LETTER: Realize what has already been lost

Comparing the nomadic herds of the African Serengeti plains with the wildlife of the Rocky mountains misses the difference in ecology

I enjoyed Mark Rushton’s article, “Preservation requires co-operation” (Jan. 22), in reference to the Y2Y initiative. Indeed it does, and as an overview perspective on conservation in general he was right on.

However, comparing the nomadic herds of the African Serengeti plains with the wildlife of the Canadian Rocky mountains serves to miss the difference in ecology of the regions.

Certain proposed mega projects such as the Site C dam may interfere “only” with local and not large-scale “north/south wildlife interactions,” but gene migration can be as important as animal migration.

The Peace River, however, already excludes or minimizes movements of most non-avian animals, except for large ungulates and carnivores, and they may still be able to cross, though with increased winter hazards.

However, the biggest ecological issue in the Peace region is that flooding will result in the direct loss, for example, of about 16 per cent of critical winter habitat for moose, 20 per cent for elk, and 45 per cent for deer.  Large animals may move elsewhere temporarily, but eventually loss of living area means loss of populations.

When the Bennett Dam flooded Williston Lake 45 years ago, the devastation was mammoth, right to Alberta’s Peace-Athabasca Delta, where many subsistence trappers were put out of business when habitats dried up. When that project happened, most people witnessing the destruction were up to 50 years older than I. The impression it made on those people made pursuing Site C political suicide.

Now, younger voters and politicians see what is there as the new “normal,” so we are talking about losing just certain percentages of what we now have, not realizing by how much it has already been reduced.  But is it worth losing this in the name of progress? We need to try to see the large picture over space and time to ensure our activities in habitats and landscapes don’t cause extinction by a thousand extirpations.

Ken Summers