Dr. Swann in Question Period on Logging in Kananaskis Country – 18 May 2017

Taken from the Alberta Hansard for Thursday, May 18, 2017

Logging in Kananaskis Country

Dr. Swann: Thank you, Madam Speaker. Kananaskis Country includes vital headwaters, prime outdoor recreation for Calgarians, an attraction for tourists from all over the world. That’s why a plan for large-scale clear-cut logging in the Highwood region is very concerning to residents from Black Diamond, Turner Valley, and High River. The allocation of trees was supposed to be over a five-year period, yet they’re planning to take it all this year, before the NDP government can amend logging plans or put in additional conservation measures. To the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry: are you aware this is happening, and what are you doing about it?

The Acting Speaker: The hon. Minister of Agriculture and Forestry.

Mr. Carlier: Thank you, Madam Speaker and to the member for the question. Our government remains committed to protecting and improving the things that make a difference in Albertans’ lives. That includes protection of land and water. We have good partnerships with our lumber industry right across the province to ensure that sustainable practices are maintained across the province and continue to be so. The partnership is working well. We’ll continue working with this those lumbering partners in the province, including in the area that the member is talking about, to ensure that those sustainable practices are maintained.

Dr. Swann: Madam Speaker, this clear-cut is part of the quota operated by Balcaen Consolidated Contracting, a company from B.C., and the timber will be processed in B.C. This means there are very few jobs for Albertans in this plan to clear-cut a significant part of Kananaskis Country. To make matters worse, it will reduce tourism and recreational economic opportunities, having a negative impact on livelihoods that are based on the region’s intact forest. What is the minister doing to protect jobs and support the economic diversification this provides to Alberta?

The Acting Speaker: The hon. Minister of Agriculture and Forestry.

Mr. Carlier: Thank you, Madam Speaker and to the member for the question. Up to 70 communities in the province and over 19,000 workers are in the lumber industry, so it’s a very important industry. We continue to support that industry both nationally and interna-tionally. We’re continually monitoring the harvest operation, whoever is doing that harvest operation, to ensure that sustainable practices are maintained and to meet those standards. Governments, communities, and industries must continue to work together to maintain those standards and ensure the sustainable management of Alberta’s important forestry resources.

Thank you, Madam Speaker.

Dr. Swann: Madam Speaker, the creeks in the forested slopes feeding the upper Highwood River also contain pure strain cutthroat trout, an endangered species in Alberta, and this activity threatens their further recovery. High River also depends on the forest for flood mitigation. Nonetheless, this operation is slated to start in August even as many concerned citizens are speaking up to protect the local economy, the watershed, and the wildlife. Again to the minister: will you put this logging on hold and order a proper impact assessment before proceeding with this plan?

The Acting Speaker: The hon. Minister of Agriculture and Forestry.

Mr. Carlier: Thank you, Madam Speaker. All harvesting oper-ations are done in accordance with operating ground rules in the area. Companies have to work with the department to ensure that their harvesting plans meet those standards. The department then periodically goes out, making sure those standards are maintained. I have confidence that those are maintained. For example, the logging companies must maintain a tree buffer zone around creeks, et cetera, to ensure that we do protect all species, endangered or otherwise, in those harvested areas.

Thank you, Madam Speaker.