Fish Wars and Trout Travesties
Saving Southern Alberta's Coldwater Streams in the 1920s
Today, efforts at environmental protection commonly take the form of “top-down” measures, in which overarching plans, usually based on scientific reports, are implemented through environmental legislation, which is then enforced at the local level. Fish Wars and Trout Travesties offers an instructive glimpse into an earlier era, before the state assumed its present degree of regulatory control over the environment. In southern Alberta of the 1920s, townspeople and civic leaders took a spirited interest in the management of their local rivers and streams and often held strong opinions about which species of fish should be conserved and by what methods. Often these opinions reflected a growing division between the traditional, rural understanding of nature as the means to survival and an emerging urban conception of nature as recreational space. Such conflicting perspectives—founded, as they were, on differing views about the relationship of human beings to the natural world—meant that local debates could be quite heated.
Whereas previous histories of conservation in the province have been told through the eyes of its institutions, such as the Alberta Fish and Game Association, Colpitts draws on rarely consulted historical documents in an effort to tease out the fault lines within the conservation movement. As he demonstrates, the move for conservation described in Fish Wars was largely a grassroots phenomenon, and the rules that the state subsequently formulated were often the result of pressures from below.
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