The collision of industrial, agricultural and recreational interests in Kananaskis shows that a multi-use policy is not working. People and wildlife are being pushed out by heavy equipment and the destruction of these wild lands.

gas flare

Sour gas flare at Canyon Creek

Much of Kananaskis is an industrial development zone. Spray Lakes Sawmills, who manage the forest in Kananaskis, on behalf of the government, have logged the McLean Creek area into a barren wasteland. Ranchers cattle contaminate tails, waterways and public areas with poop. Shell and Husky have cut roads and installed bridges throughout the Elbow Valley and West Bragg Creek recreation areas to build a pipeline. Flares spew toxic chemicals into the air above the Elbow Valley. Petro-Canada is planning to operate a well in the middle of the West Bragg Creek trails, just metres from trails intended for mountain cycling and cross-country skiing. They maintain there is no risk to the public. But the area contains sour gas. That is gas mixed with hydrogen sulphide. Inhale it twice and you’ll be dead. Two people died on the Elbow Valley Road in 2004 when their car was struck by pipes that fell off a pipeline contractors truck. What to do?

This is a kind of David and Goliath story. Here Petro-Canada is David. The many thousands of people who enjoy recreational activities in Alberta’s mountain playgrounds are like Goliath. People only need to exercise their options as owners of the public lands contained within Kananaskis. As customers of Petro-Canada, they wield considerable power.

Shell, Husky and Petro-Canada say they use sound environmental management and conservation practices. Maybe, but not in a public playground please.

industrial activity

Access road construction

There are something like 100 gas wells in the Elbow Valley, 74 kilometres of pipeline and hundreds of kilometres of access roads. The damage done to the wild land that is our legacy for the future is significant. View the photos linked to this page to see graphic evidence of the mess they’re making. Then use the “Call to Action” link to express your concern. That will be hard, likely impossible, for many of you who are employed by the industry. We need the industry and the wealth generated from gas and oil, but a public recreation area should be protected from industrial development. Convincing authorities of this will be very difficult – harder still, considering that this concern is as much about the threat posed by H2S gas as it is about the damage done to a wilderness recreation area and the impact that has on your ability to enjoy outdoor activities in Kananaskis. Industry executives, and apparently, the Energy and Utility Board consider these trivial concerns. I’ve been told that heavy equipment, trucks, pipelines, flares, access roads, wells, gas plants and pumping stations have less impact than the thousands who visit Kananaskis to recreate.

The government is shirking its responsibility as stewards of the land. They need to be held accountable. The litany of stories of ranchers savaged by the industry and the regulators shows that they aren’t responding to concerns of citizens. A groundswell of concern from citizens directed at the politicians we elect to represent our interests is the only thing that might effect change. Thousands of letters and names on a petition might make a difference.

I’m not holding my breath. I’m merely pointing out what I consider to be a problem and proposing a solution. No more leases should be sold or renewed in Kananaskis, no permits issued and the areas where industrial development is allowed should be protected and reserved for public use. Preservation of the watershed in a natural state is the overriding goal.