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Calgary and area citizens support protection of Kananaskis forests

A new poll commissioned by Y2Y shows a very high level of support for protection of public land in Alberta's K-Country, and strong opposition to proposed logging there.

MEDIA RELEASE
JULY 25, 2017 

A new poll commissioned by the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y) shows a very high level of support for protection of public land in Kananaskis Country, and strong opposition to proposed logging in its Highwood River valley.  

The poll conducted at the end of June and beginning of July in Calgary and area by NRG Research Group shows 68 per cent of respondents are opposed to logging proposed by B.C. based Balcaen and Canfor Forest Products.  

The logging would start with road building in August and September, and is part of a larger logging plan for Kananaskis which also includes upcoming clear-cut logging by Cochrane's Spray Lake SawmillsOf those surveyed only 15 per cent were in favour of the logging activity.  

“This underlines Calgary’s strong connection to Kananaskis Country,” says Stephen Legault, program director with Y2Y. “Calgary area residents consider this to be their backyard. They also believe that K-Country should have more protection than it does. It’s time for a change in how we manage Kananaskis. We’re calling on the government to suspend its plans for logging while we complete detailed sub-regional planning through the South Saskatchewan Regional Land Use Plan.” 

Legault notes that 76 per cent of area residents want to see Kananaskis Country protected with no logging or future oil and gas development. 

Just over 55 per cent of K-Country’s 4,200 km2 is currently protected. Much of the rest of the area is open to logging and oil and gas development.” 

“The survey confirms what we had suspected — that Calgarians think K-Country is already protected,” says Legault. “Only 27 per cent of those polled were aware of logging, oil and gas development and off-highway vehicle use in Kananaskis that could impact water quality and wildlife habitat.”  

Y2Y has been working to support members of Take a Stand for Kananaskis and the Upper Highwood, a community conservation effort that grew from a local hiking club in Black Diamond and Turner Valley. Residents there were alerted to logging plans in the Highwood Junction area of Kananaskis when they found flagging tape on their favourite trails this winter. Since then, a local trapper, business owners, hikers, and conservationists have been working to put forward an alternative, positive vision for the area 

“Kananaskis Country was created nearly 40 years ago by then Premier Peter Lougheed. While the multiple-use vision may have been appropriate when Alberta only had two million residents, today the pressure on K-Country is much greater,” says Dr. Hilary Young, ecologist and program manager for Y2Y's Love your Headwaters campaign 

“The population has doubled since then, and now there are more than a million visitors a year to Kananaskis. Places like Calgary, Okotoks and High River depend on the forested mountains and foothills for clean, clear drinking water.”  

Y2Y's vision for the area supports community-based forestry placing the needs of nature and people first. The poll shows Southern Albertans support new protected areas and some small-scale, selective logging versus today’s modern cut-block harvesting.  

"Strategic thinning, for example, can be an effective way to manage for water, reduce the risk of wildfire, and enhance wildlife habitat while supporting the tourism economies of communities like Bragg Creek and Longview,” says Young.   

When it comes to managing headwaters forests Legault says, “We believe that the current government can do better than those of the past. Kananaskis Country is the perfect opportunity for the government to show its commitment to Calgary’s water and wildlife.”  

The random telephone (70 per cent) and cellphone (30 per cent) survey of 800 area residents is accurate +/- 3.46 per cent 19 times out of 20.  

For further comment:  

Stephen Legault, Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative program director for Crown, Alberta and Northwest Territories, 403-688-2964 | stephen@y2y.net 

Hilary Young, Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative Alberta program manager, 403-609-2666 ext. 104 | hilary@y2y.net 

Background:  

In June Y2Y and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society launched a new site highlighting the issue at loveyourheadwaters.ca. 

Complete results of the survey available here: https://y2y.net/publications/y2y-kcountry-july-2017.pdf  

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