UPDATE APRIL 18 2013

Hi Sustain Kananaskis Supporters,

Clear-cut logging in the West Bragg Trail area started this past winter after approval by Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (AESRD) in late fall 2012. Before approval, many of you wrote letters, attended numerous meetings and spread the word. With this pressure from you folks, the Alberta Government provided some public consultation which eventually led to AESRD Minister Diana McQueen attending a Town Hall meeting in Bragg Creek. This meeting was very disappointing for many due to the unresponsiveness of Minister McQueen to the overwhelming concerns of 400 people regarding the proposed logging in the West Bragg Creek recreation area. However, following the meeting, some stakeholder consultation did occur with the following mitigations put in place:
  • 50 metre buffer zones on each side of trails that intersected with cutblocks (originally no buffer zones were on the table)
  • Fewer cut blocks logged than originally planned
  • Removal of slash from cutblocks with off-site incineration
  • Daily monitoring of logging operations by AESRD
Without your help, the damage would have been far more extensive. Thank you!

But now, a second, larger round of logging is being planned. Extensive clear-cut logging plans for West Bragg Creek (WBC) to Station Flats in Kananaskis Country are currently being formulated by Spray Lake Sawmills (SLS) for Alberta Government review and potential approval this year. The plans call for the clear-cut logging of an area considerably larger than the area currently being logged in WBC. Numerous recreational trails would be directly impacted by this logging including Moose Loop, Telephone Loop, Merlin Loop, Bobcat, Ridgeback, Tom Snow, Special K, Race of Spades, Diamond T, Diamond Loop and Snakes and Ladders at a minimum. In short, the scenic value, recreational use and forests of this area would be significantly negatively impacted by the proposed extensive clear-cut logging.

If you are concerned, we suggest that you write or speak to your MLA, Minister Diana McQueen and the Premier. Suggested key points are:
  • 1. No new clear-cut logging should be allowed in this region pending approval of the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan (SSRP).
  • 2. This area should be protected by the SSRP, with the top priorities being watershed protection and recreation/tourism.
  • 3. Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development has demonstrated with the 2012 approval of logging in WBC that it doesn’t have the necessary capability and processes to:
    • a. Manage this land appropriately,
    • b. Conduct meaningful public consultation and communication,
    • c. Set management priorities that are in alignment with the views of concerned Albertans and
    • d. Ensure the various values and uses of this land are optimized and in the public’s best interest.
We don’t believe the government has learned anything from the first round of interaction with the public. Please write now to ensure they can’t use the same excuse they used last time – that there’s not enough time to carry out proper consultation.

Premier Alison Redford

Constituency Office
6, 22 Richard Way SW
Calgary, AB
Canada T3E 7M9
Phone: (403) 252-0346
Fax: (403) 252-0520
calgary.elbow@assembly.ab.ca

Minister of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development

Hon. Diana McQueen
Constituency Office
5136B - 52 Avenue
Drayton Valley, AB
Canada T7A 1S5
Phone: (780) 542-3355
Toll-Free:
1-800-542-7307
Fax:
(780) 542-3331
draytonvalley.devon@assembly.ab.ca

To find your MLA’s contact information

www.assembly.ab.ca

Update Nov 18th 2012

Hello Sustain Kananaskis Supporters,

As we continue to push ESRD for changes to the West Bragg Creek logging plan, an opportunity to have input into the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan is occurring right now. While the short term future of West Bragg Creek remains somewhat uncertain, the chance to have your say around the long term use of land in this region is one that should not be passed up.

SSRP Background

The South Saskatchewan Regional Plan (SSRP) is an Alberta government initiative to develop a Regional Plan to manage the land use in Southern Alberta. It is one of several plans aimed at guiding land use decisions across Alberta. Our area falls under the South Saskatchewan plan because our watersheds drain into that basin. Visit Alberta Environment & Sustainable Resources Development (ESRD) website: www.landuse.alberta.ca

In each area, a Regional Advisory Council (RAC) is established. This group of people make recommendations to the government and it is on these recommendations that you are providing input. The RAC for our area had no substantive representation for recreation - something we made very clear to the facilitators and ESRD. In the first regional plan (Lower Athabasca), some of the recommendations from their RAC were not implemented because of the input from the public. You can make a difference.


How to be involved with the SSRP process:

  • Attend a SSRP Stakeholder Engagement Session (see attached Invitation and Session Dates & Places) – this is the best way to be heard, but you must register at the number on the invitation
  • Attend a SSRP Public Community Conversation (see attached Invitation and Session Dates & Places) – this is an information session only where you can learn about the process as well as what the Advisory Council has recommended. Input opportunities are limited, but you can pick up a feedback workbook if you prefer this to working online (see below).
    Note: Stakeholder engagement sessions will be held in the same venues as the public community conversation but will run earlier in the day.
    (Stakeholders 10:00 am – 2:00 pm | Public 4:00 pm – 8:00 pm)
  • Provide feedback to SSRP via the workbook found at https://landuse.alberta.ca/Newsroom/Pages/PublicConsultations.aspx ( the workbook has many sections on Recreation and Tourism) – You can provide input on any or all of the sections as you wish or as your time allows. Your input is crucial to ensure that recommendations from the Regional Advisory Council (RAC), that do not contribute to the kind of recreation opportunities you would like to see, are not implemented. There was nobody on the RAC who specifically represented recreation and many of their recommendations revolve around how recreation can enhance the economy. There is little around the intrinsic value of being active in the outdoors. If you wish to focus on the parts of the workbook that are most relevant to this area, there’s an excellent website that outlines the five key sections:
    http://www.braggcreekrecreation.com/how-to-help.html
Please take some time to familiarize yourself with this process and to let the Alberta government know where you stand with respect to how you think the Elbow Valley area and eastern Slopes in general need to be managed in the future.

As always, thanks so much for your enduring support.

Sustain Kananaskis

Update Nov 9th 2012

Hi SustainK Supporters,

Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resources (ESRD) Minister McQueen has approved the West Bragg Creek Logging Plans under a Fire Smart Initiative. Further information can be found at: http://www.srd.alberta.ca/Wildfire/FireSmartCommunities/BraggCreekFireSmartSession/Default.aspx

Some good things came out of all the dialogue with ESRD. They have never before given as much attention to a land use decision. Trails have 50 meter buffers where they intersect with cutblocks and some of the more contentious blocks were removed or reduced in size. Nonetheless, we at SustainK are disappointed that the plan was approved in the face of overwhelming resistance from the Bragg Creek community and trail users, as evidenced at the September 28 town hall meeting. The process leading to the approval was anything but transparent and it appears they may well be headed back to business as usual for the consultations to come on the West blocks with Spray Lake Sawmills heading the consultation process.

If you don’t like the approved plan, and want to see a better consultation process for the upcoming cut blocks in the west, we urge you to let ESRD know through letters to Minister McQueen as well as to your MLAs. Write letters to the Rocky View Times and the Calgary Herald indicating your perspective and whether you would like to see the plan suspended until the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan (SSRP) is complete. Additionally, it is important that you contribute your own thoughts to the SSRP, which will ultimately determine the use and level of protection for this area. Information on the input process is at the end of this message.

Timeline of events leading to the approval

Dec/11SustainK formed to deal with the proposed logging in West Bragg Creek. Mandate to have the government hold facilitated professional public consultation on this issue
Jan/12SustainK Open House in conjunction with Spray Lake Sawmills (SLS) Open House in Bragg Creek. Over 700 people attended. Large Media presence. SLS & ESRD collected feedback from folks. See SLS summary at www.spraylakesawmills.com
Feb&Mar/12Information packages sent out to many Alberta Government Ministers and MLAs. Many face to face discussions with Ministers and MLAs. Hundreds of letters sent by Albertans to the Alberta Government expressing discontent and concern with this plan.
April/12SustainK Community Information session in Bragg Creek. Professionally Facilitated: Experts spoke on Wildfire Science , Trails, Land Use Cumulative Impact and Watershed. SLS & ESRD declined to participate. Results of a directional survey taken at this session indicated that there was virtually no community support for this plan. Approximately 200 people attended.
April/12Provincial Election
May/June/12No word from ESRD about Public Consultation. Many folks continue to write the Alberta Government about their concerns about this proposed logging plan
Aug/12ESRD announces a Town Hall information session in Bragg Creek on a Thursday before the August long weekend. Roughly 200 people still managed to make it. ESRD did presentations on wildfire mitigation for the area but were lambasted by the crowd. Their responses to many of the questions were insufficient and often condescending. There was clearly little appetite for the existing plan despite ESRD’s attempt to convince people of how dire the wildfire problem was.
Aug/12SustainK & Greater Bragg Creek Trail Association met separately with ESRD Minister McQueen. Sustain K proposed a more complete consultation process. McQueen was interested but indicated that the time was too short to carry it all out. She instructed her Assistant Deputy Minister to develop a more condensed consultation plan.
Sept/12ESRD held a two-day workshop with trail users, residents and stakeholders to try to develop alternate wildfire mitigation (aka logging) plans that would better balance the need to protect the community from wildfire with conservation of the recreation area. Five possible plans were developed with one receiving high support from the participants.
Sept/12Town Hall Meeting with Minister McQueen. Between 300 and 400 people attended. ESRD presented three options that were supposedly derived from the earlier workshop, however none of the options were ones that had received any support from the workshop participants. At an open mike session, the community proceeded to lambaste her and her Assistant Deputy Minister around the choice of the three options, all of which looked much the same. Many heartfelt comments were brought forward, and it was clear, again, that the plan to clear cut in the area had no support. McQueen asked the community to vote on which of the three options they preferred. Virtually everyone there voted on an option 4 which was “I don’t support any of these options”
Oct/12ESRD held a one day session with trail users, residents and stakeholders to mitigate the trails that would be impacted by their favoured plan only.
Nov/12Minister McQueen approves logging plan.


What now?

We’re strongly encouraging folks to attend a South Saskatchewan Regional Plan session and letting the government know how you feel about this. Below is information for session dates, places and time. Please see www.landuse.alberta.ca for more information. The website also has a workbook for people to give feedback on this strategy. This workbook is open for a short period of time - until Dec 21 2012 only.

As well, on Thursday Nov. 15 at 7:30pm, there will be a meeting at Elkana Ranch in Bragg Creek to discuss a strategy moving forward.

Thank you again for all your support over the last year – although the result we have now is not what the majority of the community wants, it is much better than it would have been if you had not made your voices heard. Please continue to voice your concerns and suggestions to ESRD.

Consultation schedule for the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan

Similar to the process followed in the development of the Lower Athabasca Regional Plan, the consultation sessions for the South Saskatchewan region will focus on the advice provided to the Government of Alberta by the Regional Advisory Council.

All sessions run from 4 p.m. - 8 p.m.

Calgary
Tuesday November 13
Radisson Hotel Calgary Airport
2120 16 Avenue Northeast

Airdrie
Tuesday November 20
Best Western Regency Inn
121 Edmonton Trail Southeast

Canmore
Wednesday November 21
Radisson Hotel and Conference Centre
511 Bow Valley Trail

Cochrane
Thursday November 22
The Ranchehouse
101 Ranchehouse Road

Okotoks
Wednesday November 28
Foothills Community Centre
4 204 Community Way

Update October 29th 2012

Hi SustainK Supporters,

Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resources Development (ESRD) is planning public consultation on a land-use strategy for the southern area of the province. Please see attachment for information. Here’s another opportunity to let the Alberta Government know how you feel about proposed land use in the West Bragg Creek portion of Kananaskis Country. Below is information for session dates, places and time. Please see www.landuse.alberta.ca for more information. The website also has a workbook for people to give feedback on this strategy.

Thanks again for your support

SustainK

Consultation schedule for the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan

Similar to the process followed in the development of the Lower Athabasca Regional Plan, the consultation sessions for the South Saskatchewan region will focus on the advice provided to the Government of Alberta by the Regional Advisory Council.

All sessions run from 4 p.m. - 8 p.m.

Calgary
Tuesday November 13
Radisson Hotel Calgary Airport
2120 16 Avenue Northeast

Airdrie
Tuesday November 20
Best Western Regency Inn
121 Edmonton Trail Southeast

Canmore
Wednesday November 21
Radisson Hotel and Conference Centre
511 Bow Valley Trail

Cochrane
Thursday November 22
The Ranchehouse
101 Ranchehouse Road

Okotoks
Wednesday November 28
Foothills Community Centre
4 204 Community Way



Update October 17th 2012

Hi SustainK Supporters,

Here’s an update from the last working meeting with Alberta Environment & Sustainable Resources Development (ESRD) on October 13th . At the community meeting in Bragg Creek on September 25th ESRD Minister McQueen asked for folks to sign up if they had an interest in working on mitigation for the West Bragg Creek Trails. On October 13th a meeting was held with ESRD with representation from Spray Lake Sawmills (SLS), Alberta Parks and Tourism, ESRD Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM) Bruce Mayer and 14 people who had signed up at the September 25th community meeting to discuss this.

Morgan Kehr, ESRD Forestry Manager for the Southern Rockies, facilitated the meeting. He began by stating that the meeting would only be about mitigation on the trails that are expected to be impacted by the logging plan. A map was produced (attached) that showed 24 cut blocks. Cut blocks 1-3 had already been approved and the haul road is currently being built from the North. The remaining cut blocks 4-24 were discussed one by one (please see trails mitigation attachment for the details). One individual left the meeting early under protest stating that logging should not be done and people in Calgary needed to be consulted.

At the end of the meeting we highly recommended to the ADM Bruce Mayer that further public consultation should take place about this strategy. A letter to this effect (attached) was sent to Minister McQueen. Unfortunately at this point we have no idea what the government is going to do with this recommended trail mitigation strategy.

Sustain Kananaskis wishes to make the following points very clear.
  • We were pleased that ESRD undertook to do some consultation in order to protect the trails, though we strongly believe that it was too time compressed to provide a broader community view.
  • Although there was agreement on certain trail mitigations, participants at the most recent workshop were working on the only option that was provided to them. This meant that choices were limited right at the outset.
  • Despite the mitigations, most of the workshop participants indicated their preference for logging to occur in a location that would have far less visual impact, as 50 meter buffers were considered to be an absolute minimum. While this may protect the trails, it may not protect the experience.
  • The plan is as yet unapproved, so if you are unhappy with the result, now is the time to write to the Minister and Premier Redford - ESRD wishes to make a decision asap so time is critical to express your opinion.
We want to thank the Bragg Creek and Kananaskis Outdoor Recreation website for the logging map. Please see this site for more information. http://www.braggcreekrecreation.com/esrds-logging-plan.html

Thanks for your continuing interest. Please let us and the Minister know as soon as possible if you feel this plan is satisfactory or not.

Sustain Kananaskis

Update September 30th 2012

Hi SustainK Supporters,

Just thought you folks might be interested in one person’s take on the Sept.25 meeting with Minister McQueen. Please see the link below.

http://dave-taylor.ca/whats_new.html

Thanks for all your support

SustainK


Update September 21 2012

Dear Sustain Kananaskis Supporter,

Thanks to your efforts and support, there will be one more public meeting regarding the logging plan for the West Bragg Creek recreation area. It is expected that ESRD Minister Diana McQueen will talk about her department’s plans for the area. The invitation to this event is appended below. We believe that it will be extremely important to come to this meeting, listen to what ESRD says and then comment. Please attend if it is at all possible.

Thank you.

Sustain Kananaskis


Update September 14th 2012

Hello Sustain Kananaskis supporters,

On September 8 and 9, a group of 16 West Bragg Creek recreation area users and stakeholders met to examine in detail alternate wildfire mitigation proposals for the area. The two day session was organized by ESRD after Sustain K and the Greater Bragg Creek Trails Association met with ESRD Minister McQueen to discuss some better solutions than using the existing logging plan to put firebreaks on the landscape. Several alternatives were proposed and are now being examined by ESRD for feasibility. This message is to inform you that at 6:30 PM on September 25, there will be another meeting at the Bragg Creek Community Center, where it is anticipated that Minister McQueen will be present. At this point, we are unsure of the purpose and format of the meeting, but will keep you apprised as more details arise. Please mark this on your calendars, as it will likely be an excellent, and possibly last, opportunity for you to provide your comments.

Thanks for all your support
SustainK

Update September 10th 2012

Hi SustainK Supporters,

This past weekend a group of stakeholders met with staff of Environment and Sustainable Resources Development (ESRD) to try to develop options to the existing plan for wildfire mitigation. The attached document was developed during this two day facilitated meeting and will be given to Minister McQueen for consideration in this matter.

Also ESRD staff mentioned that a public meeting is happening Tuesday Sept. 25 at the Bragg Creek Community Hall with Minister McQueen in attendance. At the moment we have no other details about this and will keep you updated when we get more information.

Again we are encouraging you to provide direction and feedback to Minister McQueen (draytonvalley.devon@assembly.ab.ca) about this important decision.

Thanks for all your support.

SustainK.


Update August 29th 2012

Hi SustainK Supporters,

Below is a summary from the Great Bragg Creek Trail Association ( GBCTA) about a recent meeting with Environment and Sustainable Resources Development( ESRD) Minister.

Robert Sadee (GBCTA President) and I met with ESRD Minister McQueen, ADM ( Assistant Deputy Minister) of Forestry Bruce Mayer, and ESRD Chief of Staff Riley Georgsen on Thursday morning, Aug 23. Our general impression is that
  • They are definitely looking for solutions and compromise from all stakeholders.
  • They are very aware of the importance of trails. They know how much has been invested by the community in $ and hours.
  • They want all stakeholders to come back to the table to compromise on mitigations so that all stakeholders can carry forward with their activities.
  • They are considering ways to have additional community/stakeholder input on the FireSmart plan.
  • They will be back in touch to look at next steps.
Overall, it was a very positive meeting. It is clear that ESRD supports logging of some sort by late fall. They have already started on the MacLean Creek portion of the plan. The key for the trails is that there needs to be community buy-in on the fire containment strategy. Once that occurs, I believe we will be able to reach some compromise with ESRD and Spray Lake Sawmills on mitigations using buffers and trail reroutes were absolutely necessary.

Bruce Barker
GBCTA Ski Committee Chair
ski@braggcreekski.org
http://www.braggcreekski.org
Thanks for your support!


Update August 16th 2012

On August 9, three members of Sustain Kananaskis met with Minister McQueen and Assistant Deputy Minister(ADM) Bruce Mayer.

Mr. Mayer met us prior to the arrival of the minister and proceeded immediately to try to sell us on the wildfire mitigation intent behind the plan. He talked about how the absolute priority of the department was to save human lives and ofcourse the Slave Lake flag was run up the pole several times.

When Minister McQueen joined us, I asked her what her desired outcome from the meeting was. She said she wanted to hear what we had to say. So I told her that it was clear from the August 2 meeting that the community did not buy in to the existing plan, that she was likely familiar with most of the problems from the briefing package we had sent and that I preferred to focus on solutions. The Minister seemed amenable to this, so I outlined the following plan.
  1. Survey the Bragg Creek community to determine the desired balance point between wildfire mitigation and preservation of the forest capital.
  2. Create a working group comprised of SRD staff, wildfire experts from other land management agencies and local stakeholders to develop several options that would clearly outline the amount and location of trees to be cut, the projected impact of that logging on trails, watershed, biodiversity and local economy, and the resulting evacuation time for the community.
  3. Take these scenarios back to the community for discussion.
As I spoke it became clear to the Minister that we were talking about a significant length of time. That caused a problem because, as the MInister stated, SLS needs to log by September, so a process such as I had outlined would not work.

We also spoke about the value of true consultation and about another proposed plan that seemed to be a reasonable alternative. There was some interest in this plan, but it didn’t seem to obtain sufficient logs for SLS. Mr. Mayer talked about how the area was multi-use and thus logging had to be part of the picture but both he and Minister McQueen admitted that the plan was a logging plan from which they hoped to get some wildfire mitigation results by putting vegetative breaks on the landscape. Our challenge to Mr Mayer that the selection of which of the multi-uses will be favoured in a conflicting use situation comes down to a question of priority was ignored. Mr Mayer did admit that SLS may not have done the best communication job and that, although his department was happy with the “consultations” done to date, clearly the community was not. Although these were significant admissions, we don’t know how much movement we are going to get. Mr Mayer is supposed to get back to us with an alternative consultation plan that has to be carried out by sometime in September.

Minister McQueen seemed very set on the fact that some logging was going to happen and that SLS had to get their fibre. In their minds, multi-use is the excuse that allows everything to happen on the landscape, but there is little thought given to segregating conflicting uses, especially when logs or fibre are at stake. By the end, Mr Mayer had softened his “ESRD knows best” party line and was making notes on how they might proceed.

Minister McQueen seemed to believe that impact on trails was the “big one” that needed some kind of resolution. There may be some room for the trails folks to reopen dialogue on this.

Overall we were not happy with the result of the meeting and are hoping that we can make more progress in the follow-up discussions with the ADM. We will keep you apprised of developments as they arise.

Peter


Update August 6th 2012

Hi Sustain Kananaskis supporters,

On Thursday August 2, Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (AESRD) held an information session. The session consisted of several presentations by AESRD employees and contractors (2 hours) followed by a Q&A with those in attendance. The meeting was facilitated by Judith Dick.

The focus of the meeting was on wildfire mitigation. The overall tenor was largely this: We (AESRD) are the experts; we have a responsibility to save lives from wildfire; we have looked at all aspects of the proposed fire containment line and we believe that it is the best overall balance between providing evacuation time for the community and preserving other forest values. The expert presentations and the Q&A session can be viewed from the AESRD website.

The questions from the audience that followed, however, demonstrated that nobody was buying this approach. The science behind the assumptions and actions was seriously questioned. The absence of a communication plan to help residents evacuate was identified. The remarkable dearth of scenarios run through the Prometheus model was underscored, as was the lack of desire to run scenarios around a proposed alternate containment plan that would involve less damage to the trails and forest. The value of the Prometheus model was itself questioned as were the variables that were inputted. Of significant interest is the fact that, despite all the initial talk about the devastation wrought by the Slave Lake fire, the existing plan would sadly do nothing to halt such a fire.

Although this was not the full public consultation we have been asking for, it was a fair first step. Despite the fact that the meeting was held prior to a long weekend mid-summer, approximately 200 people managed to attend. If you were able to make it, we wish to thank you for that and hope that you submitted comments on the cards provided. If you were away or otherwise occupied, you still have a chance to view the presentations and questions, and comment online.

Please visit this site and provide AESRD with your feedback: http://srd.alberta.ca/Wildfire/FireSmartCommunities/BraggCreekFireSmartSession/Default.aspx
The deadline for feedback is August 12.

This is really important! Please take some time to make your thoughts known and forward this message to others who may wish to participate. Ask for further consultation that would help craft and decide on one of several options for wildfire mitigation. You can play a role in the future of this amazing public land.

Thank you and hope to see you out on the trails!