Clear-Cut Logging in Kananaskis

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click Please read Ralph Cartar's (Environmental Coalition) take on this issue

Kananaskis needs a new land use policy. Spray Lakes Sawmills, through a Forest Management Agreement with the government, determines where and when they'll clear-cut the forest. See map Kananaskis Country should be designated a recreation area. Authority over use of the area should be the sole responsibility of Alberta Community Development, Parks and Protected Areas.

Under the Forest Management Agreement, the primary use of the forest management area is "for establishing, growing, harvesting and removing timber." The eastern and southern districts of Kananaskis are an industrial development zone. Many assume that K-Country is protected. But only 56% is. Much of the protected area is inaccessible alpine terrain. Most of the foothills, the areas where people hike, cycle, ski and otherwise enjoy a true wilderness experience, is primarily designated as industrial. We need to reconsider this policy. The primary use of the Sheep, Elbow and Jumpingpound districts should be recreational not industrial.

This is not solely an environmental issue. It affects people who recreate in Kananaskis and business people who provide products and services to them.

People and wildlife are being pushed out of Kananaskis. Industry is pooping in our playground. Tourism and recreation is suffering. Polls show that over 80% of Albertans want to protect their natural heritage, but the government can't hear the sound of one hand clapping. Only environmentalists have taken up the cause. There is a disconnect between our desire to protect our natural heritage and our perception of environmental advocacy.

The government claims to be good stewards of the land, but they have transferred management of the land to the loggers and the energy sector through management agreements. They cite threats from forest fires and pine beetles as justification for clear-cutting.

Mountain pine beetle threat

A diverse population of spruce, pine and aspen may be the only defence against massive forest losses. Replanting with lodgepole pine exclusively, increases the risk of infestation, consequently increasing the risk to water supply, water quality and forest fires. Clear-cutting shouldn't be the first line of defense. Selective pruning of infected trees is a better way to go.

Forest fire risk

Thinning the forest and cutting fire breaks is a good way to reduce the forest fire risk. Studies indicate that replanted and reclaimed sites provide all the fuel a fire needs to spread. Clear-cutting is not a solution. You would have to replace the trees with grass to remove the risk of forest fire.

A steady stream of trucks and heavy equipment rumble along our highways and rural roads into Kananaskis where new and improved roads and work sites are cut into the wilderness. There is virtually nowhere they can't and won't go. They are dangerous and destructive.

Impacts of deforestation on water supply

Clear-cut logging can cause increased runoff and flooding. This could affect the City of Calgary's water supply.

The Elbow River watershed supplies almost half of Calgary's water. The watershed is essential to support the growing demand for clean water.

Barren land left after a clear-cut does not hold water. Increased flooding results, stretching water filtration plants to the extent of their ability to cope with the sand and dirt in the water. Bigger plants have to be built. Nutrients and silt load the creeks and rivers, choking them off and allowing algae blooms to grow. This affects both the amount and quality of the water supply.

Our legacy for our children and theirs

truckWhen the land can heal, it will take generations to do so. The old growth trees they're cutting are over 170-years-old. What will future generations think of us? Maybe they won't care, because they won't know what was lost.

We know what we're losing. We should do something now before our landscape is transformed and we'll have to drive to Banff to enjoy the outdoors.

Spray Lakes has management authority over 3374 square kilometres of the foothills from Sundre to the southern end of Kananaskis. Of this, approximately 2224 square kilometres is available for timber harvesting. They plan to cut 1,600 hectares taking about 200,000 trees a year or 380,000 cubic metres every five years (an average tree is 2.5 cubic metres ).

The company's Detailed Forest Management Plan or DFMP calls for wildlife monitoring. But their impact will be so great, no comparison will be possible. They maintain that logging will do what forest fires and insects do, that is, regenerate the forest. They say that the forest will be healthier, supporting a more diverse ecosystem. But, scientific studies show the diversity of species is reduced due to clear-cutting and the natural process of regeneration cannot be replaced by replanting clear-cuts. When the trees go, so do their nutrients. Logging disturbs the soil so that nothing grows for 5 years.

Public Awareness

Thanks to these companies for helping us get our message out

Bow Cycle

Bragg Creek Family Foods

Bragg Creek General Store

Mountain Equipment Coop

See media reports for their coverage

The Bragg Creek Environmental Coalition received hundreds of e-mails on the logging issue. Apparently, one government office received 700 e-mails and 30 phone calls. The response has been overwhelming. Sending a letter of concern is hard work - writing it can be time consuming and sometimes difficult. Emotions come into play in many letters. Thanks to everyone who made the effort to make a change.

The ministers of Sustainable Resource Development, Community Development and Environment make the decisions that shape Kananaskis. Politicians pay heed to letters that are true expressions of concern and care. Well, our politicians have no choice but to pay heed. The letters have been a powerful statement of shock and sadness at the prospect of having a highly valued wilderness destroyed - personal stories of a connection to the land shared with family and friends. And, there have been hundreds and hundreds of them.