The last few months have certainly been a challenge for all of us. The Coronavirus health emergency has altered our day-to-day lives and our operations at AHEIA has resulted in many changes as we adapted to do our part to flatten the curve. One thing that became abundantly clear to me was that we are in the “same storm together – perhaps in different boats but the weather was the same for all of us!” Some lost all, some lost some and most were set back on their heels. AHEIA and our cause was and is certainly no exception.
We took steps early on to ensure we did our part to ensure our primary concern for safety of our volunteers, customers and staff. We hope that you have stayed healthy and safe, and we send our well wishes to those who have been impacted by the virus.
Although we closed our public facilities and had to postpone or cancel some events, we have been able to keep our staff employed with most working remotely, while skeleton crews work at our Calgary and Edmonton offices as well as the Calgary Firearms Centre and our Alford Lake facility. Even with our socially distanced staff, we have been busy staying connected with the AHEIA community, offering online programs and developing new educational resources for the public.
Our newest initiative is a series of free online workbooks and videos which provide
education and fun activities on a number of topics, including building your own
survival kit, fly tying, tick awareness and safety, and a wildlife workbook for
children, to highlight a few. The O.W.L. (Outdoor Wildlife Learning) Series has been
wildly popular providing options for parents, teachers and outdoor enthusiasts
interested in learning new skills while facing the challenges of staying home and
The Hunter Education program, a cornerstone of our online programming options,
has also been in demand these past months, due to the stay-at-home directives.
The course provides training on safe hunting practices as well as conservation of
our natural resources, resulting in certification to those who successfully complete
the program which is a Provincial requirement for all first-time hunters in Alberta.
This program is often offered in schools and this year teachers have utilized it in
their virtual classrooms, with much success.
Earlier this spring we decided to assist with things to do for those shut-in due to the pandemic, by offering our Alberta Fishing Education Program free of charge for a limited time. Literally, thousands of people have taken advantage of this offering to learn about angling in the pristine lakes and streams of Alberta. The program is still free and available to you through our website, aheia.com. Many thanks to the many people who have sent us appreciative comments for providing this option during your quarantines. It is a perfect time to discover and learn about this enjoyable activity while the Alberta wilderness is slowly opened for recreational use.
As the government begins to loosen restrictions and begin their re-launch strategy,
we are cautiously moving forward with the reopening of our facilities. The first to
open is the Calgary Firearms Centre, which is available to members only at this time
and who must call ahead to be booked onto a field. As you can imagine, the social
distancing, cleaning and sanitizing procedures necessary in operating a safe facility
are overwhelming, and through opening in a limited capacity, we are doing our part
to help reduce the spread of the pandemic. We appreciate your compliance and
understanding and are hopeful that we can accommodate public bookings sooner
rather than later.
Although the Calgary and Edmonton offices are still closed to public access, our
staff are available to receive telephone calls and emails to answer any questions
you may have with regards to our programs and plans. We operate both centres and offer curbside service for materials and course training aids. The Alford Lake
Conservation Centre for Excellence also remains closed to the public and bookings
are not available at this time. Understandably, social distancing at a camp with
shared cabins and facilities would be an extremely difficult endeavour, however,
when restrictions are lessened and we can safely offer events and workshops, we
will inform the public through our social media resources.
AHEIA Instructors are now being allowed to offer the Canadian Firearms Safety
Course (CFSC) and the Canadian Restricted Firearms Safety Course (CRFSC) to a
limited number of students in each class. We have asked our instructors to adhere
to the restrictions implemented by the public health authorities, and although AHEIA
is not offering classes at our facilities at this time, there are instructors throughout
the province who are available to teach them. A list of qualified instructors and their
contact information is available on our website, or call our Calgary or Edmonton
offices to be placed on a waitlist and you will be contacted when AHEIA once again
can offer the courses at our locations.
As we continue to cope with the implications of the Coronavirus pandemic, our
purpose remains unchanging. We will continue to be stewards of Alberta’s fish and
wildlife while providing educational programming, training the next generation of
conservationists to be both responsible and ethical. If you care to show your support
of our efforts, please consider purchasing tickets for any of our fundraising raffles or
making a cash donation to our organization. We have all been financially affected by
the downturn in our economy, and as a non-profit we depend upon grants and
donations to keep our doors open, so to speak. Let’s continue to move forward
cautiously and come through this crisis stronger, together.
As the changes to the restrictions imposed by the health authorities change on a regular basis, please stay in touch with us through any of our social media channels or call our centres. We are happy to hear your voices and we look forward to seeing all of you again very soon as Alberta moves forward on the re-launch of regular activities.
In the meantime, please stay vigilant, take care of yourselves and each other.
Yours in conservation