I see a connection between tourism and caribou conservation

To the Editor:

The ‘Tourism group is looking for ways to brand the area.’ (Lakeside Leader, March 7.) Right below that article is a discussion of the fate of the woodland caribou saying that Reeve Murray Kerik and other leaders throughout the greater area are fighting against the caribou conservation efforts.

I see a connection between tourism and caribou conservation. I have not seen the plans that our leaders are fighting against but it seems to include protecting some land. I think his concern about employment and finances rests on the idea that trucks and machines would be restricted in protected areas. But protected land can attract money and provide jobs in tourism. In fact tourism is one of the fastest growing industries in the world.

In the US alone 70 million people spend billions to watch wildlife in their natural habitat. Ecotourism in Canada has shown there are many people willing to spend money to see wildlife. The whale watching in Victoria and the polar bear tours to Churchill come to mind. Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario hosts a public Wolf Howl program that has had 1,500-2,000 people every time they hold it. We have the Boreal Centre for Bird Conservation and it is an attraction for visitors but we can do more.

We could have a wilderness reserve for caribou and with the other charismatic species (deer, wolf, bear, coyote) which could be a destination for wildlife viewing. If northern ‘safaris’ were organized onto wildlife reserves then people could view the animals in a non-invasive way. Such guided visits to wildlife reserves in Africa and India are the highlight of many people’s visits. Why not here?

Reeve Kerik said, “If they can’t adapt, maybe it’s time they went….” (The north he suggests they move to is already occupied,) The formula he recommends for the caribou also applies to human beings. If animals cannot survive they disappear, if people cannot make a living they are forced to move. The world price of oil is up and down and out of our control.

The softwood lumber disputes are legendary. These industries are controlled by forces far out of our control and it is very frustrating to see the effect it has on our communities. I know Mr. Kerik is aware of these facts and I call on him to look more thoughtfully at the tourism – wildlife connection and try to develop a workable plan.

P.S. I just wonder if the editor put these two stories side by side on purpose

Linda Munroe
Slave Lake, AB

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