Alberta Sustainable Resource Development recently approved plans to allow clear cut logging activities in the area of Kananaskis near Bragg Creek and across a broad slice of the region. This has many concerned, including Mountain View MLA Dr. David Swann.
One of the reasons SRD gave to residents during public consultations was that an effort was needed to combat the Mountain Pine Beetle activity in the area and taking preventive action against its spread. This isn't a well-founded strategy, according to Swann, especially due to the increased risk to water resources in the area.
"It has been studied pretty well in B.C. where they examined the impact on water," said Swann. "If you clear cut rather than leave the pine beetle damage alone, there is increased damage to the water, increased soil erosion, and damage to water flows downstream."
The combination of climate change and clear cutting could significantly affect the local water supply in the future, explained Swann, noting residents should make an effort to protect the water for the future.
"Pine beetles can do terrible things to a forest, there's no question," he said. "The question that we are asking SRD is this: 'are we going to minimize the damage or make it much worse?' They are determined to use mechanical means to control this and, in so doing, damage the ecosystem, habitat, wildlife diversity and the water system. Just because it's cheaper for the forest industry to clear cut, they are going to allow them to do that. This is not progressive policy."
Swann was involved in the Save Kananaskis Rally in Calgary Fri., Nov. 9. Swann was adamant that this shows how concerned Albertans are about preserving Kananaskis.
"What is the long-term economic asset that exists there as a result of the pristine forests and waterways as opposed to the short-term economic benefits of logging?" asked Swann. "Most Albertans would choose the long-term. Again, if the forest was managed sustainably using selective logging practices and maintaining a good setback from waterways it could be an effective resource. In sum, this government is consistently ruling in favour of short-term economic interests, confusing [that] with real, long-term prosperity."
Swann explained that people across the province are mobilizing themselves to demand higher standards of resource management from industry.
University of Calgary biology professor and researcher Dr. Mary Reid has spent a great deal of her career researching mountain pine beetles in the Rockies.
"In the current circumstances on the slopes in Alberta, there are lots of old trees that could potentially support beetles, and so logging small areas of them are not likely to change the abundance of mountain pine beetles," Reid said. "In the event of a warming trend, they could increase. Given that there was not really much beetle activity in the past and now there is, indicates there has already been an increase in activity."
Reid noted the Albertan government has been trying to find the trees that currently have beetles in them and taking them out.
University of Calgary professor Dr. Edward Johnson and researcher at the Kananaskis Field Station had a markedly different perspective to offer on clear cutting.
"Clear cut logging is absolutely a sustainable practice," Johnson said. "These forests expect large disturbances; in the past that would have been things like forest fires. The seeds germinate on exposed mineral soil. It's about how the trees regenerate and grow. Most of the current logging practices have been designed to mimic these kind of natural disturbances like forest fires."