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South Ghost History

This History covers AWA’s South Ghost Area of Concern, and also includes information for the adjacent Ghost Waiparous and Ghost River Wilderness areas.
Date Event
 May 2012 Spray Lake Sawmills (SLS) is unsuccessful in its application for certification of its forests as sustainably managed. The company applied in 2010 for certification by the Forest Stewardship Council for the Kananaskis and Ghost parts of its operations (the forests covered by SLS’ twenty-year Forest Management Agreement (FMA) with the Alberta government). Surprisingly, though "public openness" is a core tenet of the FSC certification process, the r
 October 2011 Report, Sustainable Forests, Sustainable Communities. The Future of Alberta’s Southwestern Forests, is released. Citizens and associations from communities throughout southwestern Alberta have joined together to document serious concerns with current industrial‐scale logging practices and present an alternative vision for the management of Alberta's southwestern forests."There is an urgent need to create an alternative model of forest management in Alberta. We envision a new model, based on ecosystem management, guided by independent scientific expertise and augmented by local community participation and benefit. We are not opposed to all logging. Instead we support the development of a forest management model that maintains healthy forest ecosystems as its primary function, and offers sustainable benefits to communities from the wise use of these forests..." 
 August 2011 The Calgary man is fined $2000 for driving his truck in Waiparous Creek and damaging spawning grounds for threatened fish such as bull trout and cutthroat trout. Damage to fish habitat by unregulated motorized use in the Ghost-Waiparous region is a daily occurrence, but prosecutions are extremely rare.
AWA congratulates the relevant authorities and hopes that this may be a sign of a new and long-awaited commitment to enforcing regulations. While we recognize that current provincial legislation has long been inadequate to deal with rampant motorized abuse, at least there may be a renewed will to use federal legislation to get the job done. The sentencing, which sees the proceeds of the court fine go to the Ghost Watershed Alliance Society is also a promising sign.
 March 2011 South Saskatchewan Regional Advisory Council publishes its Advice to the Government of Alberta for the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan. Includes some strong recommendations, including: “Manage land in the headwaters (e.g., Eastern Slopes and Cypress Hills areas) so that maintaining watershed integrity is given highest priority by considering impacts of land disturbance in management decisions.” But it also contains conflicting recommendations such as “All of the South Saskatchewan Region should be used by people for their economic interests and their enjoyment” (p7) and “The promotion of responsible exploration, development, and extraction of energy and mineral resources... and new investments are to be promoted.” No attempt is made to explain how these conflicting recommendations will be managed.
 December 2010 AWA responds to Spray Lake Sawmills' application for Forest Stewardship Council certification for "sustainable" management of the forests in its Forest Management Agreement (FMA) area in Kananaskis and the Ghost. 
  • "While AWA believes that SLS’s interest in receiving certification for their forestry operations is significant and desirable, we also believe their current standards of forestry operations are inadequate to qualify them for FSC certification." 
  • "Considerable improvements will be needed before management of these forests can be considered to be "sustainable." 
  • "AWA believes FSC has the potential to set a high standard of sustainable ecosystem based forest operations for Spray Lake Sawmills and that if SLS accepts that challenge, there will be significant gain for our forest ecosystems."
 August 2010 AWA releases an updated report, The Forests of Alberta's Southern Eastern Slopes: Forest or Forestry? "The forests in southern Alberta are managed principally to provide a sustained yield of timber for the forestry industry. Other functions of healthy forests – including watershed and environmental services, recreational opportunities, and wildlife habitat – are managed as secondary concerns."
 May 2010 A progress report on an Ecosystem-based Conservation Plan for the Ghost River Watershed is prepared by Silva Ecosystem Services on behalf of AWA and the Ghost Watershed Alliance. Findings include:
  • According to Alberta Vegetation Index data, less than 2 percent of the watershed contains good growing site productivity.
  • Planned logging will “remove the majority of white spruce forests of medium and good site quality” which are “naturally rare or unique ecosystem types in the Ghost River watershed.” 
  • Past and planned logging is done exclusively through clearcutting, which “has the highest negative impacts on composition, structure, and function of forest, resulting in long-term loss of biodiversity and damaging the ecological integrity of the entire Ghost River watershed landscape ecology.”
Fall 2009
AWA sponsors a workshop followed by field surveys and work with Herb Hammond of the Silva Foundation on contract. The project is supported by the Calgary Foundation and the RBC Bluewater Foundation. A final report of our joint work with Herb Hammond is posted to the AWA website. It has been a stepping stone to work that will continue with ALCES Landscape and Land-Use Ltd. studies.
2006 A 2006 Alberta Environment report, Water Quality Study of Waiparous Creek, Fallentimber Creek and Ghost River, finds that a 10-fold increase in sediment loading in Waiparous Creek can be attributed to off-highway recreational vehicle (OHRV) activity.

The Ghost-Waiparous Access Management Plan (GAMP or GWAMP) for motorized access is released after 15 year of on and off stakeholder consultation. GAMP ends days of unlimited access to the Ghost Waiparous area. Under these new regulations, motorized recreational activities will be managed using a network of designated trails. The area will continue to provide other recreational opportunities such as hiking, cycling and horseback riding.

The AWA expresses support for GAMP process but concern that without assurances of future funding and enforcement, there is little reason to believe that GAMP will result in significant change

The Ghost Forest Land Use Zone (Ghost FLUZ) and accompanying designated trails network is established, restricting random camping and allowing for 600 kilometres of trail for motorized users (previously there were only 189 km of trails officially designated).

AWA agrees to be represented on the new Ghost Stewardship Monitoring Group GSMG, an assembly of committed stakeholders of the Ghost-Waiparous Forest Land Use Zone that will deliberate and recommend GAMP implementation. Created under the Alberta government’s division of Sustainable Resource Development (SRD), the goals of the GSMG include:
  • Ensuring public safety as it relates to the Group’s operational ability under the guidelines set forth by in the Plan within the Ghost-Waiparous Forest Land Use Zone (FLUZ).
  • Ensuring sustainability of natural and aesthetic resources as it relates to the Group’s operational ability under the guidelines set forth by the Plan in the Ghost FLUZ as well as adjoining regions as or if required.
  • Promoting cooperation and collaboration between recreational OHV users and other users in the Ghost-Waiparous FLUZ.
  • Providing a range of meaningful opportunities for summer and winter recreational OHV use in the Ghost-Waiparous FLUZ.

Draft Detailed Forest Management Plan for Spray Lake Sawmills Forest Management Agreement area released in May 2006. This includes land within the Ghost Waiparous area. Considerable public reaction is received.

AWA writes to SRD to express its opposition to proposed recreational development at Trapper’s Hill Lodges. AWA is “extremely concerned about, and adamantly opposed to, the proposal by Richard Blair and the Lazy H Trail Company to place a 100 unit and 90 RV site 4-season tourist resort on 160 acres of public land at a prime location in the Eastern Slopes.” No reply is ever received from SRD.
2005 A series of stakeholder meetings is held between April and October, with representatives from government, watershed groups, industry, ranchers, motorized access groups and environmental organizations. These meetings are focused on developing a set of guiding principles for future trail selection, and a hotly-contested trail map.
2004 The Bar C Ranch and Cattle Company Ltd. wins an injunction, restraining several small quota holders within the South Ghost area of the Spray Lake FMA from conducting further logging operations on its leased lands. A judge rules that SRD “must give those who are affected a chance to have direct input” in land use decisions, particularly when the Department specifically says it will.
2003 AWA contributes a written submission to the Ghost-Waiparous Access Management Plan and participates in subsequent focus meeting.

AWA expresses support for “the safe and responsible use of OHVs on designated trails in appropriate zones” and concern about the negative effects of OHVs and random camping (particularly their impact on the watershed and wildlife), conflicts with other recreational users of the area, and future measures for monitoring, enforcement and restoration.
2002 Forest Service intends to prepare an access management plan but wait for funding approval.
2001 The Alberta provincial government announces the creation of Don Getty Wildland Park within AWA’s South Ghost area.

Despite concerted opposition by AWA and other groups, a twenty-year Forest Management Agreement is signed between Province and Spray Lakes Sawmills, hands over management of over 300,00 hectares, including the non-protected areas of the Ghost. The FMA, which includes the Ghost Waiparous area, allows SLS to manufacture 90 million board-feet of lumber, wood chips, and other products annually. It also states that the primary use of the forest management area is “to establish, grow, harvest and remove timber”

An SRD brochure published at the time states that “Like all other FMAs, this one is a private business transaction between a corporate entity and the Crown.” AWA disagrees entirely: this is public land, and all Albertans should have a say in its management. The City of Calgary also has minimal input into the signing of the FMA, despite the fact that the FMA area is an important source of the city’s drinking water.
2000 Forest Service completes GIS video audit in 2000 of 900 infrastructure & environmental problem spots, but have no funds to analyze them.
1990s Provincial cutbacks limit enforcement and education efforts.
1988 Ghost River Sub-Regional Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) is updated. The report notes that “Motorized recreational use has been known to occur to a limited degree within the Ghost River Wilderness Area where such use is prohibited.” The AWA registers disappointment with the development rather than protection focus of IRP, and sanctioning of off-road vehicle use in Prime protection zone.
1984 Ghost River Integrated Resource Plan is published. Few restrictions are placed on OHV use or industrial activity.
1981 The AWA makes submission to the Ghost River Integrated Management Plan (IRP). In this submission it is noted that “The old seismic line up the South Ghost River also experiences some motorized vehicle use. This line extends approx. fours miles into the proposed WRA. At this point, approximate elevation 5900’, the trail becomes too narrow for 4-wheeled vehicles and too rough for all but the most determined motorcyclists.”
1980 AWA participates in a productive liaison with industry, the Albert Forest Service, and local ranchers in devising a timber harvest plan which minimizes environmental and aesthetic damage in an area adjacent to the subject project area.

AWA offers to participate in the development of an access plan for the region, but the Alberta Forest Service recommends AWA direct these concerns to the Ghost River Integrated Management Plan team.
1977 Policy for Resource Management of the Eastern Slopes published. This document prioritizes watershed management to ensure a reliable supply of clean water for aquatic habitat and downstream use. In addition, the Eastern Slopes policy designated large areas of land for varying degrees of protection, resource management and development. The South Ghost area is zoned as Prime Protection and Critical Wildlife.
1973 AWA first formally proposes the establishment of Wildland Recreation Areas in publication called Wildlands for Recreation.
1971 The Wilderness Areas Act affords the adjacent Ghost River Area the protection of a legal statute. The act is designed to preserve the natural beauty of the area, as well as safeguard it from industrial development and occupation by man, except as a visitor.
1967 The Provincial Parks Act 1964 designates the adjacent Ghost River Wilderness Area.
1964 The Rocky Mountain Forest Reserve formally is established by the Forest Reserves Act, provides “for the maintenance of water supply and the conservation of forests and other vegetation.”
1930 Management of the Rocky Mountain Forest Reserve is transferred to the Province of Alberta.
1911 The federal government establishes the Rocky Mountain Forest Reserve for the protection of watersheds, and for the maintenance of conditions favourable to a continuous water supply.
1896 JS Dennis, Chief Inspector of Surveys, Department of the Interior, writes about the forests of the southern Eastern Slopes in a letter to the Secretary of the Department of the Interior, Government of Canada. “The permanency of our water supply is largely dependent upon the preservation of the forests at present covering the watershed, and this protection can only be secured by prohibiting the cutting of the timber.”
1858 Botanist Eugene Bourgeau and geologist Dr. James Hector of the Palliser expedition pass through area. They are the first to refer to this area as “Ghost.”
1800 Duncan McGillivray, travelling with David Thompson on a visit to Bow River Area, killed, collected and prepared several specimen animals from the region for the purpose of scientific description and classification.
Pre- 1800 First Nation’s peoples arrive in this location more than 10 000 years ago.
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