See maps of the forest before and after logging
Spray Lake Sawmills (SLS) has posted their harvest plans for the forests in eastern Kananaskis Country, adjacent to Bragg Creek, and according to these plans the prospects for the mature pine forests in our area are grim. The good news is that SLS needs to respond to community input to their plans, and their provincial overseers—Sustainable Resource Development—are charged with ensuring that this input is observed. And provide it now we must, if we value these ecosystems.
If SLS is allowed to log as they propose—and they will be allowed in the absence of significant public opposition—then most of the remaining pine forests adjacent to West Bragg Creek will be transformed into clearcuts over the winters of 2006 through 2016. This means that where visitors were once able to walk, run, ski, bike or snowshoe through West Bragg Creek’s mature pine forests, they will now face the grim prospect of traveling through a landscape dominated by clearcut logging. Similarly, local residents will soon view clearcuts, not pine forests, when they gaze out towards K-country.
Here's the most alarming part of the SLS plan: a circle of 10 km radius, centered over West Bragg Creek, has been placed over the adjacent forests of Kananaskis Country. Within this circle, intense logging of pine forests (the dominant forest type) will begin almost immediately. Significant swaths of forest in the area (roughly 50%) have already been clearcut in the past decades. You can see evidence of this recent logging either by traveling through the area or by inspecting satellite images (e.g., Google Earth). The current SLS plan targets most of the remaining forests for clearcutting in 2006 to 2016, which will result in a profound transformation of the local natural landscape.
For those who want to see the SLS plans for themselves, here's how to pick out the relevant needles from the information haystack. Visit www.spraylakesawmills.com. Download chapter 8 (DFMP Chapter 8.pdf), but don't try doing this without serious bandwidth: the file's 347MB! In this file, examine page 91 (Appendix 3 – Time Age Class South) which shows the forests as they now exist (past clearcuts show up here, too, as ‘young stands’), and page 367 (Appendix 7 – Run 4 Ecosite South 15 Year Harvest Map) which shows the proposed harvest plans for these forests. Comparing these 2 figures is all you need to understand how the SLS plan will radically transform the West Bragg Creek ecosystem.
In a particularly audacious twist, SLS implies that by clearcutting West Bragg Creek forests, the company is doing the community a favour! The clearcut will supposedly help our community by reducing the risk of forest fire spreading from K-Country to our homes. Apparently, it’s irrelevant that the most likely source of fire hazard is from within the residential areas (where fire-using people live), not from K-Country (where they don't).
How have other communities accommodated the threat of fire from their local forests? Jasper provides a great example (www.pc.gc.ca/docs/v-g/ie-ei/at-ag/sec8/page2_e.asp) where "FireSmart-Firewise" measures have been implemented in a community where local forests are highly valued. Jasper has reduced its risk from forest fires by creating a 350 ha thinned fringe of adjacent forest. That's a carefully thinned forest, not a clearcut one. The town of Lake Louise also plans to reduce their risk of fire from adjacent forests without clearcutting (www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/ab/banff/plan/plan8f_E.asp). Clearcut logging produces ecosystem effects completely dissimilar to the regenerative effects that accompany natural stand-replacing disturbances like fire
or insect pests. Stand thinning, on the other hand, can be appropriate to reduce fire risk, especially in communities that value their local forests for the recreational and aesthetic enjoyment of thousands of users. Bragg Creekers value their surrounding forests. Why should Bragg Creekers accept elimination of their forests to reduce the risk of fire?
Above all else, Bragg Creekers are united in their respect for and enjoyment of their natural environment. The local portions of K-country are a major part of this environment. Our local natural environment is now under serious threat from clearcut logging. Local residents need to voice their opposition to the plans for local clearcut logging. Is such logging even an appropriate use of public lands so close to and so important to the economy and identity of our community? As owners of this public resource, we need to provide clear political direction in this matter to our political representatives.