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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Letter to the Editor: Fact checking the OHV story


Lorne Fitch, Professional Biologist - When Winston Churchill was accused of lying, he termed his absence of truth a “terminological inexactitude”, the Trump administration has coined “alternative facts” and what the OHV lobby engages in ranges from ”careless with the truth” to outright whoopers. It’s worth disassembling some of the whoopers told by some in the OHV group.

The first is the one about “purpose built ATV trials” that are, “properly designed and engineered”, to be “environmentally integrated”. This is nonsense; the routes used are old seismic trails, logging roads, pipelines, powerlines and ones carved out by cross country travel. Mr. Gary Clark of the Quad Squad would have us believe OHVs operate on yellow brick roads; nothing could be further from the truth.

OHV groups, like the Quad Squad, have, to their credit undertaken some small projects to deal with some of the issues. However, listening to Mr. Clark you would think they were the first, the only and the most significant agent of change on the landscape. The Habitat Branch of the Fish and Wildlife Division was active in the 1980s and 1990s and built or organized the construction of over 350 stream restoration projects. This was followed by Trout Unlimited who have undertaken dozens of restoration and clean-up projects. Following them have been industry related projects and ones done by Cows and Fish and the Oldman Watershed Council.

While the Quad Squad constantly reminds us of the money they have invested, remember the lion’s share was from government grants. As to the “thousands of volunteer hours”, while I’m sure there has been considerable effort, these are unaudited numbers and there is a tendency to add a zero or two to the actual number.

Rather than reading a scientific journal on the impacts of noise and traffic on wildlife, Mr. Clark invokes random observations of wildlife behavior to conclude the science is all bunk. He also contends wildlife numbers are going up in spite of OHV traffic, especially grizzlies and wolverines. Yes, grizzly numbers are up in southwestern Alberta, but the evidence suggests female bears, key to population persistence are avoiding the Forest Reserve, probably because of high traffic volumes. Wolverine populations are, based on the latest research, declining.

Lastly, Mr. Clark feeds a paranoia about science and distrust of those that provide us the results of science inquiry. Science seems ever under attack, by those who do not like the message, feel it impairs their freedom, limits their business and doesn’t match their ideology.

Science holds up a mirror. Sometimes we don’t like what’s reflected but that doesn’t mean the image is wrong, but rather we are confronted by reality.

Lorne Fitch, Professional Biologist
Lethbridge

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