole sections of parks so as not to disturb their precious bears.

I have come to the point as to wonder of what use bears are to society that they need such over the top protection (oh I forgot they are cute and pretty!). Would we miss them if they were all gone? I think not. Wildlife zealots like to make tiresome statements that the bears were here first so we have to accommodate them, well sabre-toothed tigers used to roam this area too, and I would suggest no one regrets their demise. Enough said.

Now the bad, part of the park and the immediate surrounding area are mostly rolling open grasslands. It was grazed for millennia by buffalo and lately by cattle, but evidently not enough. As with much of the foothill rangelands brush, noxious weeds and trees are infesting and taking over these traditional grazing lands.

I note National Park policy likes to trumpet that it preserves the natural eco-system. I would suggest their do-nothing policy is causing the loss of natural rangelands every day. No grazing or fire are permitted in the area with the result that in a few decades there will no longer be natural rangelands within the park as it reverts to overgrown brush and trees. The Nature Conservancy of Canada group has acquired rangelands bordering the park in order to forestall any development. Their policy is maintain such land by at least continuing with cattle grazing. That area like much of the foothill country is in desperate need of substantial brush removal programs using fire, herbicides and more grazing.

Finally the ugly, the road to Waterton includes passing through a virtual gauntlet of industrial windmill factory farms around Pincher Creek. They never seem to stop building these subsidized eyesores that are just visual pollution and make a mockery of preserving the natural landscape of the area. Windmills are so politically-correct that not even the usual rabid green groups dare mention their viscous deadly impact on wildlife such as eagles and bats. These same groups go apoplectic if a few dozen ducks die in the oilsands, but they are shamefully silent when thousands of eagles and bats die annually in the death-dealing arms of windmills.

It’s hard to say if it was a coincidence, but almost half the windmills were not operating as we passed by on the way to Waterton.

That was after a recent heat wave, when power from windmills was most needed, most windmills in southern Alberta were becalmed. Power companies then had to scramble to buy expensive emergency electricity from B.C. to replace power from the motionless green wind giants. I would suggest that If there are any monuments to the folly of green energy it surely has to be windmills.

— Ahead of the Heard

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