A conservation group says that separating Alberta Environment and Parks into three different ministries is bad news for fish and wildlife.
“The concern with that is that all of these pieces of fish and wildlife management should be working together towards the goal of fish and wildlife conservation as a whole,” said Devon Earl, conservation specialist with the Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA).
Last week, the AWA issued a public statement saying that it is “extremely concerned” to learn that Alberta’s Fish and Wildlife capacity and staff have recently been split between three separate ministries.
Fishing and hunting allocations have gone to the Ministry of Forestry, Parks and Tourism; fish hatcheries management is now part of the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation; and fish and wildlife species-at-risk decisions have been turned over to the Ministry of Environment and Protected Areas.
AWA noted that its concerns are heightened as the change occurred without public consultation or notice.
Back in November, the group previously joined forces with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) to issue a joint statement expressing their concerns about how the current government’s departmental shuffles would affect management of the province’s parks.
The AWA now expects this new and secret shuffle of responsibilities for conservation to be to the detriment of responsible management of fish and wildlife and conservation as a whole. Different ministries have different mandates, different priorities, and different staff, Earl says, expecting a lack of necessary co-ordination between departments.
“That’s what I think is missing here. We’re in the middle of a biodiversity crisis, and it’s really important to be prioritizing environmental conservation as a whole as a primary goal,” she said.
“For example, the Ministry of Forestry, Parks and Tourism… the priority there is not conservation. We’re putting a major aspect of fish and wildlife conservation, which is the allocation of hunting and fishing, within that Ministry. That is not prioritizing conservation.”
The AWA added that while it does have open lines of communication on various subjects, there wasn’t any word from the provincial government prior to these changes coming into effect and there hasn’t been any explanation since then.
It would be really great to hear the government’s perspective on the reasons for the actions it has taken and what legislators see as the benefits of those decisions, Earl added.
She also wondered whether it is even considering the conservation of fish and wildlife, promising that the AWA will be broaching this subject at one of its upcoming meetings with provincial government representatives.
In the meantime, she asked that people write letters of concern directly to Premier Danielle Smith as well as Rachel Notley, leader of the opposition. It will at least let the government know that people care about how our fish and wildlife are managed, even if it doesn’t result in getting it to reverse its course.
The AWA is now calling on the government to put things back where they came from, defragment staff and restore a “cohesive fish and wildlife branch,” which would maintain accurate population inventories, set science-based hunting and fishing allocations with strong enforcement of rules, maintain and improve habitat protection, and take timely action to recover species at risk.
“That’s really what we’re calling on the government to do,” Earl said.
The AWA also asked the government to thoroughly and transparently review and reconsider the 2011 decision to transfer fish and wildlife conservation officer roles to the Solicitor General.
All three of the ministries involved did not respond to requests for comment before press time.
By Scott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Feb 23, 2023