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Kananaskis Country, a well-known wilderness destination along the southern Eastern Slopes, and home to the headwaters of the mighty South Saskatchewan River Basin.

Kananaskis has tremendous wilderness value; providing essential habitat for threatened species and freshwater for communities downstream. AWA’s vision for Kananaskis Country is to expand protections for critical habitat and wildlife corridors, while also providing sustainable recreation opportunities to meet growing demand from Alberta’s tourism industry.

    • Introduction
    • Features
    • Concerns
    • History
    • Archive
    • Other Areas

    Kananaskis is one of Alberta’s most iconic wilderness destinations, boasting popular hiking routes, robust wildlife populations, among many recreational opportunities. PHOTO © N. DOUGLAS

    Abutting the Livingstone Range to the South and the Ghost-Waiparous area to the north, AWA’s Kananaskis Area of Concern is a sizeable region falling along the Southern Eastern Slopes of Alberta.

    Between its 4,130 km2, AWA’s Kananaskis Area of Concern is currently only 57 percent protected. While this 57 percent offers a range of protections, the remaining 43 percent is still at risk of losing its wilderness values. Unprotected areas in Kananaskis include what are called Public Land Use Zones (PLUZs) or Public Recreation Areas (PRAs) – areas extensively used for   recreation.   These recreational areas represent a strategically-planned opportunity for Alberta’s tourists and citizens to enjoy regional wilderness; generating an average annual income of $200 million.

    Visitors to Kananaskis Country are drawn to its tremendous wilderness values, including habitat provision for large mammals, birds and fish, and breathtaking views from its mountain peaks. Encompassing the vast majority of the City of Calgary’s watershed, Kananaskis is also an essential provider of clean water to the city’s population.


    Protected Areas
    As of 2018, Kananaskis is only 57 percent protected. Protected areas include:

    • Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park
    • Spray Valley Provincial Park
    • Elbow-Sheep Wildland Provincial Park
    • Peter Lougheed Provincial Park
    • Don Getty Wildland Provincial Parks
    • Sheep River Provincial Park
    • Bluerock Wildland Provincial Park
    • Plateau Mountain Ecological Reserve

    Each designation holds its own level of protective status. For more information, visit Alberta Environment & Parks.

    Public Lands
    The public lands of Kananaskis Country provide important recreational opportunities for Alberta’s “gateway communities”. These opportunities accommodate the growing need to accommodate Alberta’s growing wilderness recreation and tourism demands. This desire to recreate has spurred the creation of numerous areas within Kananaskis’ public lands that facilitate high-intensity recreation, including Public Land Use Zones (PLUZs) and 49 Provincial Recreation Areas (PRAs).

    In 2001, partial management of Kananaskis’ public lands was transferred to Spray Lakes Sawmills Ltd, through a renewable 20 year Forest Management Agreement (FMA).

    Forest Land Use Zones (FLUZs), now Public Land Use Zones (PLUZ). MAP © AWA: JPG|PDF


    Protected Areas
    The protected areas of Kananaskis fall under the guidance of the Provincial Parks Act, and the Wilderness Areas, Ecological Reserves, Natural Areas and Heritage Rangelands Act (WAERNAHR).

    Public Lands
    The public lands of Kananaskis fall within the Green Area of Alberta; a largely wooded area managed primarily for resource extraction.

    Of the recreational areas within the Kananaskis public lands, Provincial Recreation Areas (PRAs) fall under the Provincial Parks Act and Regulations. They are also currently regulated under the Kananaskis Country Provincial Recreation Areas and Bragg Creek Provincial Park Management Plan, published by the Government of Alberta in 2012.

    Other public lands, like the Public Land Use Zones (PLUZs) are guided by Regional Plans (i.e. the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan), as well as managed under a number of provincial acts and regulations; these include the Public Lands Act, Forests Act, Public Lands Administration Regulation, Recreational Access Regulations, among many more.

    The forests within Kananaskis’ public lands are partially managed under a renewable 20-year Forest Management Agreement held by Spray Lake Sawmills.


    Kananaskis Country encompasses 4130 km2 along the Southern Eastern Slopes of the Rocky Mountains, falling immediately east of the Alberta-British Columbia border. To the west, Kananaskis abuts Banff National Park, with AWA’s Ghost area of concern to the north and Livingstone-Porcupine area to the south. AWA’s Kananaskis area of concern extends from the TransCanada Highway (Highway 1A), along Highway 40, to the Plateau Mountain Ecological Reserve.

    The municipality of Canmore falls within AWA’s Kananaskis area of concern, joined by a string of tourist destinations within the Kananaskis Valley, and the Eden Valley Reserve (also known as Ga-hna by the Ĩyãħé Nakoda). Kananaskis has many popular geomorphological features including Kananaskis Valley, Ha Ling Peak, Ribbon Falls, Plateau Mountain, and Grassi Lakes – among many more.

     Map of AWA’s Kananaskis Area of Concern. MAP © AWA: JPG | PDF


    Kananaskis is home to five major rivers: the Kananaskis, Elbow, Sheep, Highwood and Livingstone. High in the headwaters, these rivers are sourced from glaciers, mountain lakes, and alpine and subalpine wetlands. These sources can be attributed for the cold, fresh and relatively pristine waters communities enjoy downstream. These rivers provide major contributions to the Bow River Basin and the larger South Saskatchewan River Basin, important freshwater providers for over one million residents in Alberta and Prairie Provinces downstream.

    The rivers of Kananaskis are also of critical importance to many wildlife species, as the area is a key migratory corridor, as well as critical habitat for threatened species of native fish, like the westslope cutthroat trout.

    To learn more about watersheds in the Kananaskis area, read AWA’s Brochure: Kananaskis Country: The Source of Our Water.


    Kananaskis falls along an area referred to as the Southern Eastern Slopes; the southeastern most stretch of the Rocky Mountains located along the Alberta-British Columbia border.

    The formation of the Rocky Mountains is punctuated by a few major stages: pre-formation, formation, and glaciation. Prior to formation, the region was covered by a thick layer of sedimentary rock, accumulated under the sea over a period of 1.5 billion years. The Rocky Mountain ranges then began to form around 140 million years ago, as a result of the collision between crustal plates; the west-coast continental shelf moved northeast over underlying granite and gneiss, causing its upper layers to accordion, break and fold into thrust sheets. This thrust faulting is the process in which large slabs of rock push over each other, resulting in the distinct strata of the Rocky Mountains. Lastly, glaciation carved out many of the Rockies’ more recognizable features. The sheer faces and U-shaped valleys are the result of glaciation during the Pleistocene and early Holocene, where the western Cordilleran and eastern Laurentide ice sheets converged upon Alberta.

    While the Rocky Mountains are geologically complex, their composition can be broken into six general units (from bed to surface): a bed of granite and gneiss, an ancient layer of Rodinia rock, an old clastic unit, a middle carbonate unit, a young clastic unit, and surficial deposits from glaciation. The bed of granite and gneiss are metamorphically-formed deposits sitting just above the Earth’s molten mantle. The remaining layers are the result of sedimentary deposition during pre-formation, containing a mix of sandstone, limestone, shale, dolomite, slate, conglomerates and so on.

    Information gathered from the Handbook of the Rocky Mountains (Gadd, 1999).

    Environmentally Significant Areas

    Kananaskis holds areas of provincial, national and international environmental significance. These statuses are typically given to unique ecosystems, or best possible representations of a natural phenomenon for a given region. This includes areas like Plateau Mountain, chosen as a nationally significant area for its biodiversity and rare geology.

     Environmentally Significant Areas of Kananaskis. MAP © AWA: JPG | PDF

    Natural Regions

    The Kananaskis area of concern falls within the Rocky Mountains Natural Region, encompassing predominantly Alpine, Subalpine and Montane Natural Subregions. A small portion of the Foothills Parkland Natural Subregion can be identified along the easternmost arm of the area.

     Natural Subregions of Kananaskis. MAP © AWA: JPG | PDF


    Alpine: Willow, bog birch, krummholz trees, stonefield lichen communities, bog-sedge

    Subalpine: Engelmann spruce, subalpine fir, alpine larch, whitebark pine, lodgepole pine false azalea, grouseberry, Canada buffalo-berry, low bilberry, white-flowered rhododendron, hairy wild rye, pine grass, feathermoss

    Montane: Lodgepole pine, white spruce, Douglas fir, foothills rough fescue, Idaho fescue, Parry oatgrass, Richarson needle grass, aspen clones

    Foothills Parkland: Balsam poplar, cottonwood species, aspens, snowberry, wolf-willow, white meadowsweet, prickly rose


    Of the roughly 700 grizzly bears that remain in Alberta – now considered a threatened species – Kananaskis Country is home to approximately 40. The grizzlies of Kananaskis rely on large undisturbed expanses, facilitated by protected areas, to sustain their needs for space, hunting, and foraging. Other distinctly mountain-dwelling mammals can be found along the slopes and valleys of Kananaskis, including cougars, wolves, elk, and bighorn sheep.

    Kananaskis provides habitat to other significant species. Golden eagles will migrate along the Rockies, where, at the height of migration, up to 800 eagles can pass through the area in one day. Critical habitat for the threatened westslope cutthroat trout also exists within the cold streams of Kananaskis Country.


    Indigenous Peoples have inhabited Kananaskis for more than 10,000 years, since the retreat of the glaciers. Most notably, the Rocky Mountain Nakoda (or Ĩyãħé Nakoda) travelled the foothills and mountain valleys surrounding the Kananaskis area to forage and harvest large game.

    Three Head Chiefs from the Ĩyãħé Nakoda attended the signing of Treaty 7. The Government of Canada then went on to allocate a single tract of land to be shared by those three groups, known in the modern day as Mĩnĩ θnĩ Wa-pta (or the Morley Reserve). From the Mĩnĩ θnĩ Wa-pta came two smaller satellite reserves, one of which falls within AWA’s Kananaskis area of concern; this satellite reserve is now called Ga-hna (or Eden Valley Reserve), meaning “along the foothills”.


    Kananaskis Country offers numerous excellent low-impact recreation opportunities. The Kananaskis Valley boasts dozens of incredible hiking trails, including Ha Ling Peak, Centennial Ridge, and the Prairie View Lookout. Other recreational areas throughout Kananaskis offer camping, fishing, backpacking, horseback riding, skiing, biking and picnicking.

    Cumulative Effects

    The cumulative effects of increased human access, habitat fragmentation, and clearcutting are detrimental to forest health, species at risk, and water quality.  Forest logging roads are often poorly built, with limited regard for hydrology, erosion and sedimentation, due to their limited use and temporary nature – once logging is complete, the roads are often abandoned.  “Left-over” logging roads may still be used by recreational users and energy tenure holders.  Off-highway vehicle (OHV) recreational use can increase the linear disturbance footprint created by access roads as branching trails are often created off of the main road.  Poor maintenance and continued use of the access roads and subsequent trails can greatly increase the amount of sedimentation that drains into the watershed.  This effect is compounded by changes in hydrology and the reduced number of trees that are responsible for water storage and related slow-release.  Native Alberta fish species, such as threatened bull and westslope cutthroat trout, rely on cold clear water to thrive. Linear disturbances contribute to increases in sedimentation, which can suffocate eggs during spawning. More exposed earth also contributes to increases in water temperatures which may cause fish die-off or increased stress by inducing changes to how they feed, grow, breathe and reproduce. These adverse effects also affect humans as they can increase the cost of water purification and ultimately limit the security of Alberta’s water supply.

    Due to these deleterious effects, AWA believes that industrial-scale clearcut logging should be eliminated from the South Saskatchewan watershed.

    Sustainable forestry needs ecosystem based models that allow natural control mechanisms to function. This will include the restoration of natural insects and diseases as well as the restoration of wildfire on the landscape.

    AWA supports the Eastern Slopes Policy and strongly recommends a moratorium be imposed on motorized recreation and trail development in the Prime Protection and Critical Wildlife Zones, as well as critical habitat for species at risk.

    Species at Risk

    All land uses, including industrial development, forest management plans, road building, and motorized recreational activities must be changed to comply with recovery plans for species at risk. The Alberta government’s 2008 Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan notes that “human use of access (specifically, motorized vehicle routes) is one of the primary threats to grizzly bear persistence”.  While linear disturbance thresholds have been set in theory, there is no indication that management plans are being updated to implement these thresholds in practice.  Similarly, critical habitat for endangered fish species have been established but largely ignored when siting access roads and limiting motorized recreation.

    AWA believes that further protections need to be established to maintain threatened populations of grizzly bears and westslope cutthroat trout that inhabit Kananaskis Country.

    Protected Areas

    While Kananaskis offers 57 percent protection through its various protected areas, it remains that the region provides important wildlife corridors and critical habitat that require sufficient protection to persist. For this reason, AWA recommends the expanding protections within the Kananaskis area of concern to include a larger portion of the Upper Oldman, bridging the gap in protection between the southern stretches of the Don Getty Wildland Provincial Park. AWA supports the use of designated recreation areas, such as Public Recreation Areas or Public Land Use Zones, to facilitate the growing demand for recreation while also adding increased protections to other wilderness areas.


    In June, the public lands camping pass and Kananaskis Country user fees are introduced. AWA believes the Conservation Pass will reduce the availability of lowcost recreational opportunities for Albertans, and will act as a deterrent for visitors seeking out Alberta’s wilderness. While there is a need in Kananaskis to invest into further conservation efforts, monitoring and enforcement of regulations, funding should come from within the provincial budget and not rely upon a userpay model. Applying user fees within the Kananaskis region may shift land use pressures to other nearby areas.


    AWA continues to bring awareness to Fortress Mountain Holdings’ (FMH) amended water license, the potential impacts to local hydrology and wildlife, and the damaging precedent this approval may set for other water licenses in the Bow River Basin. Fortress Mountain Holdings, in partnership with a local brewing company, is selling the water extracted from their leased lands and extracted from Galatea Creek, a tributary of the Bow River, marketed as “Rök Glacier Water.”

    In December, the Minister of Environment and Parks announces that all sites from the February 2020 ‘Optimizing Alberta Parks’ decision will retain their protected area status. previously, the government’s approach had intended to remove more than 164 parks, provincial recreation and natural areas from the Alberta Parks system, fifty-three of which fell within Kananaskis Country.

    In March, the Government of Alberta proposes “Optimizing Alberta Parks”, which intends to remove 164 sites from the parks system to either be divested to thirdparty partnerships or reverted to vacant public lands. AWA has serious concerns that this decision will result in a substantive loss of necessary protection and accessible recreation opportunities for Albertans and visitors. Kananaskis Country will lose a large number of parks and protected areas under the proposal.


    On October 25, Alberta Environment and Parks approves Fortress Mountain Resort’s application to amend their water license, granting permission to divert 50 million liters per year from Galatea Creek for commercial sale. While the province received over 200 Statements of Concern during the 30-day public feedback period, none were found to be “directly affected” and as a result did not receive standing.

    In July, Fortress Mountain Resort submits an application to amend their water license so that they may divert 50 million liters per year from Galatea Creek for commercial sale. AWA strongly opposes this application and requests that Fortress Mountain Resort withdraw its proposal. The Bow River, of which the Galatea is a tributary, is already over-allocated for meeting in-stream environmental needs.

    In June, AWA conducts a stewardship trip where two staff, 14 volunteers and an Alberta Parks Ranger visit Plateau Mountain Ecological Reserve, record observations and collect seven large bags of debris. AWA submits a stewardship report to Alberta Environment and Parks including observations and conservation recommendations.


    On November 13, the City of Calgary holds an Olympic plebiscite to determine if the city would be bidding to host the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, with many of the activities to be held at Nakiska Ski Area. The bid was rejected after 56.4% of Calgarians voted “no” to hosting the Winter Olympics.

    In November, a concerned citizen pursues legal action against the Province of Alberta and Spray Lake Sawmills over the proposed clearcuts for Kananaskis Country’s Mustang Hills. The judicial review of this case never goes through and clearcuts are carried out.

    In October, the Government of Alberta permanently closes the Silvester Creek Trail in the McLean Creek Public Land Use Zone (PLUZ); this closure follows years of erosion from nearby roads and motorized trails depositing sediment into the creek, which contains critical habitat for westslope cutthroat trout.


    In October, AWA writes to Alberta’s Minister of Environment and Parks to comment on the proposed redevelopment of the Lower Kananaskis River to Barrier Lake Day Use Area in Bow Valley Provincial Park. AWA supports the Government of Alberta in their plans to contain new development to existing areas of disturbance, and for expanding provisions to facilitate the wildlife corridor running through the area. AWA remains concerned about the increasing urbanization surrounding the Barrier Reservoir Day Use area, as it runs the risk of losing its wilderness values entirely.

    In June, AWA writes to the provincial government regarding the proposed helipad development at the Base of Mount Yamnuska by Rockies Heli Canada. AWA is in firm opposition to the development of a helipad in this area, as Mount Yamnuska is located within Prime Protection and Critical Wildlife Zones. In August, the Government of Alberta chooses to reject the application for the helipad.


    In July, the final version of the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan (SSRP) was released on July 23 and announced three new Wildland Provincial Parks thanks to the plan in addition to promises of watershed and headwaters protection, with forest management being the highest priority. Unfortunately, the SSRP is rife with ambiguous language, lacks key conservation pieces, and fails to protect the more bio-diverse regions.


    In October, tentative FSC Certification is granted to Spray Lakes Sawmills (SLS) by Smartwood following a Complimentary Audit in August 2013.  Smartwood closes three of the four major non-conformances, and downgrades the last one to a minor non-conformance. Once tentatively certified, sixty minor non-conformances had to be transferred to and reviewed by Bureau Veritas (BV), who were hired by SLS to be their second certifier.

    In June, 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.

    In April, 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.

    In March, AWA and other stakeholders were informed by SLS on March 14, 2013 that SLS failed in its first certification attempt for FSC Certification due to   non-conformance with the principles found in FSC Canada’s National Boreal Standard. The initial audit by Smartwood included 4 major non-conformances and 59 minor non-conformances.


    In October, 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.

    In June, 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. Ga-hna (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.

    In May, 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 reason for the company’s failure remains confidential.

    In March, Ga-hna (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 Ga-hna (The Eden Valley Reserve) 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 Ĩyãħé Nakoda’s appeal to the Alberta Court of Appeal.

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

    In January, 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. More than 400 people attend a public meeting in Bragg Creek, 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.

    In March, the 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.


    In December, 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.”

    In November, the Court of Appeal of Alberta release a decision that allows the Ĩyãħé Nakoda, the Big Loop and Pekisko groups to appeal the Energy Resource Conservation Board (ERCB) 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”.

    In June, 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, Indigenous Peoples and environmentalists about the proposals.

    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.”


    In November, ERCB temporarily suspends approval of all sour gas applications in the province, including Petro Canada’s Sullivan application.

    In October, Imperial Oil withdraws 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.

    In February, the Sullivan Hearing proceeds. AWA is denied intervener status, 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.

    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.

    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 “extremely 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 is rejected by the Government of Alberta. 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).


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

    The Government of Alberta amends plans for the Evan Thomas Provincial Recreation Area 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%. Later, the Evan Thomas Provincial Recreation Area is amended and Management Plan is released.

    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, 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. In light of this popular opinion, AWA questions the government’s claim that the plan “strikes a balance”.


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

    In June, 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


    In July, Government of Alberta announces a 20-year Forest Management Agreement (FMA) with Spray Lake Sawmills Ltd. on the same day they announce two and a half new protected areas in Kananaskis–Bluerock Wildland Park (Sheep River Provincial Park and Don Getty Wildland Provincial Park). The parks consist of approximately 20 scattered protected areas surrounded by land converted to the FMA.

    The 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.

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

    In May, FMA negotiations continue between the Alberta Government and Spray Lake Sawmills Ltd.

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


    Spray Lake Sawmills logs Etherington Creek in Highwood Pass region


    In December, The Government of Alberta announces the creation of Spray Valley Provincial Park

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

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

    In January, Genesis plans to issue Proposed Terms of Reference for project; combines Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) processes for all proposed Spray Lake Sawmills projects


    In December, Genesis meets Alberta government Sunset Clause deadline, making it exempt from moratorium on further commercial development in Kananaskis Country.

    In May, the Government of Alberta announces a new recreational development plan for Kananaskis Country, including a moratorium on new commercial and recreational developments; the plan does not include ceasing existing proposals.

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


    The City of Calgary hosts the XV Winter Olympics, including hosting all alpine skiing events at the Nakiska Ski Resort in Kananaskis Valley.


    The Government of Alberta expands the Evan Thomas Provincial Recreation Area to include hotels at Kananaskis Village and Nakiska ski hill. Most recreation areas in Kananaskis are relatively small but Evan Thomas consists of 4400 hectares of recreation nodes.

    The Evan Thomas Provincial Recreation Area is established.


    Kananaskis Country established, but only 43 percent of the area is given 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.”


    The Government of Alberta 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.


    The Seebe Internment No. 130)  holds predominantly German Prisoners of War (PoW).


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


    TransAlta builds the Kananaskis Dam. 


    The 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.” 


    The Eau Claire & Bow Lumber Company begins logging in the Kananaskis Valley.


    John Palliser names the region ‘Kananaskis Pass’ after an Indigenous man named Kin-e-ah-kis. Palliser had heard rumour of Kin-e-ah-kis as a man who had a “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.


    Three Head Chiefs from the Rocky Mountain Nakoda (Ĩyãħé Nakoda) attend the signing of Treaty 7. The Government of Canada goes on to allocate those three groups a single tract of land, known in the modern day as Mĩnĩ θnĩ Wa-pta or the Morley Reserve. In the 20th Century, two smaller satellite reserves were created, one of which falls within AWA’s Kananaskis area of concern that is now called Ga-hna (or Eden Valley Reserve), meaning “along the foothills”.


    Indigenous Peoples have inhabited the area for more than 10,000 years since the retreat of the glaciers. Most notably, the Rocky Mountain Nakoda (or Ĩyãħé Nakoda) travelled the foothills and mountain valleys surrounding the Kananaskis area to forag

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    December 2, 2010

    Forest Management Certification Pre-assessment of Spray Lake Sawmills

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    August 16, 2010

    The Forests of Alberta’s Southern Eastern Slopes: Forest or Forestry?

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    February 1, 2009

    Kananaskis Grizzlies. When Enough is Enough

    Wild Lands Advocate article, February 2009. Nigel Douglas 20090200_ar_wla_grizzlies_ndouglas.pdf

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