Environmental Disaster

Highway 23 winds through some of the most impressive scenery in Central Alberta. Part of the trip is alongside Horseguard lake, and today I witnessed the sun sparkling on the blue waters as boats towing skiers passed by me. I wasn’t in a rush to get to the campground today, so I took my time to enjoy the drive.
Wayne Anhail was asking anyone interested in saving the wildlife of the beautiful horseguard valley to meet with him. I didn’t know if anyone else was going to show, but I figured I had better go and get some of the historic first meeting on paper. It would be the least I could do to try to make everyone aware of problems caused by tourism and industry. This place was one of the few areas where one could still see wild horses on the loose, or collect your own vanilla ice, or dip into a pen and ink pot.
But every year, more people came to see the beauty and experience some time in the great outdoors. More campers, more garbage, more traffic on the roads. There was talk of making Highway 11into a fourlane. Plans were in the works for a huge new resort on the lake. Tankers were busy hauling ink out of the pots as fast as they could make ballpoint pens at the Rocky Pen Inc. And in the winter, work crews came in to take the ice from around the bases of the vanilla pine. The ice is loaded into dump trucks and hauled in to the vanilla extraction plant for processing. It was easy to see how all of this activity could threaten the delicate balance of the ecosystem.
My musings ended as I turned into the campground. The place was packed, and every other sight had a boat trailer as well as an RV. There it was, site 22. Wayne was sitting on his picnic bench, his tent set up beside his old Honda Civic. Except for the beer in his hand, Wayne was alone. Grimacing slightly, I hoped I wasn’t the only one coming. Jumping out of my truck, I grabbed my notebook and went over to see what Wayne had to say.
Wayne Anhail was infamous throughout activist circles for attempting to save the Saskatchewan Seal and the Tiger Striped Hare of Southern Alberta. Both species are now extinct and can only be seen in the form of coats, slippers or bindings. His lack of success never detered him from continuing on to help in the doomed attempt to save the Great Hairy Whale from being hunted for its fur. No longer would car seat covers be warm and furry, as the largest furbearing creature of the oceans had been used up. Leaving Greenpeace for good, Wayne decided not to campain for the freedom of the domesticated Naugha. Their skins can be found in many products in Canada and the U.S., and Naugha hide is a valuable commodity on the stock exchanges.
“Wayne, how’s it going,” I asked as he offered me a Blue Beaver Beer. “seen anyone else yet?”
“Nope, you’re the first. Listen, I don’t know if anyone else is going to show up. You know what I think is going on, don’t you?”
“Well, I’m not really sure. Run it past me.”
“The horse populations are down, and I think it’s because there are too many spectators around. Have you ever tried getting it on with a few hundred tourists watching you? And these pine trees are suffering from compressed roots due to too much foot traffic. Basically, the roots of these trees are depressed. We have to get on these problems before it’s too late. so what do you think?”
I took another swig of beer while I thought about it. Yep, Wayne’s definitely lost it. These ideas were too far fetched, even for me. “I don’t know. I’ll have to get back to you on that. Thanks for the Beaver, Wayne. I’m going to go for a walk. Maybe some of the others will arrive before I get back.” I headed for the beach to check things out. The trees on either side of the trail didn’t seem depressed at all, but how would you know if they were pining away? Only time would tell.

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