To: The Honourable Rachel Notley
February 21st, 2018
Dear Premier Notley,
The Executive of Northern Lights Fly Fishers Chapter of Trout Unlimited Canada, commends your government’s goal to recover native trout populations along Alberta’s eastern slopes. Our members are very familiar with the watersheds included in the North Central Native Trout (NCNT) recovery program area. They have witnessed damage to streams and riparian land from roads, pipelines, forestry, random camping and off highway vehicles, poaching, impediments to stream flow and water withdrawal from streams for energy and roadway projects. All these factors have contributed significantly to the decline of our native salmonid populations. Volunteers from our group have worked cooperatively with provincial fisheries staff since 2011 to protect the remaining Arctic Grayling populations on the upper Pembina River. It is gratifying to us to see AEP put together a systematic plan to address the decline in native trout populations along the east slopes.
In our opinion, however, the NCNT plan requires considerably more attention to habitat protection and remediation issues. We do not believe that all the necessary recovery actions can be effectively implemented by AEP in isolation. Other Ministries must contribute significantly if the goals of the plan are to be achieved. To date we have not seen enough of this happening to make a meaningful difference. The Roadway Watercourse Crossings Remediation Program, Foothills Stream Crossing Partnership and some restriction on water withdrawal from Dismal Creek are promising signs but barely scratch the surface of the measures required. The plan cannot achieve its goals unless it is endorsed by other Ministers as a Joint Ministry Plan rather than solely an AEP plan. Without that, we have little confidence that the plan will succeed. We fear that although we may gain more information about why the native trout populations are in serious decline, we will simply end up with minimal native trout recovery and continued fishing closures. Ministries responsible for Transportation, Agriculture, Forestry, Justice, Energy and Finance must collaborate fully with AEP and spell out the actions they are prepared to take. All have played a role in our native trout being at risk:
- Transportation, Energy, Forestry and Agriculture all reference in their 2017-2020 Business Plans environmental responsibility and collaboration in fulfilling their mandate. They share with AEP a responsibility to remedy the thousands of hanging and blocked culverts that prevent fish from accessing spawning and over-wintering areas. AEP alone cannot fix the many road, pipeline, seismic and other watercourse crossings on the east slopes that are sources of sediment, negatively affecting water quality, destroying spawning areas, and killing the invertebrates on which the fish depend for food. Damage to riparian areas, water withdrawal for oil and gas exploration and extraction from streams already affected by reduced water levels, the fragmentation of streams - all can be reduced but not without the support of these Ministries.
- Poaching is identified by AEP as a key contributor to declining salmonid populations. The Solicitor General can play a major role by ensuring that there is sufficient enforcement. Perhaps, too, increased fines and other penalties might help deter poaching, illegal use of OHVs, the dumping of garbage and other illegal activity impacting the environment.
- Finance may need to assist by redirecting some funding to areas in which it will be needed for the additional work required.
- Federal assistance might also be requested.
Along with others in the conservation and angling community we are willing and anxious to do our part in helping to recover our native trout populations. We ask for your commitment as leader of the government to ensure that all your Ministries collaborate meaningfully and publicly with AEP on the Recovery Plan and expand measures to ensure that Alberta’s native trout are present for future generations.
Northern Lights Fly Fishers Chapter of Trout Unlimited Canada
Honourable Shannon Phillips, Minister, Alberta Environment and Parks
Honourable Margaret McCuaig-Boyd, Minister of Energy
Honourable Kathleen Ganley, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General
Honourable Oneil Carlier, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry
Honourable Brian Mason, Minister of Transportation
Honourable Joe Ceci, Minister, Treasury Board and Finance