Bragg Creek residents oppose Province's plans to clearcut
Roughly 150 area residents voiced their opposition to the Province’s plans to harvest more than 700 hectares of forest in the West Bragg Creek area during an information session at the Bragg Creek Centre on Aug. 2.
The harvest plans are part of Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development’s (ESRD) Greater Bragg Creek Wildfire Mitigation Strategy, which serves to reduce the “high to extreme” risk of wildfire assessed in the area.
The plan was developed in consultation with the Bragg Creek FireSmart Committee and Rocky View County Fire Services.
“This plan aims to reduce fire intensity and rate of spread, increase responder and public safety and improve fire suppression and structure protection effectiveness,” said Alberta FireSmart Planning Specialist Stew Walkinshaw.
Residents voiced concerns that clearing the trees would impact local watersheds, trail systems, cause soil erosion and negatively change views of the scenery. Residents also said the public was not properly consulted about the plan.
According to ESRD, several public education events have taken place over the past few years, including open houses, booths at Bragg Creek Days and door-to-door visits by municipal firefighters, as well as a FireSmart demonstration in September 2009.
Another issue raised was the fact Cochrane’s Spray Lake Sawmills (SLS), which would be the primary financial benefactor as it would perform logging operations, was a major stakeholder in discussions about the plan.
“The reason this is happening is because the Conservative government signed a contract with Spray Lake Sawmills to log 50 per cent of Kananaskis,” said Bragg Creek resident Karen Smith. “I’m not buying any of it. This isn’t about FireSmart, this is about Spray Lakes.”
ESRD representatives said SLS needed to be consulted in order to determine if harvesting would be operationally feasible.
Walkinshaw noted a 2011 review stated the area experiences large wildfires every 30 to 70 years, the most recent of which was in 1936, meaning it is only a matter of time before another one sparks.
“Fire is natural across our landscape,” he said. “It will occur again. We don’t know when at this point, but it’s better to be prepared now than to wait until it’s too late.”
The plan would involve clearing trees in 300 to 400-metre-wide strips, which would provide a “fire barrier” to allow firefighters to more effectively manage the spread of a wildfire.
Rather than clearcut logging, some residents suggested selective logging would allow for equally effective fire control, but Provincial Fire Behaviour Specialist Dennis Quintillo said selective cuts would not be suited for the kind of trees and winds in the area.
ESRD Southern Rockies Lands and Range Manager Ross Spence said the Province will continue to seek public feedback about the plan, in order to determine the best option.
“We encourage Albertans to work together to solve these land-use issues,” said Spence.
“We want to find better ways to consult, and we will continue to take comments from the public to help make a more informed decision.”
More information on the Greater Bragg Creek Wildfire Mitigation Strategy is available online at www.rockyview.ca/firesmart
Questions and comments can also be emailed to email@example.com
Logging operations were set to begin this summer but have yet to receive final approval the Province. The Province will determine how to proceed in the coming weeks.