“Within the span of a hundred years, the wilderness of Alberta has given way, at first slowly to gentle ranch lands, then with dizzying pace to agriculture, urban development and industrialization. This rich province so recently a natural frontier is now largely cultivated, industrialized and urbanized. What wilderness we have now is all we shall ever have.” – AWA 1980
For more than 50 years AWA has worked throughout Alberta to keep the wilderness that the Association and its directors recognized was our fastest diminishing resource and develop a network of protected areas that allow refuge and movement for wildlife, secures our biodiversity, our water and our clean air.
AWA has impressive achievements from its early days Finding a few highlights for this About Us page is not easy; so much has happened, so much is behind the scenes, so much has impacted important decisions and we know without doubt that we are all better for AWA’s work. Our work may not be obvious or even recognized, but it makes a difference as we stay true to our mission “Defending Wild Alberta through Awareness and Action“.
While we believe many of our values are universal, we need to bring greater diversity into our Association and the environmental movement. We aim to be more reflective of Alberta’s diversity in our composition, perspectives, thinking and values, how we reach out, and how we do things.
We live and work across the traditional lands of the First Nations and Métis peoples of Alberta, including Treaties 4, 6, 7, 8 and 10. We express gratitude and respect for these lands and commit to advancing reconciliation with Indigenous peoples to ensure justice, equality, and sustainability for all people and the natural world we rely on.
Following are some of AWA’s top achievements in its first 50 years.
In the 1970s, when the province had a more open door policy, AWA pushed for and secured protection of several eastern slopes Rocky Mountain wildlands – the Ghost, Siffleur, White Goat, Willmore. AWA staff and volunteers displayed untiring advocacy in numerous Integrated Resource Plans along those Eastern Slopes. These Integrated Resource Plans helped AWA successfully fight proposed gas wells and secure protection for the Whaleback; remarkably the first wells in Alberta to ever be turned down for environmental reasons. AWA worked tirelessly to secure Alberta’s Policy for Resource Management of the Eastern Slopes in 1977, a process which had incredible public engagement and resulted in a vital policy which drives decision making to this day.
AWA was instrumental in securing protection of the Milk River Canyon in the 1980s (an area we co-manage to this day). The same successful effort went into securing designation of the Suffield National Wildlife Area, an area that AWA vigorously defended from 1270 proposed shallow gas wells)
We have worked on this endangered natural region since the 1970s and won protection for the David Lake and globally important Rumsey areas
AWA helped secure protection of an internationally significant Ramsar wetland at Hay-Zama as a wildland park. We worked with the government of Inner Mongolia to twin Hay-Zama with another Ramsar site at Dalai Lake in Inner Mongolia. The process led to time limits for resource development and all oil and gas production has now ceased. Operators are in the clean-up phase now and AWA is seeking solid management of this wildland park going forward.
AWA has invested decades of work on protecting public lands. With Alberta Fish and Game Association we successfully stopped major public land lease sales in the early 1980s –public lands we would not have today without such a hard fight. In 2010 AWA successfully fought to stop “Potatogate”, the sale of valuable public grasslands which were home to several species at risk. We continue to be staunch defenders of public land to this day. AWA also participated heavily in the grazing lease disposition review that helped improve management and public access and continues to be involved in ongoing reviews.
With help from Ecojustice, AWA had success in the courts securing legally designated Critical Habitat and an Emergency Protection Order. With the Sage-grouse Partnership AWA is working on the future for this critically imperiled species – there is some hope with a small increase in the population and the number of males dancing on leks! Great care and constant vigil is still needed.
There has been success in the courts helping move towards protection; it is long slow process for on the ground change but, as with sage-grouse, AWA is moving the needle and keeping government’s feet to the fire with persistent, consistent, hard work at the meeting tables and in the public. Draft range plans have been written and public comment is being sought.
AWA was a key player in getting the spring hunt cancelled after years of pressure and some innovative and exciting public education campaigns. We still struggle daily to keep areas roadless and reduce disturbance in key habitat areas.
AWA broke ranks with the behind the closed door secrecy and exposed that the Coal Policy was about to be rewritten – our actions prevented opening up new areas to exploration and development
AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST
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AWA is known to be THE main Alberta repository of expertise that has proved so helpful in so many processes and negotiations (water, fish, wildlife, public lands, protected areas, forestry, OHVs)
Above all, AWA has an impressive toolkit and we use the right tool for the job –AWA has been at the forefront with its effective use of litigation (Sage Grouse, Caribou) but also collaborative processes like Hay-Zama, Milk River Management Committee and Sage-grouse Partnership. Over time we have built up relationships with local landowners and ranchers throughout the province. AWA has shown leadership in numerous hearings (ERCB, NRCB, NEB, FEARO/CCEA, AER) and a plethora of government processes on land, water and biodiversity.
There are a number of successes on the horizon including the overdue protection of the Castle Wilderness and Milk River Ridge grasslands that under the slow pace of conservation have waited decades for true legislated protection.
AWA is people, people who are known for their tenacity, strength, integrity and caring ways. People who make all the difference and help everyday. AWA recognizes everyone who has helped and made a difference, it is people who make it possible for AWA to be strong, vibrant and a force to be dealt with.
Alberta Wilderness Association is a federally registered charity number 118781251RR0001 and is registered provincially under the Societies Act.