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Position Statements are statements by the Association that define how we respond to certain issues and lay the groundwork for our work.

Position of Alberta’s Major Conservation Groups on Alberta’s new Special Places 2000 Policy

On March 28, 1995 the Alberta Government released its rewritten Special Places 2000 policy as its new policy for Alberta. This replaces the earlier Special Places 2000: Alberta’s Natural Heritage, Completing Alberta’s Endangered Spaces Network, which was released in November of 1992 as a draft protected areas plan for Alberta.

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Alberta Wilderness Association's (AWA) main concern is that wild bison remain wild and they be managed as such. 'Wild' bison are those that have not been subject to gene introgression through hybridization with cattle.

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Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

AWA believes there is an urgent and vital need to implement a CWD eradication plan.

AWA does not support the game farming industry for many reasons, including because it is responsible for passing CWD into the wild and infecting North American deer, elk, and moose with the disease.

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Coal Bed Methane (Natural Gas in Coal) on Public Lands

Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA) believes that coal bed methane (CBM) development should be regulated in a manner that is consistent with the maintenance of wilderness values.

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Domestic Livestock Grazing on Public Lands

The main concerns of many communities are wise land use, continuation of domestic livestock grazing, and their need for a strong voice in the management of public lands in their communities. AWA is a strong supporter of public involvement and will continue working with communities on public land management and protected area designations. It is the AWA's view that grazing of domestic livestock on public lands, including protected areas, can be compatible with ecological integrity in a variety of situations, primarily in the Grassland and Aspen Parkland Natural Regions of Alberta.

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Feral Horses

As a conservation organization, Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA) is concerned with the persistence of Alberta’s natural biological diversity including wildlife and natural ecosystems. Feral horses are an introduced species to Alberta. As such, they may have an adverse effect on native wildlife populations through direct competition or through altering ecosystem interactions, and they may have a negative impact on ecosystems that are sensitive to the types of disturbances caused by large herds of the horses.

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Alberta’s Forests

AWA is committed to maintaining healthy and intact forest ecosystems that will sustain biological diversity and viable wildlife populations, provide clean drinking water and promote long-term economic opportunities. AWA supports responsible ecosystem-based forest management that does not compromise wildlife and wilderness values.

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Forest Insects and Disease

AWA supports taking a more ecological approach to the role of forest insects/disease in Alberta's forests. Over a relatively short period of time, Alberta's forests have been divided up with cut lines, seismic lines, roads, trails, pipelines, and homes, carving a once unimaginable expanse of forest into smaller and smaller portions. Alberta's forest ecosystems have been stressed and transformed, and many ecosystem services have been lost. A return to a more natural system is critical to restore these services, which will involve large protected areas set aside, as well as a return to forests managed primarily for a host of values, not just timber production. Sustainable forestry needs ecosystem based models that allow natural control mechanisms to function. Allowing infestations to run their natural course will contribute to natural balance and ultimately, to ecosystem restoration.

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Helicopter Use over Alberta’s Wilderness

Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA) is opposed to the unregulated use of helicopters over such wilderness lands. Helicopter access to these lands must only be allowed for essential official or safety reasons where it does not adversely affect wildlife, fragile terrain and the human enjoyment of nature by non-motorized means.

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Hunting, Trapping, and Fishing

AWA believes that hunting, trapping, and fishing should be carried out in a humane and sustainable manner, and not to the detriment of the long‐term health of wild populations. We recognize and support traditional harvest by Indigenous peoples, but this too must be sustainable. We oppose the hunting of species that are threatened or endangered, as this is a threat to the ecology of large wilderness. The precautionary principle should prevail: hunting, trapping, and fishing should only be practiced where they can be proven, by valid and independent scientific studies, to not harm wild populations.

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Hydrocarbon Exploration and Development

Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA) believes that hydrocarbon exploration and development should be regulated in a manner that is consistent with the maintenance of wilderness values. There is a fundamental need for the maintenance of wilderness that is free of industrial incursion. Outside of such areas, exploration and development must be conducted in an environmentally responsible manner.

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Motorized Recreation on Public Lands

Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA) only supports the safe and responsible use of motorized recreational vehicles on designated trails in appropriate areas where there is no impact on other recreational users, vegetation, water or wildlife. The environmental damage that is caused by motorized recreation is well documented. Well-designated trails and strict adherence to regulations limiting the use of motorized vehicles are required to minimize damage.

OHV use should be considered and regulated as a formal land use in Alberta. Treating OHVs as a land-use requires their trails to be considered in linear density footprints and future land use planning. To comply with A Policy for Resource Management of the Eastern Slopes (1984), a moratorium must be imposed on the use of off-highway vehicles (OHV) on existing trails within Prime Protection and Critical Wildlife Zones, as well as a moratorium on further OHV trail development in these Zones.

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Pipeline Construction and Operation

Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA) believes pipelines pose significant risks to human and environmental health. Pipelines must be built to the highest possible standards of safety. Pipelines must be routed to avoid impacts to environmentally significant areas including regionally designated areas, protected areas, critical wildlife habitat, intact fragments of grasslands and parklands natural landscapes, and AWA areas of concern, as depicted on our Wild Alberta map. The use of best management practices to minimize disturbance is essential and corridor access must be monitored and controlled through locked gates. Effective monitoring and harsh penalties for noncompliance or environmental damage is imperative.

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Public Lands Management

Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA) believes we all have an obligation to ensure the conservation and responsible management of Alberta’s public lands. To date we believe the management of Alberta’s public lands has failed to address the critical need to include the public within the management framework for public lands. A lack of transparency and accountability hinders public participation in the management of public lands, a vital public resource. AWA believes the development of an overarching public lands policy is long overdue.

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Racism in our Society

Alberta Wilderness Association joins many others in condemning systemic racism in our society and saying that Black lives matter. We say as well that Indigenous lives matter and the lives of racialized communities matter.

While we believe many of our values are universal, we need to bring greater diversity into our Association and the environmental movement. Recent events have caused us to re-examine ourselves, and we will aim to be more reflective of Alberta diversity in our composition, perspectives, thinking and values, the way we reach out, and the way we do things.

We can cite a long history of working in common cause with Indigenous peoples and of efforts to reach out and work with diverse peoples. But we need to do more and we will.

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Renewable Energy Development

AWA supports the Government of Alberta’s commitment to increase renewable energy in Alberta’s electricity system to no less than 30 percent by 2030. The shift will contribute to reducing Alberta’s greenhouse gas emissions and improve the health of Albertans. As important as these climate change and public health goals are, renewable energy sources such as wind and solar must proceed in a fashion respecting and promoting wildlife and landscape protection and health values.

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Sustainable Forests, Sustainable Communities: The Future of Alberta's Southwestern Forests

There is an urgent need to create an alternative model of forest management in Alberta. We envision a new model, based on ecosystem management, guided by independent scientific expertise and augmented by local community participation and benefit. We are not opposed to all logging. Instead we support the development of a forest management model that maintains healthy forest ecosystems as its primary function, and offers sustainable benefits to communities from the wise use of these forests.

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Transmission Lines

Alberta’s landscape is fragmented by a rapidly expanding network of roads, transmission lines, pipelines, cutlines, seismic lines, and other linear disturbance. Transmission lines, serving the growing energy demands of Albertans, make up a large proportion of this network. Alberta has over 13,500 megawatts (MW) of electricity generation capacity, delivered by over 21,000 kilometres of transmission lines. According to Government of Alberta statistics, Alberta has seen 6,500 MW new generation capacity since 1998. In addition, future developments of over 16,100 MW of new power generation (renewable and non-renewable) have been proposed by industry.

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Wilderness Definition

Wilderness exists where large areas are characterized by the dominance of natural processes, the presence of the full complement of plant and animal communities characteristic of the region, and the absence of human constraints on nature.

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AWA supports taking a more ecological approach to the role of fire in Alberta's ecosystems. AWA does not support fire suppression unless it is for the express purpose of saving communities and lives, and believes it is important to let fires burn naturally where it is safe to do so. This will allow forests and grasslands to restore themselves and enhance the overall ecosystem for flora and fauna in Alberta.

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Wildlife Economies and Ungulate Game Farming

AWA is opposed to the privatization, domestication, and commercialization of wildlife, especially activities such as game (ungulate) farming. As an alternative practice, AWA supports living wildlife economies that promote the conservation of wildlife populations in their natural environment and as a public resource.

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I needed something to pare the fat off my soul, to make me grateful again for being alive. And I knew… There is nothing like a wilderness journey for rekindling the fires of life.
- Colin Fletcher
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