Town Hall meeting about logging West Bragg Creek

2012-06-21


Trail users of the West Bragg Creek trail system have requested buffer zones where trees would not be harvested for only 11 kilometres of the 42-kilometre trail system. They agreed that the rest of the area can be logged as planned. Here, a hiker passes through an area that is slated to be clear cut.
Photo: Courtesy: Maurice Gaucher

Plans to log West Bragg Creek by Spray Lakes Sawmills will override an agreement signed in 2009 by the Greater Bragg Creek Trails Association and two government departments at that time, Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation and Sustainable Resource Development (SRD). Contrary to the agreement, Spray Lake Sawmills received approval from SRD to superimpose clear cut logging onto the newly developed and approved trail system in the West Bragg Creek area. This, plus the disregard for due process followed by the Greater Bragg Creek Trails Association in attaining the agreement with government, led to a Town Hall meeting in Bragg Creek in mid-April.

At the meeting, each of the four-member panel addressed those in attendance, giving their different perspectives on efforts to lessen the impact of logging on this much used all-season trail system. Panel members commented on the scientific and published evidence that logging does not reduce fire risk (an oft-used reason for logging); that a variety of tree ages are required for a healthy forest; and that older forests are not more likely to burn. It was noted that 63 per cent of the Elbow River watershed that provides drinking water for Calgary is in Kananaskis Country and could, therefore, be affected. The point was also raised that since 80 per cent of Albertans live in urban areas, recreation is also a high priority land use; this is especially so in West Bragg Creek which is a backyard for a rapidly growing Calgary. As the town hall meeting continued, it became clear that Spray Lakes Sawmills was not interested in issues such as firebreaks, pine bark beetles, watershed protection or recreation uses. Rather, its sole interest was harvesting timber, leading some to regard the agreement between Spray Lakes Sawmills and the government as a SDR-sponsored license for the company to operate a “tree farm”. It is feared that as long as this is the priority land use for this part of Kananaskis Country, neither Spray Lakes Sawmills nor the government has any incentive to protect the West Bragg Creek Recreation Area.

A survey conducted of those who attended the town hall meeting showed that an overwhelming 98 per cent of respondents were not satisfied with the existing logging plans, and that almost an equal number indicated that they would prefer a less impacting combination of harvesting techniques be used.

Since the town hall meeting, there has been a provincial election. Premier Redford has combined the former departments of Environment and Water and SRD into the Department of the Environment and Sustainable Resource Development with Diana McQueen, the former Minister for the Environment and Water, as minister. Shortly after the election, Maurice Gaucher, a board member of the AHA, was able to elicit a commitment from Premier Redford during a CBC talk-in radio show (listen to her comments here) that her government would look into the issues surrounding the logging in this area, and to date Spray Lake Sawmills’ harvest plan has not received government approval. Sustain Kananaskis is collaborating with the Greater Bragg Creek Trail Association on a briefing note for Minister McQueen suggesting that the West Bragg Creek recreation area be used as a pilot project to develop a model for how land use decisions are made in areas with many competing interests.

One of the major arguments presented by Spray Lakes Sawmills for logging is the reduced risk of fire. A member of the Rockyview FireSmart Committee has proposed an alternate wildfire mitigation plan that would result in a significantly smaller impact on the trail system. However, citing budgetary reasons, staff of the new government department have refused to run the plan through their Prometheus model that uses inputs of such variables as wind speed and direction to estimate evacuation times available to the community should a wildfire .

The AHA will continue to monitor government responses to the issues raised by concerned citizens regarding logging the West Bragg Creek. Make your feelings heard by contacting Diana McQueen at: draytonvalley.devon@assembly.ab.ca. Another department that the AHA feels should be interested in this issue is the Department of Tourism, Parks & Recreation with the Hon. Christine Cusanelli as minister. You can contact her at: calgary.currie@assembly.ab.ca. Or, contact your MLA whose contact information can be found at: http://www.assembly.ab.ca/net/index.aspx?p=mla_home. Sustainable Kananaskis, a Calgary and Bragg Creek residents’ group, would appreciate it if you would copy them on your emails to the government at info@sustaink.ca so that it has your support when it requests to meet with Minister McQueen.

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