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Letter to the Editor of the Crowsnest Promoter

December 7, 2007


Are you aware of plans for clearcut logging in the Crowsnest Pass?

Spray Lake Saw Mills is about to begin clearcut logging on both sides of the Atlas Logging Road west of the Crowsnest Mountain, from the forestry boundary to approximately km.13.   It appears that very few businesses and citizens are aware of these plans, and I believe many would take action against it if they knew of the potential for harm to our local ecosystem, native sacred sites, tourism and recreation industries and local businesses.

A Regional Advisory Committee has been formed to review land use practices in the Crowsnest area, and their mandate is to develop a Land Use Framework in the next year.  However, the clear-cutting is scheduled to begin within the next month.  We need to influence ASRD to suspend clear cutting in this area until the Land Use Framework is completed and until there is some context within which these decisions can be made. 


An elk calving ground is in the area that is slated to be clear-cut.   The elk in this area are extremely sensitive to environmental disturbance from early spring, when calving begins, until they move to the higher country with their calves, usually around the 3 or 4th week of June.   Representatives from the logging company and Sustainable Resource Development (SRD) say that the elk will simply "find another place to go".   While they may eventually find another safe haven in which to calve, there will certainly be a significant impact on our local herds in the meantime. Has the Elk Foundation been consulted by Spray Lake Saw Mills?

Wildlife abounds in this valley.  These include grizzly, black bear, moose, elk, mule and whitetail deer, mountain sheep and goats, mountain lions, fox, martin, wolverine, wolves, marmot, osprey, owls and other birds too many to mention.  We are all aware of the fragile relationship between wildlife species and the environment.   What will the impact of clear-cutting be on these populations?

Spray Lake plans to cut right to the edge of Allison Creek in spots because, they say, without the forest for support, trees along the creek that do not have the root system to withstand the heavy winds in the Pass would blow down anyway. This means that silt, soil  and other debris will most certainly run off into the creek.  Since Allison Creek runs directly into the Crowsnest River, this will certainly affect the spawning of trout in our treasured Crowsnest River.  How long will the Crowsnest River continue to be a blue-ribbon river once this run-off begins?

Native Sacred Sites

The Crowsnest Pass is an exceedingly important place to native peoples, having been occupied since the end of the last ice age 11,000 years ago. Archaeologists have noted that vision quest sites in Southern Alberta most often faced the Crowsnest  Mountain, Chief Mountain and the Sweetgrass Hills. 

There is a sacred area on the west side of the Crowsnest Mountain where there are numerous prayer rags and sweat lodges above and below the pipeline.  We have been told by our native friends that there are also rock paintings in secret locations on the Crowsnest Mountain. 

We do not trespass on these sacred areas and we do not think that the logging company should either.  We have replaced prayer rags that were taken down by people that were not aware of what they were and we try to educate people whenever we can.  The native groups that we have spoken to have advised us that  Spray Lake has not consulted them regarding its clear-cutting plans in this area.

Designated Multi-Use Area (tourism and recreation and business)

It goes without saying that this valley is one of the most popular areas in the province  for hunting , fishing, mountain biking, hiking, camping, snowmobiling, off-roading, horseback riding etc.  The Crowsnest  Mountain Is one of the most popular subjects for artists and photographers as well.   Have any of these stakeholders been consulted as to the effect of clear-cutting on their activities?  How much tourism and local business will be lost when outdoors enthusiasts find this area unappealing due to this clear-cutting?  An injuction to delay logging would give us time to contact these groups for their feed back on this issue.
In particular, recreation sites along the Atlas Road and within view of the Crowsnest Mountain will be affected by this clear-cutting. Should logging go ahead, the Crowsnest Mountain hiking trail will be changed forever and anyone travelling up to the Window Mountain trail will be driving through clear cut to access it.  Horseback, snowmobile and off-road-vehicle trails will be clear cut.  We are told that Spray Lake plans to reclaim these trails by bulldozing them back into the landscape after the logging is completed.  How enjoyable will it be to ride through miles of clear cut?

Other recreational groups that will be affected and who, to our knowledge, have not been consulted include the Quad Squad and Crow Snow Riders and the local riding clubs and camping groups. There are also the cattle grazers and trappers and the Rocky Mountain Camping owners who run the campgrounds within the forestry and at Chinook Lake. 

The Crowsnest Mountain may be one of the most photographed mountains in the world. Spray Lake’s plan is to clear cut right up to the Atlas Logging Road, leaving no trees whatsoever along the road.  This clear cutting will be visible from Highway #3 and will change the landscape of our signature mountain forever.

Local Businesses

My husband and I have operated an environmentally-respectful trail-riding business on the Crowsnest Mountain for 16 years.  Ours is but one of many that will be ruined and bankrupted by clear-cut  logging in this area.   Fishing guides and tackle shops, bed and breakfasts, resorts, campgrounds – indeed, anyone whose clients are drawn by the natural beauty and bounty of the area will be seriously affected.   Gas stations, gift shops, restaurants, guest lodges and other businesses that get any of their income from tourism will certainly see a decline in business as the tourists find other more appealing areas to enjoy. This trickles down the chain until there is no one unaffected. With the huge burn area to the outh of highway #3 and clear cut to the north what will attract tourists to this scarred area? The Crowsnest Pass is increasingly reliant on tourism. Even housing prices are affected by the health of the tourist industry.   

Reasons Given for Clear-cutting

 Of course, the underlying reason for this clear-cutting is money. But let's look at this. Unlike Atlas Logging Co., Spray Lake Logging Co. employs fewer than a handful of people in our community. The money generated by this venture will not benefit the Crowsnest Pass community. Spray Lake Saw Mills has done little for our community and may very well endanger the livelihood of a great many of us. Think about what we all have to lose in exchange for no tangible gain. 

Control of the pine beatle has been given as another reason for clear-cutting this area. Interestingly, because of the lower price of lumber at this time and the expense of building roads and bridges further back, Spray Lake Saw Mills is looking to cut only along the existing roadway.  Will the pine beatle know enough to spread only to these more convenient and less costly locations.  Other ways could be explored to control the beatle that are not as drastic as this and there is some time to explore other options. 

This most recent plan for clear cutting seems to be proceedin in secrecy based on the lack of consultation completed to date.  Information on the plans for logging should be obtainable from the Spray Lakes Office in Blairmore.  However, when we asked for a copy of the map that showed the affected areas, we were told that we could not have a copy. Anyone who would like to review this map will have to do so at the office in Blairmore.

What You Can Do

The planned cutting is to commence in November.   The planned Regional Advisory Committee is not scheduled to be in place for almost a year.  The work of this Committee will be irrelevant if this clear cutting is done before the committee convenes.  We need to influence AB Sustainable Resources to suspend clear cutting in this area until the Land Use Framework is completed and until there is some context within which these decisions can be made.  This time will also ensure that First Nations and other stakeholders are adequately consulted.

These following people are ultimately responsible for the decision to clear cut the Crowsnest Pass area.  Your letter to them may be helpful in getting the decision put on hold until a proper assessment of the impact can be made.  Please consider taking the time to write to: 

Ted Morton Minister of Alberta Sustainable Resource Development
 Phone:  780-415-4815 (Legislative Office)   403-216-2221 (Constituency Office)
 Toll Free:  1-866-843-4314
 FAX:  780-415-4818 (Legislative Office)  403-216-2225 (Constituency Office)
 Email:  foothills.rockyview@assembly.ab.ca

Gene Zwozdesky Minister of Aboriginal Relations
 Phone:  780-422-4144 (Legislative Office)  780-466-3737 (Constituency Office)
 FAX:  780-644-8389 (Legislative Office)  780-468-3359 (Constituency Office)
 Email:  edmonton.millcreek@assembly.ab.ca