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Ottawa needs to use common sense on Sage Grouse issue

Posted on April 22, 2014 by 40 Mile Commentator

Letter to the Editor:

Ottawa has issued a 140-plus page emergency order that it claims will protect the sage grouse. Only about three per cent of sage grouse habitat is even in Alberta.There are substantial numbers in the U.S.

Washington says it might, some day, decide to list the bird as endangered, but it hasn’t.The World Wildlife Fund says there are between 100,000 and 500,000 sage grouse. In numerous states, sage grouse are legally hunted.

Ottawa’s order imposes severe restrictions on ranchers and oil companies. Lost revenues and increased costs will be double digit millions. Among other things, the order restricts sound levels in big chunks of southern Alberta to 45 decibels (dbl) for fixed periods of time, in some cases to a maximum of an hour a day.

It is now illegal during certain periods for people who don’t live in regions of southern Alberta to drive through on their way elsewhere, if the sound from their vehicle exceeds 45 dbl. (A normal conversation is 60 dbl. Rainfall is 50 dbl.)

Fencing restriction include miles of posts being fitted with spikes, cones, or having tops cut at 45-degree angles, plus mandatory flagging/reflectors installed on wires.

The size of the U.S. sage grouse population makes any normal person wonder about importing birds. Taxpayers could shell out $5,000 each for 400 sage grouse and come out ahead. And what would happen if ranchers, instead of being bullied by bureaucrats were offered $5,000 every time the sage grouse population on their holdings increased by one bird? Many ranchers would invest their own dollars in sage grouse habitat.

It makes sense to coordinate with U.S. state governments, but at the very least, Ottawa has got to abandon its heavy-handed threats of punishment, preferring incentive-based solutions that give ranchers and energy companies an inducement to work collaboratively with those who would want to see these birds and their habitat protected. Publicly-funded wildlife easements on private property would be an example.

Ottawa’s current sage grouse strategy simply turns federal bureaucrats into enviro-bullies. There is nothing elegant, creative, or common sense about that.

Harper MPs should be embarrassed.

Kevin Avram


(The writer represents the Grassroots Alberta Landowners Association.)

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