Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Forest Growth in Crowsnest Pass and area

My last post on the proposed logging along Allison Creek generated quite a few excellent and well thought out responses. Obviously the impact of logging near the Pass is deserving of a broader based debate. The anonymous poster talking of the burned forests is exactly right when he talks of why the trees along the east slopes of the Rockies are all the same age class. I have heard that by the 30's 80% of the east slopes were deforested mainly by fire. Most of which were started by men. Here are a few pictures showing how the Pass and South Castle looked. A couple of them are before and after shots taken from the same location 8 or so decades apart.

The picture above is looking from the ridge above the golf course south. The newer picture had to be taken from a higher position than the first in order to get above the trees that had grown since the first picture was taken.

This picture was taken from Bellevue looking close to area of the current Hillcrest intersection. It looks quite a bit different now.

This picture is taken from Mt. Choulthard looking north to Crowsnest Mountain, Coleman, and north. The final picture below is a before and after of the South Castle.The pictures clearly show why our forests are mainly 80 to 90 years old. They also show how forests recover. Any people that spend time in the Pass can also see the area looks better now (even with the burn of the lost Creek fire) than it did back in the 30's.

The issue here regarding logging is simply, what does the Crowsnest Pass get out of it? How does it benefit our economy? What does it do for our quality of life?

Quite truthfully Spray Lakes"rights" (as anonymous states it),I prefer the word privilege, to log the area are not at the top of my priority list. They have shown how much they care about the aesthetic appeal of the Pass. A quick drive up the Kananaskis outside of Coleman will show you how much they care. What benefit did we get out of that mess?

Spray Lakes, SRD, local land owners, local stakeholder groups (mainly cross country skiers) got together a couple of years ago looking at fire smarting our northern boundary, keeping in mind impact on the trails and other aesthetic concerns of the local landowners. Surprisingly the process went quite well with all sides compromising their positions in order to accomodate the greater good. The compromises were a bit of a hard pill to swallow for the local stake holders but they agreed. All sides agreeing on cut block size (the height of one tree) 60 to 80 feet depending on the area. Where the small blocks would likely be etc. Then a couple of months later the logging company comes back to the stakeholders demanding more. Demanding bigger blocks. Fortunately the locals held their ground.

Back to Allison. Alberta SRD has listened to the concerns brought to them and have limited what could be taken on Crowsnest Mountain, and created a bigger buffer along some trails. They have also increased the buffer size along Allison Creek to 60 metres but have not created a buffer along the road. Is this good? Well, its better than what Spray Lakes wanted to do. Should they be allowed to log though, who will be there holding their feet to the fire? Once its cut it is too late.


  1. I'm curious why they even want to log at all... isn't the lumber industry in the tank right now?

  2. Well said Gary, after all, isn't the issue of Spray lake's performance the reason for most of the hub-bub anyways? One guy told me that he would rather the place burn to the ground instead have that company touch the place. Add this to the Fed's pushing for job creation in the near future and it'll be a devistating situation if it is left to Spray lakes to log the area.
    I believe our man in the Gov. should tread carefully when he starts stating the "reality of the situation", when the common and most reasonable opinion is that we have to turn to tourism if we want to survive.., whether we like it or not.
    One way to look at it is that the tar sands is not exactly a "destination" for campers, however, Allison is.
    Even if tourists bring their own groceries, over the long term there is still more money brought to the area than logging every 80 years.
    As you well know, some folks fall in love with the areas they visit and actually buy homes that feed (again, over the long term) the tax system as well as support small businesses.
    In short, it's a lot easier to sell the place if it looks good. And we know from our latest experiences with Spray Lakes Sawmills that it will be a hard sell if they get thier hands on it for it is a company that does not believe in supporting the community as a whole, only an extreamly small part.

  3. The Forest Industry has taken great strides to improve logging practises. Spray Lakes has the licence to log but the real sad part is that the contractor that they had doing the work just north of town was a local contractor. He ran a hack and slash logging show that would have been out of date in the 1980's. While the logs were hauled for milling elsewhere, it is wrong to say that there was no benifit for local contractors, they just could not do the job to an acceptable standard.

  4. Then I believe that Spray Lakes should have been present to supervise if they indeed cared about establishing good P.R. with the Crowsnest Pass. Any way you want to put it, look at it or otherwise, it's on Spray Lakes shoulders and they will never be trusted with the well being of "our" forests again! on that you can depend.
    Not putting back into the community is also something that was noticed by more than one local group. Shall we go on?

  5. Any logging plan that is approved by the SRD must also be closely monitored by SRD, especially in light of the sensitivity of logging in the Crowsnest corridor and Allison area. That is its role. Also, SRD must consider the "viewscape" of the Crowsnest Mountain area from all of these angles, or it is not doing its job. Perhaps they are implementing this now. For sure, a slow lumber market can't be used as an excuse for poor timber utilization and sloppy logging by Spray Lakes or its contractors.

    SRD has a tough decision to make. The beetle "cut & burn" contol projects have helped hold down the beetle spread, but the beetles are far from being under control - regardless of what is said. Red trees from the 2007 flight still speck the area around Blairmore, and who knows what the 2008 flight will look like this coming summer. The west winds will continue to bring in the beetles. They appear to be flying west to east, and not moving into the North/South valleys--yet, i.e, Allison, I think.

    There is an unlimited beetle supply on the BC side and if the critters get rolling in these mature Alberta pine stands, they'll wipe out the whole Crowsnest corridor. One of the ways to stop the beetle spread is to remove its prime food supply. Therein lies the problem -- to cut or not to cut these trees before the beetle MAY get them.

    Using the "retention logging" system instead of small clearcuts will go a long way to satisfying the concerned parties re wildlife cover, streamside protection and aesthetics, and still give Spray Lakes the timber it needs for a viable logging operation. This system should work in the Allison and Crowsnest area.

    There is a reasonable chance the recent cold weather snap, and the rest of winter will suppress the beetle spread in 2009. If it doesn't, there can easily be widespread infestation after the 2009 and 2010 beetle flights. If this happens, there best be an overall plan to remove, including logging, the infested trees BEFORE the beetles fly in 2010 and again in 2011. The widespread infestation may not happen at all, but once the beetle gets a foothold, there is no way to get ahead of it, and chasing it doesn't work, as BC knows. The red trees will blossom like algae in a pond. Those people that think no logging at all is the way to proceed, and just let the beetle run its course, should look at the devastation throughout BC from not getting ahead of the beetle. When the hillsides and yards are red and the dead trees start falling, it's too late.

  6. Is this about the progress of the Pine Beetle, or is this about Spray Lakes capitalizing on our forests?
    The Pine Beetles plight is a force of nature, stockpiling fenceposts for a market that dosn't need them is not.
    With the price of cattle tanked as it has been for the last ten years, the only people that will be demanding fence posts are the "Oil Man Weekend Cowboys" and the Highway department, and guess what!?!, neither of them are going to be buying posts any time soon with a sagging oil based economy.
    We can cut down every stick from the B.C. border to Burmis, You still can't stop a 120 M.P.H. wind that can carry a bug that fell from an unlucky birds mouth! Write down all the tech you want on the subject, common sense is what is needed here. Looks sell, and that's what the Crowsnest Pass needs..., beauty to keep the dollars flowing, not flash in the pan economics.

  7. Okay, let's forget about the beetle. Time will tell. I happen to feel that an orderly logging program is better than a beetle kill or a large wildfire. Just watch the local land owners holler for "control" action by the SRD when one of these two happen. Your trails will be bulldozed and they won't say a word while their properties are being saved.

    What is needed is ORDERLY logging, taking into account the concerns of all stakeholders. This can be accomplished if logging is not demonized but rather is considered an asset to solve the aging forest problem hitting the southern Alberta East Slope. Thinking longer term is needed. Look at Pages 241 and 347 of the "Crowsnest and It's People" book to see that the ecological cycle continues, with or without us.

    The clearings and open hillsides in the Crowsnest Pass area have gradually filled in with trees. Open spaces are needed again for suitable wildlife habitat browsing and grazing. Each stage of plant succession has its unique vegetation, wildlife, flowers, etc. so not all things are wiped out when one type of vegetation replaces another, either by logging or otherwise.Unfortunately the SRD will not use controlled burning to alter the vegetation in the Crowsnest. It considers logging the alternative.

    The logging planned by Spray Lakes in the Dutch Creek and Northwest Branch is needed to remove the over-aged trees and to get the vegetation cycle going again. Logging in this type of forest may result in cull logs being left, and to many that is considered a mess. For sure, logging the Allison area is an entirely different and sensitive situation. It requires the total cooperation of Spray Lakes and the SRD; if Spray Lakes AND the SRD don't recognize the difference, the logging here should be shut down. Waiting a few years to sort it all out will not hurt, but the beetle may speed up any decision. The Allison area and Crowsnest Mountian viewscape is unique and recreation should be given the priority.

    People will not stop visiting the Crowsnest area. They didn't in the past and they won't in the future. Lost Creek and the Castle are full of visitors with or without the fire and follow-up logging. The Kananaskis and Allison areas are no different.

    Otherwise, call in the Sierra Club so that they can tie up all of the forests from Waterton to Banff, and in the Flathead, as part of the Y to Y (Yellowstone to Yukon "park" Initiative. Then the local and visiting quaders,snow-machiners, campers, hikers, berry pickers, hunters, fishers, skiers and sightseers will either be shut out or hoofing it into their favorite spots-- that is if these areas are left open. Sounds far fetched? -- then visit some of the US National Forests and Jackson Hole, Wyoming. That is where this is all headed unless a compromise is made in the Allison situation.

  8. The largest beef that you are going to find here is the contempt felt for the company that did the butcher job above Coleman. Now, that area is not in plain sight, so the worry is that the job that will be done will damage the tourist industry. Remember that there is no road leading to a nice campground out in the lost creek area like there is in Allison, so once those sparse tourist dollars are affected by an eyesore, you can gaurentee that it will be felt here in an already suffering economy.

  9. So here we go, Spray lakes is going to be knocking them down and with attitude to boot. Only one thing left to do and that is watch them very closely.
    And I'm very sure that the Pine Beetle will be making it's way across the swath of distruction that Spray Lakes will be leaving behind, on that you can count. Whomever does not believe this can head on down to the same old "Cult of Hypocrism" that these "Business men" (And yes, in this case, I use the term with contempt) supposedly adhere to. Maybe they will come back as "The Beetles"

  10. Another episode of SLS destruction. We are in Grade 12 at the highschool in the Crowsnest Pass targeting some of the horrible things that SLS has done to the local area. After huge amounts of destruction to much of the local terrain due to their logging, they are packing up and heading out. After raping the trees in our area, they find it necessary to take out bridges on a local access road because they no longer had any need for this area. This road is of particular importance to the local sportsmen in everything from hiking, climbing, fishing, hunting, and numerous other sports. Perhaps we could see the day when a company would take responsibility for the area that they are operating in and respect the neighbouring communities.