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Kananaskis logging tests government commitment to watershed protection

Logging planned in the Highwood Valley of Kananaskis Country puts Alberta’s commitment to watershed and wildlife protection to the test, says Y2Y.

May 18, 2017

Logging planned for the hills around the historic Highwood House area in the Highwood Valley of Kananaskis Country puts the province of Alberta’s commitment to watershed and wildlife protection to the test.

This is according to a coalition of local community members, trappers, outdoors people and conservation groups.

David Swann, Liberal MLA for Calgary Mountainview, raised questions about the logging to take place in Kananaskis Country today in the Legislature, citing concerns for the region's tourism economy, headwaters and flood protection and endangered species such as westslope cutthroat trout.

Motion 511, introduced to the Legislature by NDP MLA Cameron Westhead on December 12, 2016, signalled the province was taking watershed protection more seriously. Previously the government has made headwaters conservation a priority by protecting the Castle Parks, a move applauded by Albertans and the conservation community.

“These forested ridges and mountains are vital for the conservation of downstream watersheds in High River, Calgary and elsewhere across the province,” says Stephen Legault, program director at the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative.

“We’re asking the province to postpone this logging planning for the Highwood Valley until Albertans have had a chance to examine the impact it will have on our water, wildlife, recreation opportunities and the economics of gateway communities like Black Diamond, Turner Valley and Longview,” he says.

The Minister of Forests didn’t commit to the delay when replying to Swann’s questions.

“This area has been part of my family’s heritage for generations,” says Justin Sjogren, who bought the area trap line recently. “Now instead of a small family business we’ll have clear cuts, little wildlife, and damaged streams.”

“Kananaskis Country is currently managed for multiple use,” says Katie Morrison, conservation director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Calgary chapter. “But much has changed in the 40 years since Lougheed’s original visions for the region. There are twice as many people in Alberta today as there were when Kananaskis Country was founded, and more than a million people a year visit to enjoy the mountains, rivers, foothills and wildlife. It’s time to update the multiple use mandate of K-Country.”

The province of Alberta will be doing sub-region planning for the Kananaskis and Ghost watersheds in the coming year as a result of the South Saskatchewan Regional Land Use Plan.

For further comment please contact:

  • Stephen Legault, Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative program director for Crown, Alberta and Northwest Territories, 403-688-2964 |
  • Katie Morrison, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Calgary chapter conservation director, 403-463-6337 |
  • Justin Sjogren, 403-801-1041