September 2nd, 2015 ~ Vol. 85 No. 34
Star Creek timber harvesting and Watershed Research Project
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Jeff Chambers Photo
Star Creek timber harvesting tour.
Pass Herald Reporter
On Thursday August 27, I was lucky enough to go on a tour of the Star Creek timber harvesting sight.

Due to a recent letter to the editor I feel obligated to clarify and shed light on the project, what is involved and explain what advantages we can gain from such a premier, in depth research project.

The Southern Rockies Watershed Project (SRWP) was designed to build scientific knowledge of the effects of natural and human-caused activities on watersheds in the foothills of Southwestern Alberta.

After the Lost Creek wildfire in 2003, 20 000 hectares of forest were burned leaving a scar that we still see today. In, March of 2004, Alberta initiated the SRWP in co-operation with the University of Alberta, to capture the effects of a natural wildfire on water quality, water quantity and general ecosystem health.

It has been an 11 year long study and the project continues to gather hydrological data from a number of affected drainage areas as well as two unburnt catchments to give the project a control from which to gather information.

The actual timber harvesting in Star Creek, that we see shocking pictures of and aesthetic dwellers cringe at, is the result of Phase Two of the Southern Rockies Watershed Project.

Phase two involves applying a different harvesting method in each of three different catchment basins in the Star Creek watershed and monitoring these effects on water resources and other values in the headwaters, as well as spatial scales within the Oldman River Basin. In total, just over 160 of the 1800 hectares of the star creek drainage will see harvesting.

The three harvesting methods are, Variable retention clearcut (less than 68 ha), which involves clear-cutting an area leaving retention patches for soil, water and wind control. The second is, harvest in strips (less than 44ha), which by design, minimizes sun exposure to the bare earth as to retain proper levels of water and again keep wind from damaging the still standing trees. The third method is partial cutting/thinning (less than 56 ha) which is systematically thinning an area while leaving at least 50% (or more) of trees standing.
continued below ...
The results from the area, using these harvesting methods, will be compared to data collected from nearby York Creek, which will remain unharvested as a control catchment.

Unlike previous forest hydrology studies in Alberta, Phase two of the Southern Rockies Watershed project is a detailed study of how stream flow, water quality and stream ecosystem health are affected by harvest activities.

A diverse multinational group of scientists are involved representing a range of disciplines including climatology, hydrology, aquatic ecology, wildfire, soil physics, basin scale river dynamics, water treatment process engineering, natural resource economics and sociology.

I personally saw U of A students peppered all over the area huddled over complicated sediment monitoring equipment as well as inexpensive pails, rubber tubing, haywire and duct tape fashioned together in order to test sediment levels in different areas.

Under the C5 Forest management plan, which applies to forest activities in the region, the Star Creek area was scheduled to be harvested in, 2006 and 2026, in accordance with the approved Spatial Harvest Sequence and the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan.

Under these plans and according to the Spray Lake Sawmills C5 ground rules, harvest block design, stream buffer requirements as well as road and bridge construction all meet and often surpass the standards set in the Operating Ground Rules.
continued below ...
Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) constantly have their boots on the ground and are responsible for all regulatory components associated with forest harvesting operations including insuring relevant legislation and that policies and best management practices are adhered to.

Logging is going to happen and ESRD and U of A are the people who ensure it's done safely and with the least amount of damage to the environment and ecosystem. Some of the things I was personally educated on were that this is an elaborate, one of a kind research project here in the Pass and it includes our small town in the future of logging practices everywhere.

Old growth forests sometimes cause problems like pest infestations and are susceptible to lightning strikes creating fuel for wildfires.

We can limit the ability for fires to spread and harvest this resource with the least amount of environmental damage as possible.

A lot of the local wildlife appreciate the process whether for foraging, clear passage through the forest as well as the quickly regenerated habitat due to the diligent regiment of reclaiming, reseeding and re-stabilizing of soil to promote better growth (thanks to ESRD).

The project will continue until enough data is collected and an informative detailed report will result.
September 2nd ~ Vol. 85 No. 34
All information on this website is Copyright (c) 2015 Pass Herald Ltd. All rights reserved.
12925 20th Ave, Box 960, Blairmore, Alberta, Canada T0K 0E0 | | 403.562.2248 | 403.562.8379 (FAX)