An ongoing love-hate relationship

In the 2009 Alberta Guide to Hunting Regulations, now available on line, from licence issuers and at Alberta government Fish and Wildlife division district offices, much is made, even in the Minister’s Message, of the new on-line licensing system, at www.albertarealm.com.

In the 2009 Alberta Guide to Hunting Regulations, now available on line, from licence issuers and at Alberta government Fish and Wildlife division district offices, much is made, even in the Minister’s Message, of the new on-line licensing system, at www.albertarealm.com.

That same address was also touted in the 2009 Alberta Hunting Draws booklet as one way of finding out, after July 14, whether or not you had been successful in your draw applications.

So I decided to give it a shot, maybe even purchase the licence on-line after Aug. 1, if I was advised I had been successful in my application for an Antlered Mule Deer Special Licence.

You must register your WIN card number and a password to get into the website and, to do that, you have to identify yourself with your drivers’ licence number and furnish your email address.

All that I did — twice — then gave up after twice being advised that my identification — presumably my drivers’ licence — was invalid.

So I resorted to the old way, by phoning 1-900-451-3729, prepared to suffer a lame ear from the usual long wait. Instead, in one minute flat, dialling in only my WIN card number, I learned my application had not been drawn. Could it be the new technology has speeded up the old?

This year there were almost 260,000 draw applications, an increase of eight per cent over 2008, and 45 per cent of these applications were made on the new website.

Presumably a much higher percentage than that of inquiries for draw results would also be on the website. Thus is telephone time freed up for luddites or those of us whose identification does not pass muster on the website.

Many will hail the increasing hunting licence sales for the basic and practical reason that they are good for the resources, the fish and wildlife and their habitats, on which hunting and fishing depend.

A levy on each hunting and fishing licence sold in Alberta goes to the Alberta Conservation Association to fund its fish and wildlife conservation projects and its grants to fish and wildlife research projects and studies.

Recently, cyberspace has been abuzz with the most succinct illustration I can recall of the long love-hate relationship that has existed between the ACA and the Alberta Fish and Game Association representing its membership of approximately 25,000 Alberta anglers and hunters.

The AFGA played a large part in the formation of the ACA and, as a “stakeholder,” has always had representation on its board.

But, almost from the start, the AFGA has complained that hunters and anglers provide most of the funding of the ACA and the board appointees of non-contributing “stakeholder” groups have too much say in how those funds are spent.

Now two AFGA past presidents are accusing the ACA of going back on its word and engaging in double-dipping by soliciting donations from thousands of hunters and anglers by email and in an ad in the current number of its Conservation magazine.

Basically the ad says: “Your contribution to Alberta Conservation Association is critical to ongoing conservation efforts and research, including Alberta’s species-at-risk . . . Donate now!”

AFGA past president, Ray Makowecki of St. Paul, first raised the alarm: “I see that the ACA is soliciting funds from hunters and anglers . . . this was a concern a few years ago and they said they would not compete with the AFGA.”

Andy von Busse of St. Albert, who was AFGA president when the ACA was being formed, is more precise than that: “When the ACA was founded, one of the clear premises was that it would not solicit any of its member organizations for donations. Here is soliciting from all hunters and anglers that get the Conservation magazine, and by default AFGA members would be included . . . My concern has always been that the ‘non-consumptive’ user keeps talking about the importance of conservation, yet they contribute virtually nothing to any efforts . . . To raise funds, perhaps the ACA should find a way to target them, rather than the members of the organizations that comprise the ACA.”

Whether in response to such criticisms is not known, but the ACA has recently embarked on a PR campaign in praise of hunters and hunting.

Andy von Busse recently spotted an ACA ad taking up the entire rear end of an Edmonton bus which features a photo of a dad and a little kid on a goose hunt under the words “Take Time For Tradition,” and was so smitten that he advised yet another past president, Randy Collins of Edmonton, the AFGA’s current member on the ACA board: “You should make sure the ACA gets the kudos they deserve!”

This may be evidence of great objectivity, and it certainly is yet another manifestation of that long love-hate relationship the AFGA has with the ACA, but it is beginning to sound to me like somebody not only has somebody’s number, but knows exactly which button to push and precisely when to push it.

Bob Scammell is an award-winning outdoors writer living in Red Deer.

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