Preserve the Foothills Watershed
Our goal is to create a park that provides a rewarding experience for people; it should contribute to a secure and stable water supply for Calgary and natural habitat for wildlife.
This will protect and promote the social, economic, and environmental interests of Albertans, in particular, the recreation and tourism users of the area, and the businesses that provide them with products and services.
From the Crowsnest Pass to the Ghost Valley, people are calling for a new policy that will protect the foothills. Groups and individuals dedicate time and effort to ensure that the watershed and natural habitat are preserved. The Environmental Coalition, Tag-A-Tree group, the Save Kananaskis campaign, the Sustain- K group, students at Springbank High School, Homeschoolers and countless individuals use a variety of techniques to get this message across. We wrote letters, signed a petition, made and hung Save Kananaskis Tags, demonstrated at Ted Morton’s office, attended meetings and ralleys. We talked about it online and in person. We learned about the issues, made movies, wrote and sang songs, built web sites, and made pamphlets, posters and banners. We acted alone, in groups of tens and crowds of hundreds.
This was a heart-felt and passionate expression of concern for this place. What did we accomplish? Nothing really. Spray Lakes is still killing about 50,000 trees a year.
Our particular concern is the Multi-use policy in Kananaskis. It isn’t working.
Two ministries used to have jurisdiction in Kananaskis
– Tourism, Parks Recreation and Culture (TPRC) – responsible for protected areas; wildland and provincial parks and recreation areas.
– Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD)
– responsible for the forestry. The primary use is for the production of the City of Calgary’s water supply. The Elbow River watershed supplies almost half of Calgary’s water. The Ghost River Valley supplies up to another third. These watersheds are essential to support a diminishing supply while the demand for clean water grows.
Barren land left after a clear-cut does not hold water. We may need that water in a drought. Exposed snow melts earlier affecting both the amount and the timing of water released.
Increased flooding results, stretching the ability of water filtration plants and causing property damage. Nutrients and silt load the creeks and rivers, choking them off and allowing algae blooms to grow. Access roads and drainage release water into rivers when we least need it – during floods and timber, oil and gas and agriculture
It isn’t clear who has jurisdiction over Kananaskis now, but an independent parks department should have jurisdiction over all of Kananaskis.
Clear-cut logging can cause increased runoff and flooding. This will affect drought. This affects both the amount and quality of the water supply.
Climate change is a fact. The Spray Lakes plan doesn’t take this into consideration. Calgary’s water service is developing plans to deal with climate change, but their efforts may be in vain if the watershed upstream is significantly altered.
Tag-A-Tree and Save Kananaskis
We ran the Tag-A-Tree campaign from May to September, 2007. We gave away 7,000 tags. They hung on trees in Kananaskis, on front lawns, in cars, schools and offices – in Bragg Creek, Calgary and around the world. We estimate that 40 thousand people now know about our campaign. But we have not yet achieved our goal to stop logging and create a park, so we’ll continue to ask the government to listen to the people.
The “Save Kananaskis Rally” was held outside the CAOC on November 2, 2007. It was co-sponsored by us and Dr. David Swann, the Alberta Liberal environment critic.
Our 1,232-name petition to stop logging in NE Kananaskis Country and create a park was presented in the legislature by David Eggen, then NDP environment critic on November 7, 2007.
The Save Kananaskis campaigners released our “If the trees could talk” video. This child’s eye view of the forest provides an opportunity to look at why we want to stop logging and create a park in Kananaskis. See the 30-second video at www.savekananaskis.ca/video.
When the Bragg Creek Environmental Coalition asked people to write letters to the government, Ted Morton, then Minister of Sustainable Resource Development, said he received 700 letters in a couple of months. Over the years SRD must have received thousands of letters, postcards and emails calling for an end to logging.
This kind of pressure is likely to continue until management of the foothills watershed is assigned to the ministries of Environment and Parks.
The Kananaskis multi-use policy is contradictory. The Parks department limits recreational activities like the TransRockies Bike Race, due to environmental concerns. At the same time Sustainable Resource Development requires that bulldozers and feller/bunchers rip across the landscape to extract the maximum value from the natural resources.
Despite a $1.2-million investment from the Alberta government to complete the province’s 2,200-kilometre portion of the Trans Canada Trail, logging trucks are driving on the Trans Canada Trail in Kananaskis.
There is beauty in the foothills forest.
We play, get fit, learn, grow and find joy in the wilderness. We draw sustenance from the watershed.
This wilderness is our natural heritage. The people of Alberta are the owners of the trees. Studies show we want to protect them and leave a legacy for the future. We’ve learned that human intervention has caused massive damage and disruption. It takes generations for nature to repair the damage done by some clear-cuts. Biodiversity is lost and some of the damage seems irreversible.
Socio-economic conditions have changed over the 70 years that Spray Lakes Sawmills has been logging the area. Kananaskis was only created in 1976, 39 years ago. Over 1/2-million people now visit the Elbow Valley annually and 144,000 visit West Bragg Creek. Over one million people live a 1/2-hour away. In thirty-five years (a third of the time it will take clear-cuts to recover) the suburbs of Calgary will reach the Kananaskis border. My neighbour, a little boy playing with toys when I started working on this, is now writing scholarly papers at the U of C on the impact of logging on the watershed.
Thirty-five years ago, when people first expressed concern over Kananaskis logging, the managers were reasonable to deal with. Now Spray Lakes managers are confrontational. Maybe they have less options for timber to harvest as the resource is depleted.
Managers also set the agenda on their terms. The Ghost Community are dealing with complex technical issues of cutblock size, hydrological models, haul roads and OHV use. Save Kananaskis had to deal with the pine beetle and the threat of wildfire. Both of those are natural processes that don’t damage the landscape as commercial logging does. These technical issues are red herrings. They distract from the critical issue of preserving a healthy watershed.
Let’s give this another try
Please write to your Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) and to the Minister of Environment and Parks. You could also send your concerns to the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry. Put the word “watershed” in the subject.
If you’ve been around for a while, you may know that this has been done before. If you’re new to this issue, you may have hope for a better future. The thing is, Albertans have a new government that promises transparency and accountability. So we can hope that our letters will be read and our concerns taken seriously.
I sent a copy of this booklet to several ministers, asking them to take action to ensure that the foothills watershed from the Ghost Valley to Crowsnest Pass is preserved. I also asked them to assign responsibility for the administration of Kananaskis to the ministries of Environment and Parks. That’s a start. If they really want to get re-elected, they should make all of Kananaskis into a park.
You can find your MLA here: https://www.assembly.ab.ca/net/index.aspx ?p=mla_home
For more information, visit www.savekananaskis.ca or contact Doug at firstname.lastname@example.org
Minister of Environment and Parks
Honourable Shannon Phillips
MLA for Lethbridge-West
425 Legislature Building
10800 – 97 Avenue Edmonton, AB Canada T5K 2B6
Phone: 780 427-2391
Fax: 780 422-6259
Minister of Agriculture and Forestry
Honourable Oneil Carlier
MLA for Whitecourt-Ste. Anne
229 Legislature Building
10800 – 97 Avenue Edmonton, AB Canada T5K 2B6
Phone: 780 427-2137
Fax: 780 422-6035