A look at some deforestation along the Eastern Slopes — this view is near the Oldman River in Southern Alberta. Red Deer’s Travis Boschman says it coincides with Atrum Elan South Coal Lease. He is making a documentary film to raise public awareness. (Contributed photo by Travis Boschman).

A look at some deforestation along the Eastern Slopes — this view is near the Oldman River in Southern Alberta. Red Deer’s Travis Boschman says it coincides with Atrum Elan South Coal Lease. He is making a documentary film to raise public awareness. (Contributed photo by Travis Boschman).

Red Deerian makes documentary film to save Alberta’s Eastern Slopes wilderness

Raising public awareness about industrial activities is Travis Boschman’s goal

“Betrayal” is what Travis Boschman felt when he saw vast tracts of clear-cut forest at the confluence of the North and South Ram Rivers, near Nordegg.

The Red Deerian wondered how so much logging could be allowed to happen in this “incredible” nature spot that he used to he camp and fish at as a kid, without most Albertans knowing about it?

“It was some of the most beautiful land in the world…”

Boschman decided he needed to do something to spread public awareness about this kind of remote de-forestation. The local photographer came up with the idea of making a 60-minute documentary film called Love Our Eastern Slopes with producer Marie-Renee Goulet.

The project’s aim is, not only to document industrial activities, but to also show how much “sacred” wilderness Albertans could still potentially lose.

Boschman feels the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains is victim of the provincial government’s “hidden agenda” for propagating coal leases and forestry permits.

In April, the government bowed to public pressure and paused coal exploration on sensitive lands along the Rocky Mountains until a comprehensive coal policy can be developed with public engagement.

While most Albertans don’t want mining in the Eastern Slopes, fearing habitat destruction and water deterioration, Boschman doesn’t have much faith this will stop the government’s plans.

He considers how many exploratory coal leases have already been approved and how much work has been done to clear the forest in preparation for mining.

“I believe in educating people and letting them see what’s going on,” said Boschman. If some people are pro-mining, “that’s OK, we all have different opinions. I just think it’s better to know and to see what’s happening.”

As expected, Love Our Eastern Slopes has been logistically challenging to make. Getting into remote mountainous areas from Nordegg to the Crowsnest Pass and beyond has required multiple snowmobile and hiking trips.

“I’ve put in a lot of miles, worn out a pair of hiking boots,” said Boschman, with a chuckle. But in the process, he’s gotten to swim in “crystal clear waters,” breathe moist mountain air, and feel the coolness of a natural forest.

Boschman has come to realize that, aside from scientific arguments about logging releasing toxins onto rivers that provide drinking water to the Prairies, there are more personal reasons to oppose this kind of industrial development.

Alberta’s wilderness “is medicine for the soul, whether you think you need it or not,” said Boschman.

“This land, when you put your hands on it, when you dip your toes into its water, when you breathe its air, it nurtures and heals all that ails you. It makes you feel whole and alive.

Once his documentary film is completed this fall and screened at festivals, he hopes to get across that “wilderness is sacred” and crucial to our life.

“We can manufacture many things… but we can not manufacture wilderness. We can’t replace a mountain top, once its been removed, we can never put back a forest to its natural perfectly balanced state… we can never magically make a river clean after tailings have been flushed into it.”

For more information and to see the film’s trailers and fundraisers, please visit tbphotographs.com/love-our-eastern-slopes.



lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

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