Alberta Wilderness Association urges people to educate themselves on Alberta’s natural beauty

The Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA) is looking to educate Calgarians on Alberta’s wild side with the 24th annual Climb and Run for Wilderness fundraiser taking place April 18 at the Calgary Tower.

The Climb and Run for Wilderness fundraiser consists of a number of events for people of all ages and athletic ability. This includes competitive racing up and down the Calgary Tower’s 802 stairs for those who want to compete for prizes, as well as a fun climb that just allows participants to climb to the top of the tower where exhibits will be displayed.

Sean Nichols, a conservation specialist at the AWA, emphasizes how important the fundraiser is for the association and for Calgary’s community.

“It’s our single largest fundraiser of the year. It’s a great opportunity to get community involved with nature and we’ve got, what we like to call, the ‘Wild Alberta Expo’, which is an environmental eco fair,” says Nichols. “It’s a great way to get [the] community involved with nature and teach the public what we do and what other organizations do to save Alberta’s species.”

It has become apparent, according to Nichols, that too many people suffer from “nature deficit disorder.” Not enough people are getting outside and the AWA wants to encourage the community to go out and experience something new in Alberta’s natural playground. Nichols says a good start would be learning about the endangered species within Alberta’s borders.Sean Nichols, with the Alberta Wilderness Association, reads over some documents in the AWA archive library.

Photo by Cheryl Russell

One of the ways the AWA attempts to protect animals is to work with ranchers, landowners and developers to keep an eye on how they’re using the land and what impact they are having on the native species within an area. Their goal is to also ensure that the native ecosystem remains intact.

“A lot of the ranchers we work with have been using the same practices for years, and as much as we’d like to just ask them to change their practices, it isn’t that easy. Unfortunately, in order for them to change their routine, it would often cost the ranchers money, which causes a problem. So, what we do is work with them on the ground and try to find ways for them to continue what they do without impacting them financially and the environment,” Nichols says.

Nichols stresses that too many people are sitting indoors and have gotten into a bit of a rut. He strongly encourages people to go outside and see what Alberta has to offer in terms of parks, wilderness, trails, and lakes.

“It’s a great way to get [the] community involved with nature and teach the public what we do and what other organizations do to save Alberta’s species.”

-Sean Nichols, conservation specialist with the AWACarolyn Campbell, also a conservation specialist at the AWA concentrates more on Alberta’s industry and growing companies that also impact Alberta’s natural grasslands and forests.

“In Alberta, there has been such an overwhelming amount of industrial activity. Many layers of industrial activity in areas of the province that used to be intact. It’s energy, exploration and development, it’s extensive and broad forestry leasing, and then you have recreational access on top of that that can deepen those impacts. There is too much going on in most places in Alberta,” Campbell says.

According to Campbell, Alberta’s industry is concentrating too hard on developing now and building without stopping to look at the long-term and cumulative impacts on everything that is being developed and cultivated.

Despite constantly battling to protect Alberta’s wilderness, the AWA has found success in their ventures.

“We’ve stopped a lot of negative projects, such as conversion of a lot of native grassland into irrigated land to cultivate potatoes. Also, helping to stop a hydro project, that was a big one,” she explains.

The Alberta Wilderness Association says the provincial government has pledged to be a world leader in terms of environmentally responsible resource development and the AWA is going to hold them to their word.

The Alberta Wilderness Association building located on 12th St. N.W. Calgary.

Photo by Cheryl RussellCampbell hopes to see more areas protected that will allow future generations to be able to enjoy Alberta’s wild spots.

Nichols hopes people will go outside and open their minds to what nature has in store for them. He says if the public isn’t sure where to start, the Climb and Run for Wilderness on April 18 is a good opportunity to learn more information.

Registration for the Climb and Run for Wilderness fundraiser closes April 17, with the event kicking off April 18. For more information, visit http://climbforwilderness.ca/.

crussell@cjournal.ca