Onetime oil-and-gas worker now a filmmaker who’s directing his energy to the eastern slopes | CBC News

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Travis Boschman used to work in oil and gas, but these days the Red Deer man is busy working on a documentary called Love Our Eastern Slopes, a film dedicated to preserving the beauty of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains. 

An electrician by trade, Boschman says he understands the need for industry but he wants people to understand the importance of the eastern slopes, too. 

In 2020, when the provincial government changed a policy that protected the eastern slopes of the Rockies from open-pit coal mining, Boschman began to worry about potential heavy industrial development in Clearwater County, located in west-central Alberta. 

“When I looked at those maps, it just scared the heck out of me. It’s in areas that you can’t really get to — wilderness areas out in the eastern slopes that are barely accessible for the average person,” he said.

“These are the areas that I grew up playing in. They were my playground. That’s where we went camping, and fishing, and hiking, and did all the things that we do. It was our vacation place.” 

Coal mining in Alberta’s foothills and mountains has been controversial ever since the United Conservative government revoked a policy in May 2020 that had protected the land since 1976.

Tens of thousands of hectares have been leased for exploration, drawing protests from First Nations, municipalities and many thousands of Albertans.

That outcry caused the government to restore the policy, pause new sales and suspend exploration work on the most sensitive land — although work continues elsewhere.

With drones and cameras and knowledge of the backcountry, Boschman is expressing his concern for the preservation of the eastern slopes. Other Red Deer residents are simply using yard signs.

Paul Armstrong volunteered to deliver yard signs for Alberta Beyond Coal, a campaign jointly operated by the Council of Canadians and the Alberta Environmental Network. He estimates he brought 500 signs to Red Deer, where they’re now planted on lawns throughout the city. 

“These are our iconic Rocky Mountains we’re talking about. It’s not like some little dirt patch in the middle of nowhere,” said Armstrong. 

Margaret Barry drove from Edmonton to Lacombe recently to protest against coal mine exploration in the eastern slopes. She said she is very concerned about protecting Alberta’s headwaters for the sake of her grandchildren. 

Barry is pleased to see Boschman using his filmmaking skills to showcase the beauty and ecological importance of the area. 

“I think it’s wonderful,” she said of his documentary. 

Barry says that adding the voices of “regular people who like to go hiking in the mountains” is important in a conversation dominated by scientists and industry. 

Boschman considers himself to be a regular person as well as a director and documentarian whose film, like the lawn signs popping up all over Red Deer, has a message.

“We need to shift our perspective and we need to start appreciating that land. And understanding that it gives us everything,” he said. 

“And we have to look at it from that perspective, we have to be grateful for it.” 

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