December 10th, 2014 ~ Vol. 84 No. 48
Road construction begins
for Star Creek logging
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Stock Photo
Pass Herald Reporter
Construction of a logging road for the controversial plan to log near Star Creek has begun, prompting opposition from a local scientist who says the province is hurrying the project along in the face of growing opposition.
“They’re obviously trying to go in there and do this as fast as they can,” says David McIntyre, a well-known forest scientist who has worked for the Smithsonian Institution and now lives in the Crowsnest Pass. “They want it done before anyone can protest any further or say anything more about it.”
On Dec. 3, Cranbrook contractors Fiorentino Bros Ltd. and natural resource management and engineering consulting firm Vast Resource Solutions Inc. were building a five-kilometre logging road into Star Creek from the Travel Alberta Visitors’ Centre.
Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) has confirmed that Canfor Pulp Products Inc., which operates a sawmill in Elko B.C., has accepted the contract to log 168 hectares of forest near the Star Creek headwaters.
McIntyre says the upper Crowsnest River is home to western red cedars, ponderosa pines and western white pines, tree species found nowhere else in Alberta. It is also important grizzly bear habitat.
The Star Creek watershed is also home to cutthroat trout, a threatened species. McIntyre says logging along the creek would further endanger this already threatened fish by increasing stream sediment and killing aquatic life. "Sediment also makes it impossible for trout to create spawning beds," he added. "The fish can't spawn and the food is gone."
“The ESRD forest managers appear to be targeting bull and cutthroat trout in their logging efforts,” says McIntyre. “Why would we target the last remaining critical streams when we’ve almost wiped out these species?”
Duncan MacDonnell, spokesperson for ESRD, says the plan to log Star Creek is an experimental harvest, which is part of the Southern Rockies Watershed Project.
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The project’s stated goals are to study both the environmental impacts of three different harvesting practices and to study the how the 2003 Lost Creek Wildfire affected water quality.
While the area around Star Creek is to be logged, the area around North York Creek will be left untouched and used as a control sample.
The study will compare three different types of logging; clear-cutting, strip harvesting and shelterwood harvesting.
“What makes this area really good is that within a relatively tiny geographic area you’ve got three distinct sub-watersheds [which are] self-contained. And you’ve got a nearby-untouched watershed to use as a control,” says MacDonnell. “It’s a really unique opportunity to do some cutting edge research.”
The Southern Rockies Watershed Project, which is being led by the University of Alberta, was started in 2004. It has found that the Lost Creek Wildfire adversely affected the quality and quantity of water that runs-off the eastern slopes of the Rockies.
But McIntyre says ESRD is scapegoating the Lost Creek Fire to cover up decades of forestry mismanagement.
“There is no baseline data regarding the Lost Creek Fire,” says McIntyre. “They don’t know what the conditions were prior to the fire so it’s a flawed scientific experiment right from the start.”
“They have erroneously vilified [the Lost Creek Fire] by [blaming it for] roughly 100 years of cumulative effects,” he says. “Throughout Southwestern Alberta, we have so consumed the forest landscape around here with activities, roads and abuses that we have very few pockets of pristine landscape left. Roads degrade landscape integrity.”
McIntyre says the project researchers already know which of the three logging techniques will be least damaging but that they’re proceeding with the Star Creek project to back up their claims on the Lost Creek Fire.
MacDonnell defended the experimental logging project and says that the area is located within a C5 forest management district where timber harvesting is an approved land use.
“This area probably would have been scheduled for harvesting at some time or another,” says MacDonnell. “It’s a very small cut. It’s 168 hectares. Just to put that into perspective every year in Alberta the annual cut is about 80,000 hectares. In the grand scheme of things it’s a pretty small piece of land.”
McIntyre says that little things add up and have “consumed the ESRD managed landscape.”
Residents respond to Star Creek logging
In the Nov. 26 edition of the Crowsnest Pass Herald, residents took out a full-page ad raising their concerns over the logging project.
In addition, local resident Kevin Turner wrote a letter to the editor citing research by John Pomeroy, a hydrologist from the University of Saskatchewan that shows logging near watersheds increases the risk of flooding.
“These numbers should scare any mountain community with a history of flooding,” wrote Turner. “How would we have made out in 2013 with an eight per cent increase in flow that results from cutting only five per cent of the basin’s forests?”
MacDonnell says that residents were given the chance to voice their concerns about a year and a half ago at an open house hosted by the University of Alberta.
“I was at that thing and I can tell you that when I was there the vast majority of people who took the time to understand what it was about were fully supportive of it,” says MacDonnell. “They appreciated the science and they appreciated what we’re trying to work through.”
December 10th ~ Vol. 84 No. 48
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