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In Memoriam Dr. Diana Horton March 6, 1949 – June 24, 2018

June 1, 2019

Wild Lands Advocate article by: Ian Urquhart

Click here for a pdf version of this article.

Dr. Diana Horton passed away suddenly at her home in Vancouver, Washington last June. After completing her PhD in Botany at the University of Alberta in 1981 Diana joined the Department of Botany at the University of Iowa. She taught there for over 25 years and retired as a Professor Emeritus.

I didn’t know Diana well but was fortunate to meet her in Fort McMurray in 2006. Then I was part of the AWA team (with Shirley Bray and Joyce Hildebrand) that was working on the McClelland Lake wetland complex issue. In looking over the notes from our meeting it’s obvious that Diana’s knowledge about McClelland Lake was the focal point for much of our discussion.

Diana’s obituary spoke of her expertise in the taxonomy and ecology of bryophytes (mosses) and “her unflinching belief in the importance of fighting for environmental causes.” In my own work on the politics of exploiting Alberta’s tar sands I had benefited from both of these attributes. Diana’s knowledge figured importantly in the 2002 Alberta Energy and Utilities Board hearings into the application by TrueNorth Energy to construct and operate what is now effectively the Suncor Fort Hills oil sands mine. Her testimony during those hearings reflected her commitment to fight for environmental causes.

The testimony she gave then is as relevant now as it was 17 years ago. The wetland complex is “exceptional” and is “one of the largest and most spectacular patterned fens in the province, rivaling the natural beauty of sites in the Canadian Rockies.” Removing part of the fen would compromise its ecological integrity and the aesthetic value of its unusual reticulated pattern. She urged the Board to reject the company’s application or to prohibit mining throughout the McClelland Lake drainage. The Board rejected her arguments and Diana joined the list of the many ecological experts whose advice was cast aside in favour of unfettered exploitation.

Memorial gifts may be made to the University of Alberta, Department of Biology. To arrange a memorial gift in Diana’s name please contact the University at giving@ualberta.caor by telephone at 780-492-7400 or 1-888-799-9899. Please be sure to identify that your donation is in memory of Diana Horton to support the Department of Biology.

No public hearings are scheduled. Only one Alberta organization, the Alberta Wilderness Association, is independent enough that it continues championing public land and the people's right of access to it. So people must speak individually, as they have so many times before, directly to the premier, the minister of Sustainable Resource Development and their MLA, and remind them of what public land means to all of us, that none of it is surplus to our needs, that we do not want it sold.
- Bob Scammell, 2003
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