Alberta headwaters conservation needs 21st century vision
Media Release for Mar. 9, 2017
Today Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y) and the Southern Alberta chapter Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) reiterate their call to the provincial government of Alberta to put measures in place to protect the province’s headwater forests.
The call comes as Cochrane-based Spray Lake Sawmills holds the first open house for a new 20-year logging plan for the Foothills region of the province on Mar. 8, 2017. Spray Lake Sawmills currently holds the Forest Management Agreement for the region that stretches from west of Sundre, through the Ghost River, including southern and eastern portions of Kananaskis Country.
“It’s time that Alberta recognized that our southern Eastern Slopes forests have greater value as protection for our watersheds, as wildlife habitat and as a part of the province’s burgeoning tourism economy,” says Stephen Legault, program director for Y2Y. “It no longer makes sense to be clearcutting where we get our water from, and where millions of people a year go to hike, camp, hunt and fish.”
The groups are not alone in calling for major changes in forestry planning. The South Saskatchewan Regional Plan, enacted in 2014, establishes headwater protection as the over-riding policy priority for the area.
In December 2016 the Alberta Legislature passed Motion 511 by an overwhelming majority. The resolution by Banff-Cochrane MLA Cam Westhead read: Be it resolved that the Legislative Assembly urge the Government to increase its efforts to conserve and manage public lands in Alberta’s headwater regions to optimize downstream water security for future generations of Albertans.
“Now we need to put these good sentiments into action,” says Katie Morrison, conservation director for CPAWS Southern Alberta. “We are asking the provincial government to work with Spray Lake Sawmills and the communities along the Eastern Slopes on a plan to undertake the restoration of our headwaters forests for all Albertans, not to continue liquidating them for one company’s profits.”
“There are great examples of other communities that have put people to work, made profits and created diverse economic opportunities while restoring the landscape,” says Legault. “We’ve spent the last 100 years taking the Eastern Slopes headwaters apart. It’s time to start putting them back together.”
The groups issued an eight point call-to-action last December following the passage of Motion 511, including a request for new rules to stop clear-cutting from the Ghost River south, including all of Kananaksis Country, an end to new road building and a focus on developing a restoration economy for Alberta. The complete list of recommendations is included, below.
“We want to work with all partners — First Nations, SLS, the government and communities — on a positive, 21st century vision for the Eastern Slopes that meets the strategic needs and priorities of all Albertans,” says Morrison. “That means changing business as usual to business for headwaters conservation.”
For further comment:
Stephen Legault, Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative program director for Crown, Alberta and Northwest Territories, 403-688-2964 | email@example.com
Katie Morrison, CPAWS Southern Alberta conservation director, 403-463-6337 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Eight recommendations from the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society to protect our headwaters:
- Implement new forestry ground rules for all Eastern Slopes headwater forests that focus on restoring and sustaining watershed health rather than producing a maximum sustained yield of timber. Replace all commercial logging south of the Ghost River with restoration of our forested headwaters;
- End new road building for industrial development in our headwaters;
- Create new protected areas in Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer and Lethbridge’s headwaters to safeguard their water quality and quantity, and to help Alberta reach its milestone to protect 17 per cent of our natural landscapes;
- Stop new mining for minerals, coal and gravel near our headwaters and within key watersheds;
- Repair and revegetate eroding trails, gullies, soil compaction, mud bogs and other damage caused by motorized off-highway recreation, and provide a limited number of well-engineered vehicle trails outside of parks and other important conservation areas;
- Focus on developing economic opportunities that emphasis headwaters conservation like low-impact ecotourism with a focus hiking, biking, fishing, hunting and other sustainable activities;
- Address the impact of climate change on our headwaters by repairing riparian areas and restoring habitat for fish and wildlife species such as Westslope Cutthroat trout, bull trout and grizzly bear;
- Rename the ‘Forestry Trunk Road’ (also known as Hwy 734) Headwaters Trunk Road to honour and value the sources of our water.