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A brief overview of some highlights of the Land-Use Framework

Land-Use Framework

These documents are available on the Alberta Government web site

News Release

Map (PDF)

Questions and Answers About the Land-use Framework - 103 KB (Word)

Read the final Land-use Framework - 3.68 MB (PDF)


What does the Land-Use Framework mean for Kananaskis

Posted December 9, 2008 by Doug Sephton

Reading this review of the Alberta Sustainable Resource Development Land-Use Framework (LUF) is probably a waste of time. You would be better advised to use the time to go for a walk in the Kananaskis forest while it's still there.

Still here? OK, let's look at how the LUF relates to Save Kananaskis. The LUF addresses the social, economic and environmental concerns of the Save Kananaskis campaign. So it is incumbent on me to comment on it - waste of time or not.

The Land-Use Framework is an encouraging document, full of good ideas. But they are just words on paper. The government should put policy into practice and create a park in Kananaskis to protect the watershed and provide recreation and tourism opportunities for the people of Alberta. Can we trust the government to act in our best interest? Despite the letter writing, the signatures on a petition, the attendance at public events, the surveys completed, the comments contributed, and the tagging of trees over the last several years by thousands of people, the government doesn't recognize the legitimacy of our concerns. History has shown that the government seldom acts on progressive social and environmental policies if they pose any challenges to the vested interests of government and industry.

The LUF cites social, economic and environmental values as the foundation of its regional planning process. These are the same values we've used to win support for our campaign and to demonstrate the need to create a park in Kananaskis. So what's wrong here? Why is it so difficult to get the government to extend park protection to North-eastern Kananaskis? There appears to be a disconnection between the government's good intentions and their ability to act.

Good Intentions detailed in the LUF:

"We need to ensure this land - and all the activities it sustains - is managed responsibly for those who come after us. This means developing and implementing a land-use system that will effectively balance competing economic, environmental and social demands." The document shows that these concerns are addressed in the "Policy for Resource Management of the Eastern Slopes, introduced by Premier Lougheed in 1977 . . . The Eastern Slopes Policy identified watershed integrity as the highest priority use for this region of the province, followed by public recreation and tourism." (Pg. 6, Land-Use Framework)

Inability to act:

According to Section 8 (1) "Rights over the Land" in the Forest Management Agreement between the government and Spray Lakes Sawmills, signed in September, 2001, "It is recognized by the Minister that the Company's use of the forest management area for establishing, growing, harvesting and removing timber is to be the primary use thereof (the "primary use") and that it is to be protected therein in keeping with the principles of sustainable forest management." (Pg. 7, Forests Act, Forest Management Agreement (O.C.284/2001)

Further, Part 4 of the Spray Lakes Detailed Forest Management Plan (DFMP) in the Terms of Reference titled, the "Resource Management Issues and Values", it says, "Aesthetic values - concern over the impact of harvesting activity in areas of high visual sensitivity. Areas of high visual sensitivity are identified at the Preliminary Harvest Design stage of AOP (Annual Operating Plan) development. . . . In addition, as part of the DFMP process, areas around numbered highways and designated recreation facilities will be identified as priority areas for consideration (to be set aside) at the Preliminary Harvest Design stage." (Pg. 38, Spray Lakes Sawmills, Detailed Forest Management Plan 2001-2026)

If aesthetic values matter, Spray Lakes should not have clearcut on Old Baldy Mountain in 2007 as it is visible from Highways 1 and 40 on the way to the Nakiska ski hill. The company's operation plan doesn't appear to have complied with the Detailed Forest Management Plan, recognizing this popular recreation area, which is highly visible from the highway and the Barrier Lake Visitor Information Centre, as an area of special consideration. Apparently popular recreation trails don't deserve special consideration either. Part of the Trans Canada Trail was ploughed under to make way for a logging road in 2007.

Sustainable Forest Management

Part of the problem here is the different interests of different government departments. Both Sustainable Resource Development (SRD) and Tourism, Parks, Recreation and Culture (TPRC) have jurisdiction over Kananaskis. Sustainable practices differ depending on whether the forest is part of an industrial development zone or part of a park. This is shown in stark contrast in the decision by TPRC to refuse access for a bike race (due to environmental impact) while SRD demands companies extract the maximum value from the resource using heavy equipment to destroy the natural landscape.

More Good Intentions:

The Alberta government adopted the Water for Life Strategy in 2003 and renewed it in 2008. "Water for Life will be integrated into other policies and plans, such as Land-use Framework planning, ensuring better resource management integration." (Pg. 7, Water for Life, A renewal, November 2008). The renewal calls for "Safeguarding our water sources, including addressing aquatic ecosystem degradation, more fully integrating water and land management, and continuing to create, enhance and use innovative tools and best practices." (Pg. 6)

Failure to act:

(From a Canadian Press article published Nov. 11, 2008)
"The province stopped issuing water licences in the (South Saskatchewan) region a year ago, leading to concerns about those with existing licences selling portions of their water on the private market.

Last year, the Municipal District of Rocky View, which abuts Calgary to the north, agreed to pay $15 million for a rural water licence to service a proposed mega-mall.

David Schindler, a University of Alberta ecology professor and water expert, labelled that deal "pea-brained" and an example of how the province needs to step in."

The LUF is of no value if its policies are not applied to public and private interests.

The Minister of Sustainable Resource Development says commercial logging in Kananaskis is good forest management and it contributes to a healthy watershed. Scientists say that logging has a negative impact on the watershed; disrupting the quality and quantity of the water supply. The forest acts like a sponge. When trees are removed, they can't absorb and release water - the runoff erodes the earth, choking streams and increasing the risk of flooding. With the forest canopy gone, the snow melts earlier and enters the water supply before it is needed, leading to a possibility of drought. The erosion adds silt, heavy metals, nitrogen and phosphates to the water supply. These (and the algae that biological contaminates produce) have to be removed before the water is fit for human consumption. It is possible that it will cost more to treat this water than the forest will generate in revenue.

How is logging this highly valued natural area a good economic policy? Businesses in recreation, tourism and entertainment industries rely on the appeal of Kananaskis for income. A clearcut slope is not only ugly, it is depressing. As the clearcuts, access roads and the heavy equipment to support them spread over the natural landscape, fewer visitors will use the area. The money they spend will go elsewhere or into other activities.

How is it that the trees, in climatically dry Kananaskis, that take up to twice as long to grow as those in humid B.C., can support a lumber company when companies are failing in B.C. and across Canada? What if the Spray Lakes logging operation fails after it has clearcut vast tracks of Kananaskis? The Alberta Forest Products Association said in November that the value of shipped lumber, panel board and pulp and paper is down $265 million for the first three quarters of 2008 compared to the same period last year.

It is difficult, maybe impossible, to account for the relative value of commercial logging compared to the other businesses that draw value from Kananaskis due to the diversity of stakeholders. How do you assign value to the sadness and revulsion we feel when exposed to unrestrained destruction of a cherished natural area.

The LUF is suppose to consider the cumulative impact of human activity on the ecology of the region. The multi-use policy in Kananaskis puts unbearable pressure on the ecology of the region. The government's Land-Use Framework provides an opportunity to solve this problem, but based on experience and the Minister's stated intentions, that is unlikely.

OK, now I'm going for a walk in the woods.