Today, I’m off to the 100th Anniversary Conference of the Alberta Fish and Game Association (AFGA)–Feb. 21-23 in Edmonton. I’ve been to many of these conferences over the years, at first as a government employee trying to get a handle on the concerns of hunters and anglers, then as a contracted AFGA employee and member of the organization. All the conferences have been interesting in terms of either the people who attend or the issues discussed. These are the conferences that determine the policy direction of the longest lived conservation organization in the province.
This year should be especially interesting. There, of course, will be the usual resolutions to open Sunday hunting province-wide (it’s currently only open in specific areas away from most population centres), increase funding to the provincial Fish and Wildlife Division, attacks on the Alberta Conservation Association (funding organization for much of the fish and wildlife research in the province) for not spending more money on fish and game research, etc. etc. However, the most interesting discussion, both official and unofficial, will be over the Open Spaces program, the pet project of Alberta Sustainable Resource Development minister, Ted Morton. I intend to go into the specifics of this project at a later date, but the bottom line for many attending the conference, is that this program could open the door to paid hunting on private land. The fact that the Minister is scheduled to deliver his annual AFGA speech Friday at noon when he and his government are seeking re-election should make for an interesting afternoon.
Now, if you work in conservation biology or have studied the history of wildlife management in North America, you know that paying a land owner for access to a public resource (which is what wildlife is in most of North America) is blatant sacrilege. Land owners are free to close access to anyone, but they should not be allowed to charge for access to a resource they do not own, or so goes the mantra. Morton’s Open Spaces threatens to open that door (as has been done in some other jurisdictions) with a pilot study that just might put the foot in the proverbial door. More on all that later…
So, what’s wrong with that?