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Local climate scientist hosts Thunberg at Columbia Icefield

Out of Range briefs: Hiker fined; $20 billion in visitor-spending target in Alberta; Squamish empowerment event

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JASPER, Alta.—The weather was cold, windy and unpleasant, as it frequently is in the Columbia Icefield area of Jasper National Park in October, but that didn't deter teen climate activist Greta Thunberg from spending several hours learning about how climate change is affecting the Athabasca Glacier.

Thunberg, who is touring North America on an extended trip from her home in Sweden, was guided by John Pomeroy, Canada Research Chair in Climate Change and director of the Global Water Futures. Led by the University of Saskatchewan, GWF is the largest university-led water security research project in the world, explained reporter Lynn Martel in the Rocky Mountain Outlook.

The 16-year-old Thunberg was well prepared and asked questions about the effects that climate change is having on the rate of the glaciers' decline. The reasons for that decline, Pomeroy told her, were "due to the effects of climate change, specifically more rainfall and less snowfall, warmer temperatures, greater ice exposure on the glaciers and now accelerating due to dust, soot and algae darkening the glacier surfaces.

"I told her that glacier melt has accelerated in recent years due to climate change and that we have crossed a tipping point with lower ice reflectance due to wildfire soot and algae that have caused 6.1 metres of ice melt this year on the Athabasca below the icefall."

For her part, Thunberg appeared grateful for her day amidst the Rockies ancient ice, tweeting: "Thank you to John Pomeroy, the University of Saskatchewan, Brenda Shepherd and Parks Canada for educating me on the effects of the climate and ecological crisis in stunning Jasper National Park. And thank you for giving me these incredible experiences!"

Since she first captured public attention in 2018 by launching a solo school strike to protest political inaction against climate change, Thunberg has inspired millions around the world to participate in strikes and other actions in 150 countries.

Hiker attacked by bear fined for having dog off leash

CANMORE, Alta.—A hiker that was chased and bitten by a mamma bear defending her cubs in October has been fined $115 for having an off-leash dog in a provincial park.

One of the person's dogs was off-leash and on the trail Oct. 10 and was followed back to its owner by a bear protecting her cubs. It's now unclear, according to provincial wildlife officials, whether it was a grizzly bear or black bear, reporter Cathy Ellis said in the Rocky Mountain Outlook.

"In the parks, it's legislated that dogs have to be on leash when you're recreating in the park itself and so we want people to be abiding by that legislation," said Andy Rees, Alberta Parks district conservation officer with Bow Valley Provincial Park.

"I think this is a great example of what potentially can happen when pets aren't on a leash."

The hiker was nipped on the back of the calf, but managed to use bear spray on the charging bear. The bear took off with her cubs and the hiker walked out and sought medical attention. No details about the hiker are being released by Alberta Parks.

Colleen Campbell, a current board member and past president of Bow Valley Naturalists, said the fine amount is "pathetic."

"I don't think it's a deterrent at all. I think $500 would probably be a bit more of a sting for having your dog off-leash," she said.

"I'm just so frustrated with the idea that it's OK to break the rules—we live here, we know what we're doing, my dog behaves—that kind of attitude."

Travel Alberta targets $20 billion in visitor spending by 2030

BANFF, Alta.—A bustling billion-dollar industry, especially in Bow Valley with destinations such as Lake Louise, Banff and Canmore on the map, tourism in Alberta is about to amp up its game.

With a $20-billion goal by 2030 in visitor expenditure, double its previous goal of $10 billion by 2020, Travel Alberta said it would continue to work with local stakeholders here in the valley to protect the environment.

"We work very, very closely with Parks Canada and Banff and Lake Louise Tourism and their stakeholders here," said Travel Alberta's president and CEO, Royce Chwin, reported Alana MacLeod in the Rocky Mountain Outlook.

"Because we work so closely, we can throttle on or off the kinds of investments that we do in terms of destination promotion, so that they're managing through versus reacting against, so I think that is going to make a big difference going forward."

Chwin furthered by saying Travel Alberta doesn't use the phrase "over tourism." 

"We in fact don't even use the term overtourism, we just talk about the management of tourism quite frankly, the term just lends this idea that its completely over run, its not—we know that because, Parks, again, in partnership with Banff and Lake Louise Tourism are doing proactive things to try to protect the environment and the experience," he said.

In 2018, Banff National Park saw more than 4 million visitors, with some receiving fines for violating closures within the park meant to protect wildlife.

Chwin said plans are in place to try to encourage travel during the shoulder months instead.

"When we work with them [Parks and BLLT], it is to [ask] where are we best positioned to push our investments so people aren't coming during the high season?" he said.

During the Travel Alberta Industry Conference held in October at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, Chwin announced the province's new goal of $20 billion in visitor spending by 2030. Afterward, Chwin told the Outlook he believed the industry could hit the target, even though it does seem high.

"We have a fantastic opportunity supported by this government to grow our visitor economy to $20 billion by 2030 and it's definitely a sun-shot of a target, but what it says to us is that is an opportunity that the government has committed with and to," he said.

"Therefore in partnership with our industry, and so when the right things fall in place, we absolutely have a chance to get to that target if we invest and do what we need to do."

For Alida Visbach, a member of the Tourism Industry Association of Alberta, a new association made up of five signatories meant to lobby and advocate for the tourism industry, said she sees three major pillars that need attention within the industry.

"We have three major pillars of our DNA, which is access, capacity and product," said Visbach adding that she believes they can reach the goal if everyone involved works together.

In terms of potentially allowing too many visitors to the valley at a time, Visbach said there is still capacity within tourism in Alberta to increase visitation, but that work must be done with respect to which seasons and destinations can accommodate that growth.

"We will have member representation from every jurisdiction in this province—it is to work on how do we spread out, not just where the tourists are going but what time of year they're going there. I completely understand the over tourism sense that people in the mountain parks are feeling," she said.

"It is one of our most precious assets that we have and we cannot over exploit it."

Women gather for empowerment event in Squamish

SQUAMISH—Before the usual dancing at the Knotty Burl gets underway, on Nov. 9, the stage will host a selection of presenters covering a wide range of empowering topics.

Profits from the evening go to Howe Sound Women's Centre, reported The Squamish Chief.

Featuring women presenters from the Sea to Sky and beyond, the collaboration with feminist organization Femme Alfa brings Louise Robinson, Dani Duncan, Ruby Deubry, Luna Rouge, Jules Emmerson and Brittany Morgan to the stage. They'll share insights and experiences with fashion, design, health, art, business and more.

Starting at 5 p.m. the evening offers childcare through TPAC Dance, although there are limited spaces so attendees should sign up early. Food trucks will also be serving food.

Find more info at www.femmealfa.org.