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Kananaskis Country is one of the better known areas of the South Eastern Slopes of the province

Kananaskis has tremendous wilderness value and provides essential habitat for several large mammals: cougar, grizzly bear and numerous ungulates. AWA’s vision for Kananaskis is to halt industrial developments until a scientifically-based ecosystem management plan has been developed, complete a comprehensive cumulative effects assessment of commercial and industrial developments, halt timber sales while Alberta prepares a regional plan, designate Evan-Thomas provincial recreation area as a provincial park, and develop more sustainable, small-scale ecotourism economies for foothills “gateway” communities

    • Introduction
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    Kananaskis Country is one of the better known areas of the South Eastern Slopes of the province due to the recreation opportunities that exists there, flowing from the designation of approximately 60% of the area as protected or recreation areas.

    Kananaskis has tremendous wilderness value and provides essential habitat for several large mammals cougar, grizzly bear and numerous ungulates.

    Encompassing the vast majority of the City of Calgary’s watershed, the value of Kananaskis as a clean provider of water is of essential importance to the cities population and economy. Kananaskis forms a part of what is referred to as the South Eastern Slopes and abuts the Porcupine-Livingstone range to the South and the Ghost/Waiperous area to the north.

    With the abundance of lakes and rivers in the area, the most frequently used translation for Kananaskis is “meeting of the waters”.


    Sheep River Falls (N. Douglas)


    Kananaskis Country is a conglomeration of protected areas, partially protected areas, recreation areas (including off-roading) and areas of industrial resource extraction.

    • Only 53% of Kananaskis Country is protected, using a variety of different protected area designations:
      • 1 Ecological Reserve
      • 5 Provincial Parks
      • 4 Wildland Provincial Parks
      • 47+ Provincial Recreation Areas
    • 47% of Kananaskis Country is not protected.
    • In 2001, management of this unprotected area was transferred to Spray Lakes Sawmills Ltd, through a renewable 20 year Forest Management Agreement (FMA).

    Centennial Ridge (N. Douglas)

    Only 56% of Kananaskis Country is protected, in a variety of different protected area designations. The remaining area is managed for multiple use, including oil and gas and forestry activities.

    Threats to Watersheds


    McClean Creek, Kananaskis (AWA files)

    Kananaskis Country is the source of 5 rivers: the Kananaskis, Elbow, Sheep, Highwood and Livingstone. Waters from Kananaskis Country also flow into the Bow and Oldman rivers.

    Kananaskis Country supplies water to many communities, including Calgary (nearly half of Calgary’s water comes from the Elbow River), Bragg Creek, Turner Valley, Black Diamond, Okotoks, Longview and High River.

    Factors affecting water quality in Kananaskis Country include: Oil and gas industry, industrial clearcut forestry, roads and industrial infrastructure, livestock grazing, recreational activities, including golf courses, off highway vehicle and helicopter activity, and tourism developments, such as ski hills, tourist accommodations

    Albertans realize that it is not enough to treat our polluted water before we drink it. We need to do more to protect our water at its source. By protecting watersheds, we are also protecting movement corridors for wildlife.


    • Kananaskis Country encompasses 4130 km2 and contains three main natural sub-regions within its boundaries; alpine, sub-alpine and montane.
    • To the west Kananaskis runs along Banff National Park in Alberta and Height of the Rockies and Elk Lakes Provincial Parks in British Columbia. To the east Kananaskis runs to the foothills area west of highway 22.
    • The TransCanada highway marks the northern boundary of Kananaskis and Plateau Mountain Ecological Reserve (and Highway 532) marks the southern boundary.

    Township and Range map: JPG | PDF

    Natural Subregions map:  JPG | PDF

    • Natural Regions:
      • Alpine, sub-alpine, montane and foothills parkland. Parkland and montane are underrepresented in terms of areas protected in the province.
      • The summit of Plateau Mountain is believed to have been a nunatak (ice-free during last glaciation).

    Junction Falls (C. Wearmouth)


    • Glaciers, mountain lakes and numerous alpine and sub-alpine wetlands feed into four major river systems that find their headwaters in Kananaskis: Elbow, Sheep, Highwood, and Kananaskis. These rivers contribute to both the Bow River Basin and the larger South Saskatchewan River Basin.
    • Kananaskis encompasses a critical watershed for over a million people (including Black Diamond, Turner Valley, Okotoks, and Calgary) and significant wildlife populations.
    • AWA Brochure – Kananaskis Country: The Source of Our Water (pdf 538KB)


    Like other areas of the south east slopes of the Rockies Kananaskis Country has tremendous diversity. Encompassing 5 ecological sub-regions Kananaskis displays the species abundance one would expect from the convergence of these diverse regions.


    Hedgehog mushroom, Picklejar Lakes (J. Hildebrand)


    Kananaskis Country has more than 600 species of vascular plants and many more lichen, fungus and moss, species. From rare flowering plants, like…. , to more common flowering plants like …, Kananaskis provides a diverse habitat for exploration by botanists, naturalists, lichenologists and mycologists.


    While vast areas of Kananaskis have been subject to forestry and forest fires there remains several areas that are predominated by old growth forest.

    The forest itself is predominately lodgepole pine with alpine fir, hybrid spruce, Douglas fir, limber pine, and whitebark pine.


    • Home to about 40 Grizzly Bears, or 6% of the provincial population (when national parks are included)
    • Density of Cougars is thought to be the highest in North America.
    • Sheep populations are on the decline due to high cougar mortality, disease (likely associated with cattle in the area), and increased recreational use of wintering grounds (Marco Festa-Bianchet)
    • Important wildlife habitat for several large mammals including wolves, big horned sheep, elk, Golden Eagle
    • Golden Eagle migration. At the height of the migration, as many as 800 eagles may pass through in a single day.

    Kananaskis grizzly (N. Douglas)


    Kananaskis Country offers numerous excellent low-impact recreation opportunities. Kananaskis Country’s proximity to Calgary, however, makes the area subject to extreme recreational stresses. Promotion of minimizing recreational impacts is required if the biodiversity and natural value of Kananaskis is to be preserved for future generations.

    Environmentally Significant
    Areas map:  JPG | PDF

    June 20-26, 2013

    Extremely heavy rainfalls in the Rocky Mountain foothills cause extensive flooding and damage to infrastructure throughout Kananaskis and other headwaters along the southern Eastern Slopes.

    April 2013

    Suncor sells a large proportion of its gas business – including the Savanna and Sullivan fields – to  Centrica (Direct Energy) and Qatar Petroleum International (QPI). The implications for those two fields (which include infrastructure throughout southern Kananaskis Country) remain unclear. Both fields are currently shut in, following the closure of Devon’s Coleman gas plant in 2012.

    October 31, 2012

    After Bragg Creek community and regional trail users’ strongly challenge the Alberta government for attempting to pass off business-as-usual clearcuts as a Firesmart plan, the government presents a logging plan for Kananaskis Country public lands west of Bragg Creek that is only slightly better that its initial proposal. Recreation trails that should have been left alone will now have aesthetic buffers (though blowdown is still a concern). Mature pine forest will still be clear cut to meet a timber supply objective on public lands with far higher alternate watershed, biodiversity and recreation values to 1.2 million Calgary metropolitan area residents. As ‘fire breaks,’ these clear cuts are mostly misplaced, incomplete, and transitory, which was not supported at all in the belated public consultation process. AWA will continue to support these community groups in their strong  challenge of the pervasive timber supply-centric  practices of the Alberta Forest branch.

     June 5, 2012

    Suncor announces their withdrawal of the Sullivan sour gas application. The development, approved by ERCB in 2010, would have seen 11 sour gas wells and 37 km of pipeline constructed in southern Kananaskis Country. The Eden Valley Reserve had recently launched a successful legal appeal against the ERCB approval.The application was nominally withdrawn because of low gas prices.

    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: from the southern tip of Kananaskis Country north to Sundre).

    Surprisingly, though “public openness” is a core tenet of the FSC certification process, the reason for the company’s failure remains confidential.

    March 2012

    In one more setback for the ill-fated Sullivan development (13 sour gas wells and 37 kilometres of pipeline in southern Kananaskis) the Eden Valley Reserve wins a successful court challenge against the development approval. Energy Resource Conservation Board (ERCB) approved Suncor’s development in June 2010. In its approval, ERCB decided not to classify the Eden Valley as an “urban centre.” Setback requirements for sour gas developments are considerably less stringent for communities not defined as urban centres, and this was the basis for the Stoney Indian band’s appeal to the Alberta Court of Appeal. The Court seems to agree wholeheartedly with the band. “In our view, the board did not exercise discretion in a justifiable, transparent or intelligible way,” the court finds. “Its decision not to qualify the reserve as an urban centre falls outside of the range of acceptable and rational outcomes that are defensible in respect of the facts and law.”

    Coupled with low gas prices, the successful court appeal calls into question the future of the Sullivan development.

    January 2012

    The Bragg Creek-based group Sustain Kananaskis is formed, in response to newly released plans by Spray Lake Sawmills (SLS) to clearcut 700 hectares of forest in west Bragg Creek. Hiking and cross-country ski trails would be severely impacted, as would wildlife habitat and a significant water catchment zone. According to the Sustain Kananaskis website, “The project, due to start this summer, could affect 90 per cent — or 19 of 21 — of the official trails in the area and have an ‘irreversible impact’ on more than 30 kilometres of new trails built just last year.”

    More than 400 people attend a public meeting in Bragg Creek, January 26, timed to coincide with a SLS open house.


    Despite having approval from ERCB to go ahead with its Sullivan development (11 sour gas wells and 37 km of pipeline in southern Kananaskis Country), Suncor has no plans to begin work in 2011. Legal challenges to ERCB’s approval are underway.

    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.”

    November 2010

    The Court of Appeal of Alberta release a decision, November 2, which allows the Stoney Indian Band and the Big Loop and Pekisko groups to appeal the Energy Resource Conservation Board (ERCB) June approval of Suncor’s Sullivan application.

    The appeal court’s decision allows the groups to appeal the ERCB approval, based on the question  “Did the Board err in law by failing to characterize the Eden Valley Reserve as an urban centre?” Oil and gas facilities are required to be set back a certain distance from existing residencies and “urban centres.” But although the Eden Valley Reserve, according to lawyer Doug Rae, has 99 residencies and 650 residents, ERCB still did not consider it to be an “urban centre”. “The pipeline simply wouldn’t be going where it’s going if they were a municipality,” Rae tells the Calgary Herald in July 2011.

    June 2010

    Energy Resource Conservation Board (ERCB) releases Decision 2010-022, which approves Petro Canada’s (now Suncor’s) 2008 application to drill 11 sour gas wells and 37 km of pipeline in southern Kananaskis Country. The decision dismisses all of the concerns of local landowners, First Nations and environmentalists about the proposals. The fact that the grizzly bear was recently designated a threatened species in Alberta, happarently has no bearing. Despite ERCB’s recognition that “Given Petro-Canada’s analysis that indicated effects on mortality will be large in magnitude, long term, and regional in extent, it appears that there is potential for the Project to contribute significantly to grizzly bear mortality,” the application is still approved.

    One of the fifteen “conditions” attached to the approval reads “The Board requires Petro-Canada to assess each residence of the Eden Valley Reserve for its suitability for sheltering in place and to identify and upgrade at least one room in each residence to make it suitable for sheltering in place.”

    Opponents to the development vow to fight on.

    AWA recognizes the ERCB decision as “business as usual.” A June 10 news release stresses: “The province’s much-trumpeted Land-Use Framework… recognized that there is a pressing need to change the way that multiple activities on the landscape are planned in Alberta. By concentrating on this one application and ignoring all of the other activities taking place on the same landscape, this decision undermines everything the government’s new planning process is trying to achieve.”

    November 2009

    ERCB temporarily suspends approval of all sour gas applications in the province, including Petro Canada’s Sullivan application. This decision follows an unexpected Alberta Court of Appeal ruling, October 28, which dealt a firm slap on the wrist to ERCB and its hearing process. The Court ruled that ERCB had incorrectly decided in January 2009 that three residents of the Rocky Rapids area 140 kilometres southwest of Edmonton did not have the right to oppose two proposed sour gas wells close to their properties.

    The Appeal Court ruled that, having mistakenly decided in November 2008 that the residents should not be given standing, ERCB “failed to go on to correct the error it had made at that time when it concluded that the Appellants were not directly and adversely affected by drilling of the wells.”

    ERCB’s decision to suspend future sour gas approvals shows that they are taking the Appeals Court decision seriously. “The ERCB recognizes the importance of this matter and is reviewing the Court’s decision on a priority basis to determine its impact on the sour oil and gas applications process,” said a November 3 news release. “Until that determination is made, the ERCB will not issue any licences for sour wells, facilities and pipelines.” Suspension is later lifted.

    October 2009

    Imperial Oil withdraw an application to drill three sour gas wells near Quirk Creek. “Due to soft market conditions in North America, this proposed project is not economic under foreseeable market conditions.

    February 2009

    Sullivan Hearing
    Although the formal hearing ended January 30, the ERCB Sullivan hearing continues to make news headlines! In a surprise announcement, ERCB suspends the entire hearing process, due to a revealed budding personal relationship between an ERCB employee and a Petro Canada employee, both involved in the hearing. The Board plans to hire a third party investigator to look into the relationship to ensure that the “integrity” of the process has not been compromised. All participants in the hearings wait to see whether the process can resume where it left off, or whether the entire hearing will have to start again from the beginning!

    February 10: Even though the formal ERCB hearing into Petro Canada’s Sullivan hearing has ended, lawyers for either decide continue to discuss what evidence the Board should be taking into account. Two motions are submitted to the Board to compel reluctant government representatives to appear to answer questions. Lawyers for the Royal Adderson and the Bar AD Ranch, supported by other interveners, apply to the board to compel staff from the Alberta government’s Fish and Wildlife Division to appear in front of the board; and lawyers for the Stoney-Nakoda First Nation apply to the board to compel staff from Health Canada to appear to answer questions. Although throughout the hearing, Petro Canada frequently referred to its discussions and agreements with Fish and Wildlife staff, the staff themselves had never been present at the hearing to confirm these discussions. The Board now has to decide whether or not to compel the government staff to appear.

    January 2009
    Day 21 – Sullivan Hearing

    Fri, 30 Jan, 2009
    The long drawn out ERCB hearing into Petro Canada’s Sullivan application finally comes to an end. Lawyers for the interveners are expected to have a month to provide final written arguments, after which the Petro Canada lawyers are to have the opportunity for rebuttal. The ERCB panel will then have 90 days to make their decision, so it is unlikely that any decision will be announced before June 2009.

    Day 18 – Sullivan Hearing
    The morning session sees Keith Lefthand, Consultation Officer with the Bearspaw Band of the Stoney-Nakoda First Nation, present to the panel. Mr. Lefthand talks about the traditional practices still adopted by first nations people in the area, including hunting, fishing and collecting herbs and berries. His family has been active in the region for many generations. Throughout Petro Canada’s application, the Stoney-Nakoda nation has worked with Indian Affairs, who have declined to participate in the hearings.

    The afternoon session focuses on animal health, with vet and Animal Health Inspector Dr. Richard Kennedy, and the Pekisko Groups Larry Dayment taking the stand. Dr. Kennedy referred to a study by the Western Interprovincial Scientific Studies Association (WISSA) on the effects of emissions from oil and gas facilities on cattle health. Looking specifically at chronic (low level, long-term routine) exposure, the study found that:

    • “Exposure to SO2 near the time of calving was associated with an increased risk of calf mortality;”
    • There was a direct link between H2S and calf treatment, i.e.: veterinary care;
    • “Increasing post-natal exposure to VOCs [Volatile Organic Compounds] measured as benzene and toluene were associated with increased odds of respiratory lesions.”

    Mr. Dayment talks about his experiences as a cattle producer, and two incidents which affected him personally. In the first incident he had been puzzled by an unusually high number of cows which did not produce calves one spring. It was only a year later, in conversation with a local fire-fighter that he discovered that the adjacent highway had been closed down that spring because of an H2S leak at a facility directly across the road from where his pregnant cattle were grazing. And in a second incident, he was forced to evacuate his family following an accidental venting of unburned H2S on a well on his land. In this case, the safety of his family obviously came first, and it was not possible to prove conclusively that his bulls which became sterile shortly afterwards did so specifically because of the leak. A full investigation of an affected animal would cost in the region of $500, so the prospect of a landowner proving adverse effects on his livestock is negligible. “There is no meaningful way to settle disputes,” he points out.

    December 2008

    Day 17 – Sullivan Hearing
    The day begins with cross-examination of landscape ecologist, Brad Stelfox, by Petro Canada lawyers. Mr. Stelfox stresses repeatedly that it is inappropriate to talk about the effects of one development by one company in isolation, as is the case with Petro Canada’s Environmental Assessment. Multiple landscape impacts need to be considered cumulatively. Considerable effort is put into questioning Mr. Stelfox’s ALCES model, the computer model used extensively by the Alberta government to measure landscape cumulative effects.

    Mr. Stelfox stands by the findings of his 2005 Southern Foothills Study relating to grizzly bears: “If something doesn’t change, this species will be lost from this regional landscape.” Confirming previous presenters, Mr. Stelfox points out that, while development may provide some improved grizzly habitat, this is far outweighed by increased mortality risk. Increased access for people with guns will be a major effect of the project.

    Mr. Stelfox supports the calls made the previous day by the Pekisko Group for a “time-out” on new development in the Southern Eastern Slopes, pending completion of the government’s Land-Use Framework. “All land uses have growth mandates,” he points out, so it makes sense for the LUF to unfold before we limit future choices. When asked what is so special about this region, he replies “water, water and water.” The Alberta government has already set a precedent of establishing a moratorium on future development by closing the Bow and Oldman River Basins to further water extraction.

    This is the last hearing date for 2008. The hearing is to resume on January 20, 2009, though details are yet to be confirmed.

    Day 16 – Sullivan Hearing
    Mac Blades, Francis Gardner and Gordon Cartwright present on behalf of the Pekisko Group of landowners, Between the three of them, they represent families with a considerable amount of ranching history. Their presentations focus on the many, many values of healthy native fescue ecosystems, and call for a moratorium on new development in the Southern Eastern Slopes until the Land-Use Framework comes into operation. Before the hearings, the panel declines an invitation to visit the proposed pipeline corridor on foot, stating that a helicopter ride had shown them all they needed to see, so Mr. Cartwright delivers a virtual tour of the pipeline route, to look at the possible development impacts on a more intimate level.

    In the afternoon, landscape ecologist Brad Stelfox presents his report on the Sullivan proposals.

    Day 15 – Sullivan Hearing
    Attention on Day 15 of the hearings turns to grizzly bears. Grant MacHutchon, grizzly scientist and field coordinator for the Alberta government’s grizzly population surveys, speaks on behalf of the AD Ranch. Mr. MacHutchon estimates that there are “less than 500” grizzlies left in Alberta, 90 of which are between Highways 1 and 3.

    Petro Canada’s Environmental Assessment (EA) found that “effects on grizzly bear mortality risk are predicted to be high in magnitude, regional in extent and long-term in duration,” but went on to conclude that this would be of “moderate environmental consequence.” Mr MacHutchon disagrees with this conclusion. Petro Canada’s EA, he comments, did not include the most up-to-date grizzly bear data, and he states that “a number of significant weaknesses in the EA would underestimate the cumulative effects on grizzly bears.”

    Mr. MacHutchon believes that, given a regional grizzly population of 90 bears, current mortality rates are at the very limit of what grizzly bear populations can sustain, if not above that limit. Any additional mortality risk as a result of Petro Canada’s proposal would be unacceptable. Extra mortality risk could come from unauthorized motorized access, as well as increased foot access for hunters, which would increase the likelihood of encounters between bears and armed humans, one of the most significant sources of bear mortality. While vegetation along reclaimed pipelines might provide some grizzly habitat, this would be far outweighed by the increased mortality risk.

    Mr. MacHutchon concludes that, if approved, Petro Canada’s project would lead to a “significant adverse impact on the sustainability of the Livingstone grizzly bear population.”

    Next up is Mr. Royal Adderson of AD Ranch. Mr. Adderson talks about the history of his ranch, started in the early 1900s. The source of water for the ranch – “the lifeline of my ranch” – is a spring which happens to be exactly where Petro Canada is planning to put its central facility (compressor, dehydration unit, flare etc). “They couldn’t have picked a worse spot,” says Mr. Adderson. An additional concern is that ranch hands are generally out on the ranch on horseback all day in an area with no cellphone reception. The safety implications of a possible sour gas leak could be devastating (Petro Canada’s Risk Assessment document did not even have the ranch marked on it!) He suggests that Petro Canada’s assessment that its project would have “no effect” on the value of his property is “rubbish.”

    Originally, this hearing was supposed to be finished by December 1, but it is clear that it will take far longer than anyone had expected. The hearing is to continue on Thursday December 18 (8:30 – 1:00 p.m.) and Friday December 19 (9:00 – 5:00 p.m.) at the Highwood Memorial Centre, and is then to take a break. It is unlikely that the hearing will then resume before the middle of February 2009: it seems that this hearing is going to run and run!

    Day 14 – Sullivan Hearing
    Taking the stand today are two expert witnesses representing the Bar AD Ranch, whose testimony focuses on the 11 new sour gas wells and their related infrastructure. Dr. Bruce Leeson is an environmental assessment scientist familiar with the area, and David Finch is a public historian with an intimate knowledge of the history of ranching and petroleum development in the region.

    Dr. Leeson gives his personal perspectives on the area in which he has ridden and camped for thirty years. He talks about some of the huge Douglas fir and limber pine trees in the area, and some of the wildlife he has encountered over the years. He also comments on Petro Canada’s Environmental Assessment (EA). While complimenting the EA’s authors on the comprehensiveness of their study, he strongly disagrees with many of the conclusions drawn: “there is a gap of credibility between the findings and the conclusions.” He refers to two examples. Two well access roads in particular would involve considerable “cut and fill” during construction to deal with 20% gradients, and 40% side slopes. He disputes the EA’s conclusion that this would result in “low environmental consequences on terrain and soils.” Similarly, as pointed out in AWA’s submission, the EA found that “with proposed mitigation (e.g. gated access roads), effects on grizzly bear mortality risk are predicted to be high in magnitude, regional in extent and long-term in duration.” While agreeing with this assessment, Dr. Leeson does not agree that these effects would only be of “moderate environmental consequence.” He concludes that Petro Canada’s proposals are “the wrong project in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

    Mr. Finch’s presentation emphasizes the fascinating local history of the region. Colourful characters such as George Pocaterra and R. M. Patterson played a major role in the early ranching history, and the Buffalo Head Ranch which they both managed is still operating today.

    The following Monday (December 15) is to see the presentation of a report on grizzly bear activities in the region which would potentially be affected by Petro Canada’s development.

    Day 13 – Sullivan Hearing
    The hearing for Petro-Canada’s Sullivan Sour Gas Development Project continues today with the testimony and cross-examination of two wolf experts who work in the area of the proposed project. Charles Mamo and Timmothy Kaminski present their appraisal of the proponent’s Environmental Assessment (EA) and the likely impacts to wolves from the project. The researchers find the EA lacking in addressing impacts to wolves and are concerned that the project’s pipeline is to be built near den sites where the Willow Creek wolf pack whelp and raise their pups. In their testimony, Mamo and Kiminsky are supportive of collaborative efforts with local ranchers to limit the predation on cattle by wolves through changes in ranching practises. AWA hears throughout the day locals’ support for maintaining wolves on the landscape.

    Day 12 – Sullivan Hearing
    Petro Canada lawyers, and the ERCB panel, cross-examine biologists Dave Mayhood and Lorne Fitch. ERCB questions of Mr. Mayhood focus on the significance of the genetic identity of native cutthroat trout in the region. Elsewhere these fish have been considerably hybridized with other trout species (and non-native cutthroat trout) and the creeks in the project area are some of the few creeks in Alberta to still support unhybridized populations.

    Questioning of Mr. Fitch highlights the fact that, although pipeline crossings of major creeks and also the Highwood River itself are planned to be bored deep underground, if this proves to be physically difficult, “plan B” would be to dam and trench the crossings instead.

    Day 11 – Sullivan Hearing
    Experts for the various opponents of Petro Canada’s plans begin to make their presentations today. First up is fisheries expert, Dave Mayhood. Mr. Mayhood’s report on the impact of the proposed development on fish populations, particularly west slope cutthroat trout, had initially been included as part of AWA’s submission. Subsequently, Mr. Mayhood’s report was adopted by the Big Loop Group. The report focuses on the likely impacts on some of the few remaining populations of pure strain cutthroat trout in Alberta.

    The next presentation is by biologist Lorne Fitch on behalf of the Big Loop Group. Mr. Fitch, formerly with the Habitat Branch of the Alberta government’s Fish and Wildlife, talks about the impacts of the proposed project on fish and on other wildlife.

    Day 10 – Sullivan Hearing
    Cross–examination of Petro Canada’s health and safety panel continues throughout the day.

    November 2008

    Day 8 – Sullivan Hearing
    Questioning of Petro Canada’s second panel continues throughout the day. By the end of the day, the ERCB panel notes that so far the hearing has produced 14,000 pages of submissions, and the transcript of the hearing is currently running at 1,500 pages!

    An additional evening session is run to allow “discretionary participants” to have their fifteen minutes of fame. AWA’s is the first submission to be read. We point out that the proposed development would threaten the wilderness values of the region, including wildlife and wild waters. To approve the applications would contradict provincial government policies, and pre-empt any planning decisions which will likely be made as the Land-Use Framework process runs its course. And, more than anything, the development would not be in the “public interest,” which should go far beyond ERCB’s traditional interpretation of dollars in the government coffers.

    Other interveners include Margaret Dowdell, who talks about her horrific experiences of exposure to sour gas, and Harvey Gardner, who has raised cattle in the region for decades and refers to the “gold rush mentality to sell our natural resources.” Julie Walker, from Full Circle Adventures talks eloquently about the heritage tourism industry, an essential sustainable industry which contributes money directly to the local economy, and which would be severely compromised if the pristine wilderness of the region is allowed to be compromised. This view is confirmed in a presentation read out on behalf of John Scotts Motion Pictures, which points to the many high profile movies shot in the region – Legends of the Fall, Brokeback Mountain and Jesse James for example – which depend on viewscapes unspoiled by industrial developments. Frances Jackson-Dover also presents on behalf of the Priddis-Millarville Ratepayers’ Association, pointing out that for more than 100 years, society has recognized the value of protecting habitat in the Eastern Slopes.

    Day 7 – Sullivan Hearing
    Cross examination of Petro Canada continues into the third week. ERCB lawyers and the Panel member question Petro Canada’s first board of experts for three hours. One observer suggests that the questioning is quite gentle: “putting sugar on the cookie, not breaking up the cookie to see what’s inside.” A second panel of Petro Canada experts then takes their place, this group to answer questions on the company’s emergency response and public consultation processes.

    It is now clear that ERCB’s original schedule for this hearing considerably underestimated the amount of time required. And so now a new schedule of extra hearing dates is produced:

    • Friday December 5 (Heritage Inn, High River)

    From there, the hearing is to move to the Highwood Memorial Centre, 128 – 5 Avenue W, High River.

    • Monday December 8 (10:00 – 6:00)
    • Tuesday December 9 (9:00 – 5:00)
    • Wednesday December 10 (9:00 – 5:00)
    • Thursday December 11 (9:00 – 5:00)
    • Friday December 12 (9:00 – 5:00)
    • Monday December 15 (10:00 – 6:00)
    • Thursday December 16 (8:30 – 1:00)
    • Friday December 17 (9:00 – 5:00)

    Day 6 – Sullivan Hearing
    Gavin Fitch, representing the Royal Adderson and Bar AD Ranches, continues his cross-examination of Petro Canada. Whereas Mr. Carscallen had previously concentrated on the proposed pipeline, Mr. Fitch focuses more on the wells 11 proposed sour gas wells and central facility. Of particular concern is the potential impact on water, both surface and underground, for his clients. The question of whether petro Canada had adequately looked into other alternatives is once again central.

    Mr. Fitch’s cross-examining is to continue into the next week (the hearing continues Tuesday November 25 Thursday November 27). After that, lawyers representing the Stoney-Nakoda Nation and the Pekisko Group are to continue the cross-examination. So it seems highly likely that the hearing is to drag out a great deal longer than ERCB had originally planned.

    Day 4 – Sullivan Hearing
    Having argued successfully on Day 1 that they should not be required to produce their Risk Assessment report for this hearing, Petro Canada decides on Tuesday to produce it anyway, “for the sake of transparency and in response to the concerns raised by interested parties.” This report is to be discussed at a later date.

    Stan Carscallen for the Big Loop Group continues to cross-examine Petro Canada representatives for the fourth day, focusing on a number of different elements of Petro Canada’s extensive environmental assessment report. The proposed pipeline would connect Petro Canada’s Sullivan field, north of Hwy 541 with its Savanna Field 30 km to the south. Interveners express their suspicion that, once the pipeline is in place and the area is no longer “pristine,” the door will remain open for future exploration and development along the pipeline corridor. Petro Canada continues to maintain thatcurrently it has no plans to develop along this corridor, but, as Mr. Carscallen points out “tomorrow, you could change your plans.” Also, of course, this does not mean that another company will not plan to develop in this area. And so the revelation that, three months previously, new mineral leases had been sold on two parcels of land close to the proposed pipeline corridor, does nothing to allay these suspicions. The leases had been bought by a brokerage company, Bona Vista, on behalf of an undisclosed client.

    Mr. Carscallen presses Petro Canada to undertake that neither the company nor its partner CNRL would drill any additional wells in the region to be tied into the proposed pipeline. Petro Canada representatives agree to talk to their management and provide an answer shortly, though answers from their partner company might take longer.

    Cross-examining by interveners is likely to continue until the end of this week. Intervener submissions are expected to be read out the following week, and a tentative date of Thursday November 26 is set for an evening sitting, where “interested parties,” including AWA, are to get the opportunity to read out their submissions. It is unclear whether members of the public will have the opportunity to present.

    Day 1 – Sullivan Hearing
    The Energy Resource Conservation Board (ERCB) hearing into Petro Canada’s proposed Sullivan development (11 sour gas wells and 37 km of pipeline in southern Kananaskis Country) gets underway today at the Heritage Inn in High River. Initial discussion focuses around Petro Canada’s risk assessment for the project: Petro Canada have one; ERCB do not require that it be revealed; opponents ask to be able to review it. ERCB decides in favour of Petro Canada.

    Petro Canada presents its opening statements, and Mr. Carscallen, representing the Big Loop Coalition (a coalition including ranchers and the MD of Ranchlands) begins his cross-examination. Questions focus on how much work had gone into researching alternative routes for the pipeline, such as east to the Mazeppa plant, rather than south through the Eden Valley.

    Cross-examination is expected to last until the end of this week. The hearings are to continue on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of the following week (November 19-21). Submissions by the many groups opposing the application will take up a lot of that week. AWA and other “interested parties” who were denied intervener status in the hearing will get to present their submissions either at the end of the next week or the following week. AWA endeavours to provide more up-to-date information on the timing of the next part of the hearing as and when it becomes available.

    Mon, 10 Nov, 2008

    Alberta’s Energy Resource Conservation Board (ERCB) begins a hearing on Wednesday November 12 into proposals by Petro Canada for a major new sour gas development in Kananaskis Country. The company plans to drill 11 new sour gas wells, and a 37-kilometre long pipeline to tie in to its existing facilities at the southern end of Kananaskis Country.

    This is a public hearing, and supporters are encouraged to participate whenever they are able.

    The hearings take place at the Heritage Inn in High River, beginning Wednesday November 12, and are scheduled to continue on the following dates:

    • November 12-14, 2008 (begins 9:00 a.m.)
    • November 19-21, 2008 (begins 9:00 a.m.)
    • November 25-27, 2008 (begins 9:00 a.m.)
    • December 1, 2008 (begins 1:00 p.m. if required)

    AWA is denied intervener status in the upcoming hearing, but takes part as an “interested party.”


    Spray Lake Sawmills (SLS) releases a draft Detailed Forest Management Plan for its Forest Management Agreement (FMA) covering 337,448 hectares, including approximately 46% of Kananaskis Country and land in the Ghost Waiparous region. The draft plans raise considerable public opposition, particularly from residents in the Bragg Creek region. Liberal MLA, David Swann receives 800 letters of concern.

    AWA’s primary concerns with the plan include :

    • This region is vital as the source of water for Calgary and many other communities across southern Alberta.
    • It is inappropriate to manage such a huge area of public land for timber extraction when it is so valuable for its watershed value, as well as its wildlife habitat and recreational importance.
    • It is extremely difficult for the Albertan public to comment on a 1000+ page plan which took professional foresters five years to produce.
    • The draft plan should undergo a full and open independent review, as suggested in the new Alberta Standards for Forest Management.
    • Climate change is ignored in the draft plan, even though it makes projections on timber growth for the next 200 years.
    • The draft plan does not account for projected population growth in southern Alberta which can be expected to result in increasing demands on forests.
    • The draft plan does not relate to other plans affecting the region, including the grizzly bear recovery plan. There is an urgent need for broader landscape planning in the region before single-use plans such as this are developed

    Petro Canada’s test wells in its Sullivan field prove successful. Plans are developed to run a pipeline south to its Savanna plant near Plateau Mountain at the southern end of Kananaskis Country. The preferred pipeline route will likely run through a forested valley.

    Bragg Creek Environmental Coalition leads the call for a new Moose Mountain Wildland to be designated in eastern Kananaskis Country.

    June: A draft management plan for the Sheep Valley Protected Areas – Sheep River Provincial Park and Bluerock Wildland Park – is released for public comment by Alberta Community Development. AWA is broadly satisfied that the draft plan should do a good job of preserving the wilderness values that make these parks so special.

    Alberta Forest Products Association releases its Alberta Forest Usage Survey, commissioned to study the “societal values Albertans hold towards their forestlands,” produces some surprising results:

    • 84% respondents agree that “Access and use of forests should be based firstly on preserving and protecting the environment and sustaining wildlife habitat at the expense of sustained economic benefits and jobs.”
    • 90% of respondents were ‘”xtremely concerned” or “concerned” when asked the question “Thinking of all the issues facing the province of Alberta today, how concerned are you about the management of Alberta’s forests?”
    • More than 62% of respondents agreed (‘completely’ or ‘somewhat’) with the statement “I feel that no industrial activity should occur in areas which are habitat for endangered species, no matter how careful companies try to be.”

    Spray Lake Sawmills (SLS) draft Detailed Forest Management Plan for its Forest Management Agreement (FMA) is rejected by the Alberta government. SLS announces that it will take 12 to 15 months to re-write this plan.

    Petro Canada drills sour gas test wells in its Sullivan field (immediately north of Hwy 531, east of Highwood House).

    October 2004


    Spray Lake Sawmills submits its draft Detailed Forest Management Plan for its Forest Management Agreement to Alberta government.

    Evan Thomas Recreation Area is amended and Management Plan is released.

    The Government of Alberta amends plans for the Evan Thomas to allow increased development in the recreation area. The amendments allow for the expansion of existing buildings and facilities by 20% of existing floor area, while large hotels are allowed to increase 15%. Allowances for the summer operation of the Nakiska chair lift is also given for “viewing, and interpretive and environmental education opportunities”. The government in turn, assumingly in return for development many in province find unpalatable, removes 978 hectares and 871 hectares from the recreation area and places them in the Bow Valley Wildland Park and Spray Valley Provincial Park respectively.

    Several groups, including the AWA, have grave concerns with the amendments and the inherent invitation to further use of areas that are already highly used. The impacts on wilderness areas are not the only thing ignored however as the public at large had previously indicated their support for no further development in Kananaskis. In light of this popular opinion AWA questions the government’s claim that the plan “strikes a balance”, obviously the scales tend to significantly detract the perspectives of Albertan’s in favour of monetary gain for a few developers and owners.

    July 2002

    Notice of Management Plan Process for Peter Lougheed and Spray Valley Provincial Parks

    June 2002

    AWA opposes the location for the 2002 G8 Summit Meeting, to be held in Kananaskis in late June of 2002. AWA says Kananaskis is an inappropriate venue for the event due to:

    • the sensitive nature of the region’s environment, in particular because of the Kananaskis Valley’s importance as spring habitat for grizzly bears.
    • potential short-term impacts on the environment
    • possible long-term consequences of the global exposure
    • potential that the exposure might spur further development in the Kananaskis Valley.

    July 24, 2001

    Government of Alberta announces a  20-year Forest Management Agreement (FMA) with Spray Lake Sawmills of Cochrane, Alberta.

    July 24, 2001

    Government announces two and a half new protected areas in Kananaskis–Bluerock Wildland Park; Sheep River Provincial Park; and Don Getty Wildland Park which consists of ~20 tiny scattered protected areas surrounded by land converted to the FMA.

    July 23, 2001

    Federal government announces that Kananaskis Country will be the venue for the 2002 G8 Summit. AWA opposes the choice of venue and holds press conference on July 26, 2001.

    July 2001

    “Report of the Evan-Thomas Local Advisory Committee” available to the public for comments.

    May 2001

    FMA negotiations continue between the Alberta Government and Spray Lake Sawmills (1980) Ltd. of Cochrane

    May 2001

    Proponents of Three Sisters Golf Resorts Inc. push for golf resort in critical wildlife corridors.  An open house held May 23, 2001 only allowed for comments about the conservation easement planned for the golf course, not whether the golf course was a suitable use of the land


    Spray Lake Sawmills logging at Etherington Creek in Highwood Pass region

    December 2000

    Announcement of the new Spray Valley Provincial Park

    May 31, 2000

    Environment Minister Gary Mar notifies Genesis Land Dev’t Corp. their plans for tour boat operations, heli-cat ski operations, and four season resort in Spray Lakes are not in the public interest

    February 2000

    Kan-Alta golf course proposal for Thomas Creek area scrapped; in its Feb. 18th announcement, Kan-Alta cites “economic, environmental and public concerns as the reason”

    January 2000

    Genesis plans to issue Proposed Terms of Reference for project; combines Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) processes for all proposed Spray Lakes projects


    December: Genesis meets Alberta government Sunset Clause deadline, making it exempt from moratorium on further commercial development in K-Country.
    May: Alberta government announces new recreational development plan for K-Country, including moratorium on new commercial/recreational developments; plan did not include stopping existing proposals.

    The Senate Subcommittee report on Canada’s boreal forests recommends setting aside 20% of Alberta’s foothills as designated protected areas (parks, wilderness areas), another 20% managed intensively for timber production, and the remaining 60% managed less intensively for a variety of values, but with preservation of biodiversity as the primary objective.

    A 1999 government survey into Albertans’ views of Kananaskis Country found:

    • 88 percent agreed “the highest priority should be environmental protection and enhancement, even if this means fewer recreational opportunities for people”
    • 76 percent believe that Kananaskis country is a delicate eco-system, in which wilderness and wildlife may be at risk from further development.


    The Sonoran Institute, an economic research institute, reports the economy of Alberta’s Eastern Slopes region is now clearly being driven by something other than the resource industries. “Environmental pro­tection is good for business … land-uses which damage the environment … actually weaken the economy in the long run.”  The fastest growing employment categories are service-related occupa­tions, and wholesale and retail trade (65,000 new jobs over five-year study period).  Whereas employ­ment in “primary industries” (logging and forestry, mining, oil and gas, agriculture, fishing and trapping) is stagnant (only 320 new jobs).  The unemployment rate dropped and the average income increased.   For communities, the change means a move away from the boom-bust cycles of resource extraction and brings with it the need to manage growth and plan for environmentally sustainable development.


    Alberta Government report, Parks and Protected Areas: Their Contribution to the Alberta Economy, finds the economic contribution of provincial parks and other legally protected areas to be comparable to that of other resource based sectors and in particular, is similar to the agriculture and forestry sectors.   The report calculated only the recreation and tourism values, noting that there are also social, environ­mental and other economic values from parks.  In terms of employment, parks are similar to the forestry and energy sectors.


    Report of the Expert Review Panel on Forest Management in Alberta recommends that the selection process for new park, wilderness areas and natural area designation be formalized immediately to ensure significant ecosystems are protected and represented.   They recommend support be given to selec­tion, protection, management, and status review of representative forest ecosystems throughout Alberta and that a policy be developed to give a conservation and preservation strategy for the designation of old growth forest ecosystems.  [Still no policy for old-growth, other than to log it all.]


    Evan Thomas enlarged to include hotels at Kananaskis Village and Nakiska ski hill.

    Most recreation areas in Kananaskis are relatively small but ET consists of 4400 hectares of recreation nodes.


    Evan Thomas is established.


    Kananaskis Country established, but entire area not given park protection.  57% has no type of park protection.  The province’s 1986 integrated resource management plan specifies the objective for Kananaskis Country as “to preserve the environmental and aesthetic quality of Kananaskis Country and create recreational development that is expressive of the unique natural quality.”


    Alberta Government announces that it accepts the protection recommendations of the 1974 Environment Conservation Authority report and recommendations on the future of the Eastern Slopes.

    “This will ensure that while some carefully selected projects will proceed in certain areas, vast tracts of land will be kept in a natural and wilderness state. A conservative estimate is that a minimum of 70% of the Eastern Slopes Region will be maintained in present natural or wil­derness areas.”  (Government of Alberta, Policy Statement on the Eastern Slopes).


    Seventy Cottage Lots are sold to private individuals.


    Logging comes to Smith Dorien.

    1949 – 1951

    Kananaskis to Coleman – subsequently Highway 40; having been upgraded in 1972.


    Eastern Rockies Forest Conservation Board takes over from RMFR (Rocky Mountain Forest Reserve)


    Seebe to Kananaskis road is built.


    POW Camp – prisoners work in logging and dam building.


    A large fire spreads through the Ribbon Creek area with subsequent “salvage” logging taking place in the following years.


    Rocky Mountain Forest Reserve is established.


    Kananaskis Dam is built.


    Federal government establishes the Rocky Mountain Forest Reserve, including the present day Rocky-Clearwater Forest.  Purpose is described as,
    “These are areas of non-agricultural land established for the protection and reproduction of timber, for the protection of watersheds, and for the maintenance of conditions favourable to a continuous water supply and for the protection of animals, birds and fish.  The scenic and recreational values of these forests are now deemed to be resources of major importance.”

    1883 – 1886

    The Eau Claire & Bow Lumber Companies begin logging in the Kananaskis Valley.


    Palliser decides to name the route across the continental divide which he intended to cross as the Kananaskis Pass “…after the name of an Indian, of whom there is a legend, giving an account of his most wonderful recovery from the blow of an axe, which stunned but failed to kill him.” Palliser also decides to name the swift flowing creek, the Kananaskis River. During his journey up the valley, Palliser subsequently names two lakes and another pass Kananaskis. With the abundance of lakes and rivers in the area, the most frequently used translation for Kananaskis is “meeting of the waters”.

    Kananaskis Country Protected Areas

    Ecological Reserve (1)

    • Plateau Mountain

    Natural Areas (0)

    • Bow Valley Flats and Yamnuska Natural Areas added to Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, September 2002

    Provincial Park (5)

    • Peter Lougheed
    • Bow Valley
    • Sheep River
    • Canmore Nordic Centre
    • Spray Valley

    Wildland Provincial Park (4)

    • Don Getty
    • Elbow Sheep
    • Blue Rock
    • Bow Valley

    Provincial Recreation Area (47)

    • Big Elbow
    • Bow Valley
    • Cat Creek
    • Cataract Creek
    • Cobble Flats
    • Crane Meadow
    • Dawson
    • Elbow Falls
    • Elbow River
    • Elbow River Launch
    • Etherington Creek
    • Evan Thomas
    • Eyrie Gap
    • Fir Creek
    • Fisher Creek
    • Fitzsimmons Creek
    • Gooseberry Hart Creek
    • Highwood
    • Highwood Compound
    • Highwood Junction
    • Indian Graves
    • Ing’s Mine
    • Jumpingpound Creek
    • Lantern Creek
    • Lineham
    • Little Elbow
    • Lusk Creek
    • McClean Creek
    • Mesa Butte
    • Mist Creek
    • Moose Mountain Trailhead
    • North Fork
    • Old Baldy Pass Trail
    • Picklejar
    • Pine Grove
    • Pinetop
    • Sentinel
    • Sibbald Lake
    • Sibbald Meadows Pond
    • Sibbald Viewpoint
    • Stoney Creek
    • Strawberry
    • Trout Pond
    • Ware Creek
    • West Bragg Creek
    • Wildhorse
    • Wolf Creek

    FLUZ map: JPG | PDF

    IRP map:  JPG | PDF


    • Cataract Creek Snow Vehicle FLUZ
    • Sibbald Snow Vehicle FLUZ
    • Cataract Creek FLUZ


    • Jumpingpound Demonstration Forest
    • MacLean Creek Off Highway Vehicle Zone
    • Sandy MacNabb

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    December 1, 2017

    A Plan to Redevelop the Lower Kananaskis River

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    October 26, 2017

    AWA Letter RE Kananaskis Barrier Lake Redevelopment Project

    PDF copy of letter. October 26, 2017   The Honorable Shannon Phillips Minister of Environment…

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