I recently had the pleasure of peeking into the life of our Land Access Manager, Monica Kohler. On April 11 we flew to Grand Prairie for two days of driving and countless meetings, dusty maps, barking dogs, back roads, back porches,sunny skies, and more driving. It was great to have the opportunity to learn more about the challenges of negotiating access to land, however, I appreciated hearing the insights and strong opinions of landowners in rural Alberta. Reactions to the ABMI program ranged from extreme excitement to an obvious lack of interest. But for the most part, everyone appreciated our efforts and took the time to listen. It is clear that Albertans care about their land and what happens on it. All landowners wanted to know what we found on their land and were willing to make it as painless as possible for us to gain access. Making the effort to make connections with the landowners will certainly help to make field monitoring go more smoothly – not only in terms of critical access points and safety concerns, but in simply making that human connection so that the many, many people involved in what we do at the ABMI understand what it is we do and why we are making the effort to monitor this province.
I was impressed by the beautiful landscape of the northwest, but more so by Monica’s superhuman navigation and people skills. We successfully negotiated and communicated ABMI’s mission to all but one of our scheduled meetings (he wasn’t home, but gaining access should not be a problem). We met many interesting characters – landowners with a lot of history in their back pockets, Hutterites who were skeptical of city folk but glad to share their stories and a trapper who spends most of his time living in the bush to name a few. Thanks to Monica for an interesting trip and I have new appreciation for the process of monitoring; and I am glad I don’t have to do your job!