'Now more than ever': Protect what's at the heart of Alberta - Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative

‘Now more than ever’: Protect what’s at the heart of Alberta

A person looks down on a mountain valley
View of Alberta's Bow Valley (Adam Linnard)

New poll shows there’s opportunity now for the Alberta government to take to heart and act on what Albertans want for nature

Sarah Palmer is Y2Y’s director of conservation programs. Born and raised in Alberta, her love for the outdoors is echoed by many others in recent polling results that show most Albertans care about nature — and want it protected. In this guest post, Sarah covers some of the key results of the polling and why they matter.

From golden prairies to turquoise lakes, mountain slopes to rich river valleys, it’s not a shock that a shared love for the outdoors is the heartbeat of this incredible province.

This has been demonstrated again and again, especially the past few years. People across the province have spoken up to conserve sensitive landscapes such as the Eastern Slopes of the Rocky Mountains, sought rejuvenation in our parks and public lands in record-breaking numbers, and defended those same parks from closing. Indeed, there’s no denying Albertans protect the places they love and want to see new protected areas.

And now, a new poll conducted by Nanos Research confirms these sentiments. The poll sought to better understand public opinion on the protection of lands, waters and species in Alberta.

The message is loud and clear: No matter their background, Albertans care about nature and want more of it protected.

What really stops you in your tracks is the breadth of support for nature. Regardless of age, gender, where they call home, or political leanings, a wide swath of Albertans surveyed express support for new nature conservation initiatives in the province.

The poll results show Albertans across all parties, all ages and regions agree by a large majority on several specific actions government can take now to safeguard Alberta’s wild places, waters and wildlife. It also shows folks prefer a government that actively protects nature and that we understand it doesn’t need to be a tradeoff for a strong economy.

An astounding 82 per cent of those surveyed agree that Alberta should build more wildlife crossing structures such as over- and underpasses with fencing on roads to preserve connectivity, and allow animals and humans safe passage.

Almost 70 per cent say Alberta should create a park or protected area along the edge of Banff and Jasper National Parks in our Bighorn Wildlands — the origin of Edmonton’s drinking water. As well, 61 per cent support an expanded Kakwa Provincial Park, which is important habitat for grizzly bears, woodland caribou, and other iconic wildlife species.

Parks are also special places enjoyed by visitors from near and far. This contributes to local jobs, businesses, sustainable economic well-being, community resilience and our health and social wellness.

Further to that, at least 75 per cent of Albertans understand we do not need to choose between creating jobs and conserving nature; rather, we must do both.

Taking a break from horseback riding in Alberta’s Bighorn Wildlands area

Albertans support additional/expanded parks or protected areas in the Bighorn Wildlands area (69%) and Kakwa (61%)

75% say we do not need to choose between creating jobs and conserving nature

82% support building more wildlife crossings and fencing on roads in key areas

We are already seeing positive momentum. Last month Albertans celebrated the news that construction will begin in 2022 on the province’s first wildlife overpass outside a national park, east of Canmore.

But our work as a province is far from over. The federal government’s goal of protecting 30 per cent of Canada’s lands and waters by 2030 recognizes Canada needs to take bold action to stave off the worst effects of climate change and biodiversity loss. Fully half of Albertans support that goal for our province. This puts us in line with the more than 70 countries who are advocating for such a conservation goal globally.

The message is loud and clear: No matter their background, Albertans care about nature and want more of it protected.

Thriving natural spaces and economies that support people’s well-being is not a concept too good to be true — it’s achievable. We can realize this goal by taking the right actions in the right places and making sound decisions proven by science to help wildlife and people thrive. That means new parks and protected areas, a shift to nature-positive economies and a continued focus on solutions for nature and people such as wildlife crossings.

This new poll shows there is a great opportunity now for our governments to take to heart and act on what Albertans want for nature — and now, more than ever, it’s time to protect more of it.