Sunday, 30 November 2008

More logging in Crowsnest Pass

Once again many residents of Crowsnest Pass and area are very concerned about logging operations to be carried out by the Spray Lakes corporation in the Allison Creek area. Just to remind you Spray Lakes bought out the Atlas sawmill operation, located just west of Coleman, a few years back. Their only reason for the purchase was to acquire timber rights. Atlas mill was closed and any logs harvested in the area by Spray Lakes are processed in Cochrane or other places.
Their proposal this time is to log the Allison Creek valley from the forest reserve boundary up past the Window mountain area. This picture shows the lower portion of the clear cut area.

They are proposing to log the valley on both sides of Allison Creek, a major tributary to the blue ribbon trout stream Crowsnest River, leaving a minimal buffer (3o metres and less) along the creek and no buffer along the road. At the far right of the above picture is the very bottom of Crowsnest Mountain which will also be seeing some clear cutting in Spray Lakes plan. Crowsnest Mountain is the Pass's most recognizable and important icon. Likely one of the most photographed mountains in the Rockies.
People's concerns range from protection of the headwaters of the Oldman River basin to the impact the scarring created by the clear cut will have on the recreation and tourism industry of the scenic Crowsnest Pass. Another area resident, David McIntyre, has other concerns regarding rare and endangered tree species that make their home in this forest. You can view his letter to Pass council by clicking here (please hit your browser's back button to return to this page). All of the opinions expressed by a great many people here and across the province are valid, legitimate concerns and deserve to be addressed.

Another concern that has not really been raised is the impact of this logging on our elk herds. In this earlier post I talked about our need to protect land important to wildlife for corridors and winter range. Much of the land west of Coleman is very significant to elk for winter forage. Just as important, though, is the forests those elk wintering here need for cover and warmth. Thick forests generate a great deal of heat and for elk to survive cold winters they need that energy. The main reason we have the healthy elk herds now that didn't exist fourty to eighty years ago is the healthy forest that protects them.

One has to wonder why, when the logging industry is shut down all across the west and there is a glut of timber on the market, Spray Lakes is planning on cutting trees here? In this depressed lumber market how can the company afford to cut trees here in Crowsnest Pass and truck them to Cochrane for processing? Or is their plan to cut our trees and ship them to the U.S. to take advantage of our low Canadian dollar? What benefit can possibly come to the people of Crowsnest Pass? What are we likely to lose?


  1. What benefit can possibly come to the people of Crowsnest Pass?

    None! I'd rather take the chance on disease than see them trucked to the US for pennies on the dollar, leaving us 'nothing' but a scarred and desolate landscape.

  2. Hmmm, that doesn't sound like a very good deal to me Gary. Do the residents have much of a chance to make an impact on whether this goes ahead or not? I imagine it's largely in the hands of the province and S.R.D. or whatever department the woodlands are managed under these days.

    I hope those concerned about it make some noise! Good for you trying to raise awareness of the issue.

  3. Gary, thanks for helping to raise the profile of this issue. I think the proposed logging is an outrage, for all the reasons you've identified. Once again the pine beetle is used as an excuse. If those trees are done in by the beetle, so be it. I'd rather look at a dead forest than another ugly clear cut. With the local economy headed for the toilet, it just makes no sense at all to put at risk the tourism/recreation component of the economy.

  4. Don't cut the trees,let the beetles kill them and in afew years you can sit in the valley and watch the rest of the forest around the Crow burn

  5. Thanks for the comment John. That is what the Pass gets.

    Bill,the unfortunate part of this issue is the area in question lies in a neighboring MD even though the impact will be felt more in Crowsnest Pass than Ranchlands. While our council has not made a formal motion on this it is apparent council is against Spray Lakes proposal and we are looking at ways to stop or least minimize the impact this will have on our landscape. It is time that the forests in this area is managed for the economic benefit of the Pass.

    Gotta agree with you Terry, thanks for the comment.

    Hi Ken. You gotta remember if the Pass was still a resource based economy you would likely still be living here. No one is going to help our economy by building a big modern mill here, nor is it likely that anyone will be opening a coal mine here. Capitalizing on our natural surroundings is the only option we have to create an economy for your birthplace. The people living here need opportunity. Recreation and tourism are the only tools we have control of.

  6. I would also like to thank you Gary for raising this issue. I agree, as do many others that I have spoken with, that this proposed logging is insane. I understand the threat of the pine beetle and that the government feels that we have to do something about it but is clear cutting such a large part of the valley in question really the answer? As Dave points out in his letter this mess was largely caused by single species forests which are created due to logging, how is more logging going to fix the problem?

    I am not an environmental scientist but if the government insists on taking our trees because of the pine beetle would it not make more sense to wait till the dead of winter when the beetles are hibernating in a tree and do a controlled burn of a smaller area. This would not only kill a large number of the beetles but also allow for the trees to seed and regrow as nature intended them to do.

    My next bit of confusion lies with the fact that there are endangered trees in the proposed logging area. Does the Species At Risk act not say that the government must work to prevent endangered or threatened species from becoming extinct or extirpated; to help in the recovery of endangered, threatened and extirpated species; and to manage species of special concern to help prevent them from becoming endangered or threatened. Does cutting down endangered trees not go against this act? I was under the belief that the presence of an endangered species would prevent such acts as logging.

  7. Looks like there may be a saving grace with all this cold weather. This may lead up to quite the lengthy environmental study to see if there has been an effect on the pine bugs domination of the Crowsnest forests. Perhaps the minister that is so adamant on taking down those trees should be put straight by the only person on council that leads by example instead of bullying "video lottery" junkies, complaining about "old Chairs", blaming short term memory, being a sheep or my personal favorite, having a tribute to the '70s "car parade in his front yard... Let'em slip Gary, those war dogs have got some ammo against that fence post company now! What an opportunity for some university student to suck some funding out of the Feds and justify his or her existance by checking a whack of trees for the next few years. Just pointing out what you already know... Signed: DEEP"TROUT" (Take it for what it's worth, print it if you like. the truth is sometimes painfull, but it is the truth)

  8. It would seem that everyone here is against the logging that may be taking place around Crowsnest Mountain. Please do not believe evertything that Dave McIntyre states as gospiel. He blames industry for the 1 species forest. What about the fire that burnt the timber around Crowsnest Mountain back in the 1930's. It sure was not industry that planted the pine trees. It was nature. The pine cone needs heat in order for the seeds to be released. Alpine Larch? Yes there are Larch here, but nowhere near the proposed logging. They grow in elevations above 6000 feet. Western Red Cedar? yes again they are in the area, mostly located within the Chinook Allison Forest Land Use Zone SKi Trails, these are more of a shurb than a tree. In order to understand what is happening on our land scape, go out and do your own home work. Read up on the trees that Dave is talking about and then compare that information with SRD data. Then go out into the forest and look around and see what you see.

    If we as a community truley want to stop industry, and focus on recreation on our land scape, look at what avenues that exist within all Provincial Departments and Provincial Legislation. What out there can we best utilize to stop this industrial activity? You may need only look as far north as the Whale Back and how that area is managed.

  9. The Crowsnest Pass has always had an history of tree removal --either by the First Nations burning off the forests for grazing and protection; the ranchers burning off the forests to enhance grazing; the railroad engines causing burning off of the the right-of-way and sometimes more; the coal mines cutting the trees for mine timber; and the logging and pole companies cutting from the Castle all the way to the Kananaskis.

    This latter activity has subsided in the recent years and land use demand has changed to where we are now - environmentally driven land and resource management. The emphasis appears to be to primarily recreation, at the expense of all other uses.

    With forest and range fire protection over the past half century, the once sparse old age Douglas Fir trees that inhabit the Crowsnest corridor have now been surrounded by younger lodgepole pine and Douglas fir. Outside of the valley, the present lodgepole pine forests are primarily a result of forest fires at the turn of the last century and in the 1930s. Forest and range fire protection have insured their survival and growth. These trees are now of the age that either fire or insects/disease will take their toll. Alternately, natural forest succession will occur and without removal one way or another, these forests will become silvicultural slums like the Lost Creek area was at one time.

    Everyone has the right to provide land use input and request his/her specific desired use, but not at the expense of all other parties and uses. Water resource management is very critical in the area - for the benefit of all South Albertans and not just the Crowsnest Pass residents. Properly laid out smaller clearcuts now being used are generally good for enhanced water supply. Certainly the large Lost Creek burn does little to enhance proper water flow. So not all logging is bad.

    While elk need forest cover, they also need grazing. Either prescribed or uncontrolled fire, or cutting provides this. Recreation is a very important land use in Crowsnest. It is most difficult to address all of the desires of the various sub groups in this category. The Allison logging appears to be of concern to one or so parties, who are attempting to rally others. I doubt if this support would be reciprocated to say the Quad group, fisherman, hunters or campers.

    The Crowsnest area has had an history of logging, recently using relatively small clearcuts and selective logging. Any logging creates some mess in the short term, but this can be minimized through "landscape logging", taking into account the surrounding land profile to lay out the cut block boundaries. Perhaps it is time to look at the bigger picture, the old logging areas and a few years down the road concerning these logging plans. Proper use of landscape logging, buffers and other measures will minimize the concerns stated. Certainly the loggers should have their feet held to the fire and not make a mess. But they too to have a right to use the resources, regardless of where the lumber goes. Where does the coal go?

  10. I would guess you have some points of value. But please answer me this: When I went up to the place that Spray Lakes did us this favor of "selective cutting" to retreave fire wood, why am I burning fir logs? It's easy to speak of the reasoning as to why a forest should be culled. The problem here comes down to who is doing the culling. Or as can be plainly seen here in the Crowsnest Pass "clear cutting with no direction given". Remember that the growth cycle here in Alberta is much slower then it is in BC, so what is bare, stays bare an awful lot longer "Mr Science...!"