November 26th, 2014 ~ Vol. 84 No. 46
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Star Creek logging; It’s about water
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
KEVIN TURNER
Letter to the Editor
Dear Editor,
Star Creek harvesting, it's not their fault! This was the message put forth by the Southern Rockies Watershed Research Project Team (SRWP), in a recent letter to the editor of the Crowsnest Pass Herald. Their letter, in response to another letter to the editor by a Crowsnest Pass resident concerned about the experimental nature of the planned harvest, reads like they believe they are the final word on the subject and anyone with the gall to question their behavior or the strength of their science has got things all wrong.
"We appreciate the opportunity to set the record straight about our research program."
This was the last line of their letter; let's see if the facts agree. It is claimed in the letter that, "Star Creek was going to be harvested - our research only affects how it will be harvested." and notes it was scheduled to occur between 2006 and 2016. It goes on to claim this decision was made before the existence of their research project; odd as they claim the project has been running for eleven years. I'll leave that math problem to you.
Their claim of "evaluating the impact of different current logging techniques on watersheds" may be dubious as I was unable to find anything in this province that resembles the proposed 'strip logging' currently in use. As well, they claim to have assisted the community in securing disaster relief funding; a noble thing that was likely washed down the creeks along with their baseline data in the flood of 2013. There may be some truth to the statements, but not the whole truth.
Simply put, it seems to work like this: the Government of Alberta outlines general areas where commercial logging can take place. Then, logging companies create operational plans for the areas they think they would like to log after which they go back to the government for approval of their plan. Part of this process includes taking an inventory of the things the logging may affect, things like drinking water, wildlife habitat, aesthetics, impact on the local community and the ability of the forest to recover from the logging. If it all fits, a permit is issued, the company pays a "stumpage fee" to Albertans and the forest is cut. So, does it fit? Well, not really and besides, this isn't really about logging anyway, it's about water!
As far as the fit goes, the area appears important to local Sheep, Elk, Goat, Grizzly Bear, contains rare in Alberta plants, and is the home to a threatened species, Westslope Cutthroat Trout. Have you ever seen a logging operation that looks nice? So much for the aesthetics. There's likely to be a small benefit to the community from workers spending money here during the work, but this will end and the community may well be left with a legacy of expenses that far outweigh the short term gain. As well, it's been accepted by almost everyone else in the science community I could find that our forests do not recover well from logging due to the slopes, the wind and long periods without rain at times. This doesn't sound a good fit so far does it?
So what about the water thing? Many aspects of the study they propose have already been done by John Pomeroy from the University of Saskatchewan. He put numbers to the increases in stream flow that occur as a result of logging. These numbers should scare any mountain community with a history of flooding. How would we have made out in 2013 with an eight percent increase in flow that results from cutting only five percent of the basin's forests? He also noted increases as high as twenty-three percent when sixty percent of the basin is cut. Yikes! How much of our basin has already been cut? I'm not a scientist myself, but I do understand common sense pretty well and given how much more the folks at the SRWP know about this sort of thing it's starting to make me wonder why they would be so interested in running this experiment in a place so sensitive to logging and with so much to lose?
continued below...


It was explained to me by the SRWP scientists at the open house last year that way more of the snow that lands on a tree is lost to evaporation than is lost when snow lands on the ground so the point of the study is to figure out how much snow (water), we can trap in the hills before spring run-off. Why would they want to do this? Now we're getting to the point.
Southern Alberta is out of water! Our need exceeds our supply, simple and it's getting worse. We all know there are many ways to save water; we also know we are not doing our best to save the water we do have so logic suggests we should tidy things up on that front while looking at other options. There's been no mention of this by project members I'm aware of. Is getting more water out of the hills is a good thing? Not right now. For one thing, we have no where to put the extra water as most of it shows up at the same time, Spring. So is this study going to conclude we need more reservoirs to handle the increase in Spring run-off, perhaps? If you follow this line of thinking to an exaggerated end, our streams will become little more than pipelines to prairie reservoirs supplying a wasteful public. Hmmmmm... So now what becomes of the things we were supposed to think about before we even logged in the first place? We all know how much damage the flood of 2013 did; do we really want to increase the chance of this happening more often? Are wasteful agriculture practices, car washing and golf courses really worth sacrificing mountain streams and valleys for? We should all have a much greater say in this; the fact that the SRWP believes themselves to be the final word on this should offend.
So who are they really? While identifying himself as based out of the University of Alberta one of the project leads was still being paid by our government as an employee of ESRD on loan to the university project when I last spoke with him. Another fellow who worked on the project for several years was hired last year by ESRD and now may have significant power over what is going to happen on the land. As well, there's been a lot of puffing about the people and universities involved in this, yet they continue to advertise to attract new people to the project. Respected scientists outside of the project and government I have talked with would not consider allowing their names to be associated with this project and have inferred the broader science community finds little value in their work. Hmmmmm... again.
Everything I have mentioned here can easily be confirmed by simple Google searches; the internet is a wonderful thing when used for good purpose. I encourage everyone with an interest in this or who may be directly affected to spend a little time looking at this stuff and thinking about possible outcomes. It's still the people's land and it's still the people who will suffer if things go wrong. We all count and all of our concerns are important in spite of what the SRWP or anyone else says. Be brave, and help insure your grandkids and theirs will still have place to play and enjoy the beauty and wonder of this very special place.

Respectfully,
Kevin Turner
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November 26th ~ Vol. 84 No. 46
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