This summer and fall, I had the privilege of hosting two individuals who had never been to North America. As an ambassador for Calgary, Southern Alberta, and Canada, I tried to educate my guests about all of the special aspects of our city, region, and country. Naturally, this included many trips and experiences, both in and outside of the city, to our network of protected areas.
Growing up in Canada and living in this region for so long, it is easy to take for granted what I experience as part of my day to day life. A city full of green spaces and wild riparian areas along the rivers, an hour drive to some of the most iconic and impressive mountains in the world, postcard vistas and a sense of wild nature…where grizzly bears and wolves roam free.
To my visitors, this was something completely foreign to their daily lives. They were in awe of it, they marveled at the colours, the views, and at micro and macro amazements that many of us no longer marvel at. Like a kid in a candy store, everything was exciting, special, and new. While I pride myself on being a lover of the outdoors, it was a reminder for me to celebrate what we have, to be a good steward of these areas, and that we need more.
Whether visiting K-country or Banff National Park, it is evident that people love these areas. The trails are crowded, and parking is often a problem. This is why we need good management that puts conservation first and strategies that allow for positive nature-based experiences that don’t grow our human development footprint. This is why we need more education and why everyone needs to be a steward of our protected areas. This is also why we need more.
This fall marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of Kananaskis Country, an amazing wilderness asset that many Albertans identify with as part of being who they are and as part of our region’s outdoor heritage. CPAWS Southern Alberta has a long history in helping establish many of the regions that make up K-country and in its management. Right now, we have an amazing opportunity to get the next area like Kananaskis in Alberta. The Bighorn is the missing piece between Banff and Jasper and could be Alberta’s next Kananaskis. To support the establishment of a new protected area in the Bighorn, go to albertapreserves.ca.
Seeing our protected areas through the eyes and experiences of my guests was enlightening and a friendly reminder to celebrate and respect our Alberta wilderness.
Yours in conservation,
CPAWS Southern Alberta