A cowboy with a cause
Rancher riding along the highway to Victoria to raise awareness of student health concerns
By Sage Birchwater
Sage Birchwater photo
“It’s for the kids,” White says. “The oil and gas industry and the provincial government are getting too greedy. They’re endangering the health and safety of the students in Fort St. John elementary schools.”
The problem, he says, is gas flare and pipeline emissions letting poisonous gases into the environment that is affecting the youth.
“The kids are sick all the time. The North Pine School had to be evacuated four times and the Butte Creek School twice.”
He says that’s not right.
“The main compressor for the Alaskan Pipeline is old and is only half a kilometre behind the Butte Creek School.”
He says he talked to the Oil and Gas Commission that regulates the companies.
“They told us there was nothing they could do about it. They told us the government had given the companies a grandfather clause to pollute.”
He says the attitude from the MLAs and oil companies is that nobody is going to do anything about it, and nobody cares.
“So I’m taking it upon myself to be a voice for the kids.”
White insists he’s not a tree hugger.
“I’m a rancher and a cowboy who depends on technology. I feed 1,500 animals. They’ve got clean-burning systems out there, but they don’t have to use them.”
White says last year the oil patch didn’t shut down during a critical migration of the caribou and it wiped out 18,000 animals.
“Our newest generation coming up has nothing to look forward to unless some serious changes are made. I’m going down to Victoria as a voice for them.”
White, the father of a nine-year-old daughter, says other parents share his concerns.
“We have to work together. I’m going to our elders with the voices of the children. We can’t fix it. All we can do is prevent it from getting worse.”
Up north he says he lost three friends to cancer in the past two years.
“We’re not trying to shut down the industry, we just want the government to take action.”
The Tribune found White, Suzie-Q and his Australian shepherd dog Doug, resting in a little meadow beside Highway 97, south of McLeese Lake on Tuesday. He says he plans to stay on the main highway to draw attention to his cause.
“Everybody I’ve talked to agrees what I’m doing needs to be done.”
He says he’s done his homework and knows the technology is out there that can make a difference.
“The car companies can shut down your vehicle from space if you don’t make your payments. So why can’t the oil companies clean up their act.”
White and his horse and dog will likely reach Williams Lake today.
He plans to arrive in Victoria by mid-June.
“Hopefully the MLAs will still be in session.”
White says he’s making the journey on his own hook and any donations of grain for his horse along the way would be appreciated. He travels 20 to 25 kilometres a day and stops and camps in grassy areas over night.
© Copyright 2007 Williams Lake TribunePosted by Arthur Caldicott on 21 May 2007