January 10, 2011
The Livingstone-Porcupine area is one of the most diverse areas in the province.
The 4,560 km2 Livingstone-Porcupine area is composed of several smaller areas, including: Beehive Mountain, Whaleback, North Porcupine Hills, Upper Oldman River and Crowsnest Pass. This area is located south of Banff National Park and Kananaskis Country, along the British Columbia – Alberta border.
The Livingstone-Porcupine area is composed of several smaller areas, including: Beehive Mountain, Whaleback, North Porcupine Hills, Upper Oldman River and Crowsnest Pass. This area is located south of Banff National Park and Kananaskis Country, along the British Columbia – Alberta border.
It is one of the most diverse areas in the province. In the Porcupine Hills alone there are five distinct vegetation types (grassland, parkland, montane, supalpine and alpine); nowhere else in Alberta do these vegetation types coexist in such close proximity. The largest and oldest Douglas firs in Alberta (400 years old) are in this region.
Protected areas within the Livingstone-Porcupine include :
The Livingstone-Porcupine region is managed under the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan (SSRP) 2014-2024 and the Biodiversity Management Framework (BMF). Sub-regional planning (in this case, the Linear Footprint Management Plan) will replace previous land-use plans such as the Eastern Slopes policy and Integrated Resource Plan.
Since 1987, the Livingstone Porcupine Hills Sub-Regional Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) has been in effect. The new subregional planning under the SSRP will incorporate some provisions from the IRP and discard those that are no longer relevant. Management objectives from the IRP include :
Forests in the Livingstone-Porcupine region fall under the C5 Forest Management Area.
Oil and gas
Oil and gas operations in the region are regulated by Alberta Energy Regulator (AER)’s Informational Letter IL 93-9 which lays out the expectations for oil and gas companies working in the Eastern Slopes.
Increasing off-highway vehicle use has resulted in degradation of land and water in Alberta’s eastern slopes.
Introduction of non-native invasive plants is one of the biggest long-term risks to native fescue grasslands. Industrial roads and seismic lines represent ‘inoculation routes’ for invasive species, which then spread out into surrounding native grasslands.
Oil and gas and mining of coal and uranium have been prominent land uses in the Livingstone and Porcupine in the past. There has been a lack of consideration of cumulative effects in previous land use plans, resulting in a piecemeal approach often called “death by a thousand cuts”.
Climate change models for southern Alberta predict that future weather patterns will include wider extremes of wet weather and drought.
CEAA receives Benga Mining’s addendum for the Grassy Mountain mine project. Benga Mining is required to provide answers to CEAA’s information requests.
Following Benga Mining’s most recent submittal of the EIA, CEAA requests additional information including bat surveys, fish and aquatic surveys, westslope cutthroat trout information, induced seismicity, and cumulative effects under a separate addendum.
Benga Mining submits an updated environmental impact assessment to CEAA.
Recreation management planning consultation begins. Although recreation planning is an operational plan that falls under and should be informed by the sub-regional plan (in this case, the Linear Footprint Management Plan), consultations are in close succession.
A Public Land Use Zone has not been designated despite prior promises that it will be in place for May Long weekend. Government processes and a court case are holding up the designation, which would enable enforcement and allow ticketable offenses. Off-highway vehicle events and activity continue to occur.
AWA receives notice from AltaLink that the application for Castle Rock Ridge to Chapel Rock Transmission Project has not been submitted, as a direction from Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) is needed first.
The famous King Ranch located along the Cowboy Trail has been added to the Waldron Conservation Project with the Nature Conservancy of Canada, the largest conservation easement in Canadian history. This will help connectivity between the Bob Creek Wildland Park and Porcupine Hills. The land covers 14,000 hectares, about 10 times the size of Fish Creek Provincial Park in Calgary.
The Livingstone and Porcupine Hills is the first area to undergo sub-regional land-use planning under the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan. Despite the Biodiversity Management Framework still in draft form, stakeholder consultation begins for the Linear Footprint Management Plan. AWA participates in an informal coalition of stakeholders in the Porcupine Hills, including ENGOs, landowners, municipalities, and concerned individuals. The Coalition agreed to principles for land-use planning in the Porcupine Hills: recognizing watershed and biodiversity values; using an integrated approach and support private land conservation and stewardship initiatives; the current ecological condition should not be considered as the baseline; recognizing the Southern Foothills Study as a foundation for planning; and knowing that decisions made in the Hills will affect land-uses on the rest of the eastern slopes.
Riversdale Resources Limited has proposed to develop and operate an open-pit metallurgical coal mine near Blairmore in the Crowsnest Pass. A loose coalition of environmental groups formed the Friends of Grassy Mountain for the purpose to share information and raise awareness about the risks of the mine. The federal Environment Minister announces the assessment will be handed over to an independent review panel.
The Southern Foothills Study is published. The purpose of the study was to examine whether application of Beneficial Management Practices would halt or reverse the decline in environmental indicators. Simulations by the ALCES modelling show that Alberta’s East Slopes will continue to undergo a land use transformation and become progressively more industrialized and fragmented by roads, transmission lines, residential acreages, urban sprawl, wind energy turbines, feedlots, mines, cutblocks, and other linear features, reducing the amount and value of ecosystem services in the landscape.
A feature article by AWA staff exposes that 10 government-authorized OHV racing events have taken place on public lands within Livingstone-Porcupine. No post-event field inspections, registration fees, or government attendance is required for the Temporary Field Authority (TFA) permits.
Concerns from local landowners are ongoing about the Castle Rock Ridge to Chapel Rock transmission project. The project proposes to connect electricity from wind energy projects and would pass through a culturally and ecologically unique area.
Despite AWA’s concerns, logging at Star Creek begins days before Christmas.
AWA writes to Minister Campbell opposing Southern Rockies Watershed Project Logging in Upper Star Creek Valley, due to concerns about westslope cutthroat trout, linear disturbance, and unproven need for the project.
Dozens of dead ducks are found underneath a one-year old AltaLink transmission line near Pincher Creek. The deaths were presumed to be a result of the reservoir attracting waterfowl in the winter and high winds that blew the birds into the line. AltaLink committed to investigate the situation.
AWA writes to AESRD Minister Campbell updating him on concerns about the past 18 months’ logging operations in Hidden Creek in the Livingstone-Porcupine. Hidden Creek provides spawning habitat to 80 percent of the Oldman Basin pure-strain population of westslope cutthroat trout. The letter includes a discussion of the reclassification to a Class A watercourse, as well as AWA’s subsequent analysis for the FOIP materials. “We find that the contents of the FOIP response shed a disturbing light on decision-making processes within AESRD, and on how concerns raised by one department within the ministry are seemingly continually ignored and overruled at the behest of other interests… we are struck by the repeated recommendations against logging Hidden Creek made by Fish and Wildlife (F&W) staff.” AWA writes that “the FOIP materials reveal a focus on timber quotas, not a coordinated, integrated approach to resource management that respects the expertise within all related departments and the contribution of a dedicated and knowledgeable conservation community.”
Draft South Saskatchewan Regional Plan proposes that the Beehive Natural Area be designated as a Wildland Provincial Park. As such there would be no oil and gas activity, mining, commercial forestry or off-highway vehicle activity allowed. Plan also proposes expansions to other parks, including Blue Rock and Bob Creek Wildlands.
AWA finally receives information requested under Freedom of Information (FOIP) legislation in November 2012, concerning logging in Hidden Creek.
A report by Wildlife Conservation Society Canada biologist John Weaver examines the latest science on conservation needs of six species in the southern Canadian Rockies headwaters, and threats posed to them by climate change and road access. The species are bull trout, westslope cutthroat trout, grizzly bear, wolverine, mountain goat and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, which are ‘umbrella’ species whose habitat provides for a wide range of wildlife and human water security benefits. After assessing options for connecting habitat areas via mapping and field work, Weaver recommends new Wildland Provincial Parks in the Oldman River and Highwood River headwaters to address future habitat needs. Reviewing recent studies of southern Alberta residents’ priorities for the Eastern Slopes, Weaver points out that “Protecting and connecting the headwater havens of the Southern Canadian Rockies in Alberta is central to these values strongly held by local residents and visitors alike.”
AWA writes to the Minister of AESRD to express concern about failure of logging in Hidden Creek to comply to appropriate conditions. One 2-km stretch of road has been constructed within the 100-metre buffer required for ‘Class A’ streams such as Hidden Creek.
Suncor Energy announces that it has discontinued all pipelines and facilities in its Savanna Creek area and is currently in the process of suspending all wells in the area. This includes the long-established sour gas wells on and around Plateau Mountain Ecological Reserve.
AESRD approves Spray Lake Sawmills logging plans along a stretch of Hidden Creek, in the Upper Oldman Basin. Hidden Creek is one of the most critical spawning grounds in southern Alberta for both Westslope Cutthroat Trout and the threatened Bull Trout, two species that would be severely negatively impacted by the logging operations. SLS is directed to treat Hidden Creek “as if it were” a Class A watercourse, however are then permitted undocumented deviations from the operating ground rules that undercut that directive. AWA writes to the Alberta Government objecting to this operation and makes a FOIP request for related information.
The logging goes ahead as approved and proceeds through January 2013.
In a highly significant decision, the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) refuses permission to Altalink Management Ltd. to build a new transmission line in the pristine landscape of southwestern Alberta’s Livingstone Range. The commission agrees with AWA and other opponents to the application that a previous “needs” approval for a different area did not entitle the company to develop anywhere they wished. “Because there are material differences in the transmission facilities currently proposed from those approved … both in terms of their geographic location and electric system configuration, the Commission finds that the Goose Lake to Chapel Rock line is not the same as the Goose Lake to Crowsnest line.”
Peter Sherrington represented AWA at the August pre-hearing, and commented at the time that the case commented at the time that the issue was as “close to a no-brainer” as he’s seen. After the AUC’s decision, he wrote “The important thing about this ruling is that it has restored ordinary citizens’ faith in the process of regulation.”
The local passion for the Southern Foothills landscape is once again underlined with the recent publishing of the results from the Southern Foothills Community Stewardship Initiative (SFCSI), a year-long grassroots initiative led by the Pekisko Group and the Chinook Institute for Community Stewardship. The report, Values and Voices: Stewardship Priorities for the Southern Alberta Foothills, is released in November 2011. The report, based on a series of stakeholder meetings with more than 300 participants. Recommendations on how to maintain the critical values of this region include :
Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) holds pre-hearing for application by the Alberta Energy Systems Operator (AESO) and Altalink to build 240 kV transmission lines through the Livingstone. AWA argues that the development proposals seem to fly in the face of commitments made on numerous occasions by Altalink President and Chief Executive Officer, Scott Thon. In 2007, Thon promised to take “an innovative approach to transmission by focusing first on reusing existing rights-of-way and reusing the land currently occupied by older, lower capacity lines for new, high capacity lines before we look to cut a new path of land.”
Previously AUC had granted a “needs” approval to AESO. This recognized the “need” for a new transmission line running from Goose Lake, near the Oldman Dam, west to the Crowsnest Pass. Since receiving “needs” approval for that specific corridor, Altalink has proposed a dizzying number of alternative locations and routes for substations and transmission lines, including options far beyond the route for which they originally received permission. AWA believes that receiving “needs” permission for one particular route should not give Altalink carte blanche to build transmission lines wherever they want in southern Alberta without due process.
The Alberta government refers the proposed Micrex magnetite mine to the Natural Resource Conservation Board for review. The Board seem taken by surprise by the announcement. Government promises the Calgary Herald (April 15, 2011) that “the board will seek public comments on the Micrex project.”
Altalink announces proposals to build new transmission lines in the Livingstone region. AWA writes to Premier Stelmach to oppose the proposed development: “No justification has been offered for the need for the proposed transmission line. AWA is not aware that this need has been discussed in any public forum. AWA firmly believes that this project should not be approved without any public discussion, including documentation, of the need for the project.”
In a January 2011 interview with the Calgary Herald’s Kelly Cryderman, Ted Morton, Minister of Finance, wades in to the debate over the proposed Micrex Corp. magnetite mine on the flanks of the Livingstone Range. He urges Minister Mel Knight, (Morton’s successor as Minister of Sustainable Resource Development), not to approve the proposed mine, at least not until the Land-Use Framework plan for the South Saskatchewan region is finalized. “It would premature to approve a project like this before the regional plan for the South Saskatchewan region is finalized,” Morton tells the Calgary Herald. “If you look at the policy document for the land-use framework, it identifies the Eastern Slopes in terms of priority uses, as watershed and recreation – not mining.”
On April 11, the Micrex mine decision is referred to the Natural Resource Development Board. The application will now presumably involve a long drawn-out hearing process.
AWA writes to Premier Stelmach to express opposition to the proposed Micrex magnetite mine on the Livingstone Range. “The limited benefits from any development could never outweigh the considerable costs – to the natural beauty of the landscape with its accompanying tourism potential, to the clean surface and groundwater production properties of the land and to the significant wildlife habitat in the region.” AWA also notes that “The local community is quite clearly strongly against the proposed development.”
Responding to a question about the proposed mine in the Alberta Legislature in early December, Minister of SRD Mel Knight comments, “The process going forward would allow for proper exploitation of that resource, and it’s a required resource in the region.” Later he backtracks somewhat, telling the Calgary Herald that he had not heard the legislature question correctly. “Magnetite would not qualify as a required resource in the region,” he says. “It is my responsibility to be sure that resources that belong to Albertans should be developed in a way that gives the maximum benefit to Albertans while maintaining a very high standard of conservation and environmental awareness.”
The Pekisko Group and the Chinook Institute for Community Stewardship launch the Southern Foothills Community Stewardship Initiative. Building on the earlier Southern Foothills Study, this is a citizen-‐based process to provide direction to provincial, municipal and non-‐government organization land use planning and stewardship efforts, in order to protect and enhance the integrity of the Southern Foothills landscape of SW Alberta. A series of community workshops is held to research the values and priorities held by residents throughout the region.
Alberta Environment unexpectedly decides that no Environmental Impact Assessment would be required for Micrex Corp’s proposed magnetite mine on the flanks of the Livingstone Range. This is despite considerable local opposition to the proposed mine, which would have significant effects on the local environment, including bighorn sheep nursing grounds and elk wintering grounds, not to mention a spectacular viewscape.
In a Leger opinion poll survey for the Pekisko Group of landowners, 74% of respondents agree with calls for a moratorium on future oil and gas development in the south East Slopes “until the provincial government has finalized a Land Use Framework to plan and balance future development for this sensitive region.”
The 4,277-hectare OH Ranch Heritage Rangeland is officially designated. In an agreement with the Alberta government, owners of the OH Ranch agree to put conservation easements on their own deeded land if the Alberta government will designate the adjacent land (for which the OH Ranch holds a grazing lease) as a Heritage Rangeland. Although it appears that donations by private landowners now seem to be the only available way of protecting new land in Alberta, this is an encouraging step, which will help to protect a large area of relatively pristine fescue grassland for the foreseeable future.
With surprising speed, a draft management plan for the new Heritage Rangeland is made available for public input in September 2008.
When, after a year-long Energy and Utilities Board (EUB) “clarification exercise” over its Information Letter IL93-9 that saw the participation of AWA and three landowner groups, the process appears to be heading toward strengthening IL93-9, the EUB pulls the plug on the process.
Instead, at a public meeting on December 3, EUB announces its new Early Engagement Land Pilot project for the area. Two hundred local residents listen respectfully to 15 members of EUB introduce the project. Participants then stand up, one by one, and reject the proposals. People do not want to talk about the specifics of how oil and gas development will take place: they want to be involved in the decisions which are made on whether or not to develop the resource in the first place. They call for a moratorium on further development until a plan can be developed to address the cumulative effects of numerous activities on the landscape. John Cross, from the Pekisko Group, calls for the government to “Stop. Think. Plan intelligently.”
AWA joins with a number of environmental and landowner groups (13 groups in total) in sending a letter to Premier Stelmach: “To create space for effective planning we strongly endorse the concept of a pause, or a “time out” for many resource developments occurring now in the Southern East Slopes. If unchecked, the frequency and intensity of these developments will significantly undermine planning efforts and regional ecological integrity.”
Work on the Southern Foothills Study continues. SRD Minister Ted Morton attends a meeting on March 28, 2007. Phase Three of the Study begins. Different groups begin to meet to discuss best practices for the different “sectors” operating in the region – e.g.: oil and gas, forestry and agriculture. AWA is represented on the Forestry Sector group, which has one single belated meeting in November. Government forestry staff fail to attend, and Spray Lake Sawmills send a representative to just this one meeting, stating that they will not attend any further meetings.
Various minor land exchanges take place, prior to finalizing boundaries of protected areas (Bob Creek Wildland and Black Creek Heritage Rangeland). Upper Bob Creek Ecological Reserve disestablished, having been incorporated into these two new protected areas.
The Southern Foothills Study cumulative effects report is released. A series of presentations in seven local communities attracts 600 people. Key projections from the study include :
Following a pre-hearing in April, Alberta Energy Utilities Board (EUB) denies standing to AWA and three landowner groups (Pekisko and Livingstone Landowners Groups and South Porcupine Hills Stewards Association) in an application by Compton to drill two gas wells. EUB ignores its own guidelines, specifically its Information Letter IL93-9 governing development in the southern eastern slopes, requiring full development plan, rather than well-by-well applications.
AWA and the three landowner groups deliver a high profile letter of objection to EUB: “The regulatory system in this province has become irreparable and no longer supports the interests of ordinary Albertans or the rights of surface owners […] The current policy of liquidating oil and gas resources as quickly as possible is destroying rural communities; wildlife; hunting and hiking; tourism and historic landscapes along the Cowboy Trail. Together the Board and the government are erasing Alberta’s single greatest brand: its land and heritage.”
EUB later calls for a meeting with these groups and undertakes a process of “clarification” of its Information Letter IL93-9 with selected stakeholders.
A draft management plan for the C5 Forest Management area continues to be delayed due to a failure to consult adequately with First Nations about the plan. Forestry operations continue without a current plan.
The Draft Forest Management Plan is released for the C5 Forest Management area. This region stretches from southern Kananaskis Country south to the border of Waterton National Park and includes the forested parts of the Livingstone area and the Porcupine Hills. The plan proposes to “maintain or increase the net forest (commercial timber harvesting) land base in the C5 FMU” and proposes a 25% increase in an already considerable Annual Allowable Cut (AAC). The plan ignores proposals for protection in the region. AWA comments include : “The plan appears to be very much a ‘Forestry’ management plan, as opposed to a ‘Forest’ management plan…The emphasis of the plan continues to be on the provision of a continuing timber supply, rather than the management of a complex forest ecosystem.”
Compton Petroleum submits an application to drill the first of at least 18 exploratory gas wells. Compton proposes a high density “tight gas” development project in the area.
Despite EUB requirements that “Any company intending to develop a project in the region is expected to carry out a thorough and effective public consultation program consistent with the sensitivity of the area proposed for development” (IL 93-9), Compton consultations with local landowners, including the Livingstone Landowners Group (LLG) are very poor. Compton does not believe that the LLG is required ‘for any of its applications.” (June 23 2005, Compton Participant Involvement Summary). LLG agrees to participate in EUB-facilitated Alternative Dispute Resolution process but Compton Petroleum declines.
Troups including AWA and local landowner groups are calling for a ‘timeout’ on development in the region until a broad landscape-scale plan is produced to determine future development, and provide a clear picture of what the region will look like in 20 or 50 years time. As a result the Southern Foothills Study group is formed, consisting of landowner groups, local municipalities, oil and gas and environmental representatives. The group identifies the boundaries of its study region as 1.22 million hectares of fescue grassland, foothills, forest and mountains, stretching from the BC border east to Highway 2, and from Turner Valley south to the Crowsnest Pass. Principle issues of concern are identified as water quality and quantity; fescue grasslands; lack of coherent land use planning; land stewardship; sustainable extensive cow/calf land use; and key megafauna. Brad Stelfox from Forem Technologies is commissioned to undertake a cumulative effects assessment of the region, looking back at the changes on the landscape over the previous 100 years, and then assessing where “business as usual” development will lead to in 50 years’ time.
Alberta Energy and Utilities Board IL93-9 states “At each stage of development a potential operator will provide, in as much detail as practical, its best estimate of the overall extent of development. This is required in order to avoid piecemeal proposals and to ensure that the overall scope and potential impacts of the development, if permitted, are clearly understood.” Despite very clear directions in IL93-9, the EUB still seems happy to allow oil and gas companies to apply for developments on a well-by-well basis. Compton Petroleum proposes a high density “tight gas” development project in the area. The company has applied for two of 21 planned exploratory wells, but future plans are likely to be extensive. Compton Petroleum’s website suggests 6 – 8 wells per section; at a 2005 open house, the company admitted the possibility of up to 64 wells per section. The company owns mineral leases for 110 sections of land along Hwy 22 between the Porcupine Hills and Cowley. According to the Compton website, the gas resource in this area, known as the Callum play “appears to exhibit many similarities to deep tight gas pools in the Rocky Mountain region of the United States, including the Jonah and Pinedale pools of the Great River Basin in Wyoming.” EnCana has drilled as many as 64 wells per section in the Jonah field; Ultra Petroleum has applied for 128 wells per section (Livingstone Landowners Group website). This type of “carpet-bombing” would have devastating impacts in the Livingstone/Porcupine region.
The Alberta Energy and Utilities Board (EUB) gives WIN Energy the go-ahead to drill a sweet gas well in the Porcupine Hills. This will be the first of a potential 20 to 30 wells, according to the company. The Livingstone Landowners Group launches an appeal, claiming that WIN Energy has made little effort to consult the local community about future plans and that the EUB is ignoring the future cumulative effects of wide-scale development in the area.
Stock prices for uranium have risen substantially in recent years, fuelled by hopes for the future of the nuclear power industry. Prices of $7.10 per pound in 2000 have risen to $20.20 in 2004, $36.25 per pound in December 2005. Mining companies, including Edmonton-based Firestone Ventures are currently prospecting in the Porcupine Hills area. “Our Phase One exploration program and the results reported by other companies certainly validate the potential of southern Alberta for roll-front uranium.” says Lori Walton, Firestone’s President. “The long term outlook for uranium is very strong; the price of uranium has increased further to $US 33.95/lb.”
The Livingstone Landowners Group (LLG) forms following concerns about development proposals by companies including Compton Petroleum, WIN Energy and Petro-Canada.
Three directional wells are drilled by Compton Petroleum from a pad constructed immediately south of the Callum gas plant in what the company refers to as the Callum play. The company owns mineral leases for 100 sections of land along Hwy 22 between the Porcupine Hills and Cowley. According to Compton’s website, “Callum has the potential to become a very significant resource play for Compton…Compton plans to drill 21 wells at Callum in 2005.” The gas resource in this area “appears to exhibit many similarities to deep tight gas pools in the Rocky Mountain region of the United States, including the Jonah and Pinedale pools of the Great River Basin in Wyoming.”
EnCana has drilled as many as 64 wells per section in the Jonah field; Ultra Petroleum has applied for 128 wells per section.
The application for the Burmis magnetite mine has been withdrawn from Alberta Environment. Micrex Development says they plan to re-submit a revised version at some time in the future. An Alberta based mining company, Micrex Development Corporation in partnership with Kelowna-based International Metallurgical and Environmental Inc. are proposing to construct and operate a magnetite quarrying and processing facility 11 kms north on the North Burmis Road from the juncture of highway 3 and the North Burmis Road. The magnetite is used for coal processing and is destined for mines in B.C. The project will provide little economic benefit for Alberta but will have significant environmental impacts. The mine will eventually cover 13 kms of public land in prime wildlife habitat and ranching country. AWA and Friends of the Livingstone Association, a local group of over 100 people, are opposing this project. Public consultation has been minimized. We are demanding an environmental impact assessment and a public hearing.
Bob Creek Wildland (20,778 ha) and Black Creek Heritage Rangeland (7,760 ha) are proclaimed.
The EUB turns down the applications by Polaris to drill for sour gas on lands adjacent to the Whaleback protected areas. In its Decision 2003-101 the Board’s bases its decision on the following:
AWA comments: “We commend the EUB for this decision that recognizes the particular care we must take with the unique ecosystem of the Whaleback, including lands adjacent to the protected areas.”
November: A Draft Management Plan is released for Bob Creek Wildland and Black Creek Heritage Rangeland. AWA objects to the proposal to allow OHV access in protected areas.
September 9-22: An EUB hearing is held at the Maycroft community hall regarding the Polaris Resources Ltd. applications to drill for sour gas. The hearing lasts 8 days.
August: Ricks Nova Scotia Company of Calgary, which has a 50% interest in the well, pulls out of the project due to the EUB’s costly regulatory process. The project partners wanted the EUB to cap the amount of funding the companies would have to provide for interveners to adequately participate in the hearing. Polaris’s other partner, Knight Petroleum Corp. of Vancouver still has a 25% interest. Polaris president John Maher says “We either have to finance more of it ourselves or find another partner. We may finance it ourselves.”
AWA commissions a poll by the Dunvegan Group of Calgary on the drilling of Polaris’s sour gas well in the Whaleback. 67% oppose the well, only 26% support it. IPSOS-Reid refused to conduct the poll for AWA because they were concerned that it could jeopardize the firm’s relationship with the oil and gas industry, a significant client.
July 14: The EUB issues notice that a public hearing regarding the Polaris application will take place on Tuesday, September 9, 2003 at the Maycroft Community Centre, Maycroft, Alberta.
June 26: The Alberta Government officially grants protection to the Bob Creek Wildland and Black Creek Heritage Rangeland. The Upper Bob Creek Ecological Reserve is incorporated into the Bob Creek Wildland.
April 16: The EUB holds at pre-hearing in Maycroft regarding the Polaris Resources Ltd. application in the Whaleback.
Vermillion Resources withdraws its plans to drill in the region after considerable high profile opposition from the Pekisko Group of local landowners.
Following concerns expressed by local landowners, EUB determined that EUB Information Letter IL2002-1: Principles for Minimizing Surface Disturbance in Native prairie and Parkland Areas was relevant. This directed that “avoidance of incremental environmental effects through coordination and cooperation with other native prairie users.” The Pekisko Landowners Association retained native prairie consultant, Cheryl Bradley, who produced the report Local Regional Ecological Effects Analysis: Proposed Drilling Program of Vermillion Resources Ltd in an area of Native Foothills Parkland. Unusually, EUB expressed interest not just in proposed well but in ‘Vermillion’s future plans in the event the present application is approved and a successful well is drilled.” The report highlights a well drilled in 1980, which “is still overwhelmingly dominated by non-native grass species despite having native rough fescue grassland on three sides.” Along the access road to the well, non-native plant species had invaded “within a corridor averaging 50 to 70 metres wide.”
Polaris Resources Ltd. submits an application to the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board for a licence to drill a sour gas well and compulsory pooling on the southern edge of the Whaleback.
Under pressure form the local community, Polaris Resources Ltd. hosts an open house in Maycroft to discuss its drilling plans in the Whaleback.
Alberta government Public Lands Division places a ‘protective notation’ on 27,655 ha of public land southwest of Longview. This states that grazing and industrial use require an access management plan prior to entry, entry only during dry or frozen ground conditions, and access restriction in times of high wildfire risk.
The Special Places program ends, despite the support of the multi-stakeholder Provincial Coordinating Committee for official protective designation. Only 21.1% of the stated target for protection of the Foothills Parkland, and 22.8% for Foothills Fescue are actually protected.
Amoco Canada relinquishes its rights todevelop petroleum in about one-third of the Whaleback area. Amoco donates these leases to the Natural Conservancy of Canada but receives no compensation. The conservancy will hold the leases until 2004 and then turn them over to the government with the intent of conservation in perpetuity.
Under the Special Places process, The Alberta Government announces its intention to create the Bob Creek Wildland Park (~21,000 ha) and Black Creek Heritage Rangeland (~8,000ha) within the Whaleback. The area represents 60% of what conservationists requested. Premier Klein says, “I can guarantee you today that we will make sure that the commitment that there will never be any drilling there is so strong that not even another party or another government can break it… we will certainly find a mechanism to make sure that for all time, in perpetuity, that this land will be protected from oil and gas development.” (Calgary Herald, May 11, 1999)
As part of the Special Places Process, the Local Committee draft recommendations include petroleum development and logging as acceptable land-use within the Whaleback. In disagreement with the Local Committee, the Provincial Coordinating Committee overseeing Special Places recommends no new development in the Whaleback and a provincial buy-out of the Amoco lease. Amoco offers to relinquish its lease in the area in exchange for compensation or other holdings elsewhere. The government later rejects the offer.
A report compiled for the Alberta government by Sweetgrass Consultants identifies national, provincial and regional Environmentally Significant Areas (ESAs), including Highwood Pekisko Upland ESA and Pekisko Creek ESA.
The Government produces a report on the Parkland Natural Region for the Special Places 2000 Provincial Coordinating Committee. It identifies Highwood Chaffen ESA (including Highwood Pekisko Upland, Meinsinger Lake and Pekisko Creek ESAs). The report suggests that Highwood Chaffen ESA is the area with the greatest potential to meet provincial targets for protection of Level 1 Natural History Themes within the Foothills Parkland sub-region, and recommends that all crown lands in the area should be maintained in their natural state.
Alberta government’s Special Places program sets provincial targets for protection of Level 1 Natural History Themes within the Foothills Parkland and Foothills Fescue sub-regions. There is a target of 228 km2 for Foothills Parkland and 270 km2 for Foothills Fescue.
The Whaleback becomes a protected areas candidate under Alberta’ Special Places program.
In a historic decision, the Energy Resource Conservation Board (now the EUB) rejects Amoco Canada’s application to drill an exploratory well in the Whaleback. The Board’s report concluded that the “Whaleback area represents a truly unique and valuable Alberta ecosystem with extremely high recreational, aesthetic and wildlife values.”
Alberta Energy and Utilities Board (EUB) produces Informational Letter IL 93-9 which lays out the expectations for oil and gas companies working in the Eastern Slopes. Requirements include :
Amoco Canada begins surveys of the Whaleback for an exploratory well.
The historical value of the region is recognized by the establishment of the Bar U National Historic Site to “commemorate the evolution of the Canadian ranching industry and the contribution of the industry to the development of Canada” (Parks Canada 1998).
The 2600-ha Upper Bob Creek Ecological Reserve is designated. The Upper Bob Creek Ecological Reserve is a significant smaller area that is now located within the Bob Creek Wildland Park.
The Livingstone Porcupine Hills Sub-Regional Integrated Resource Plan is approved by the Alberta government. Management objectives include :
Approximately 300 people attend public sessions in Nanton, Claresholm, Crowsnest Pass and Lundbreck to discuss draft plans for Livingstone Porcupine Hills Sub-Regional Integrated Resource Plan.
The revised Eastern Slopes Policy confirms watershed protection as the highest priority. The Policy also stipulates:
Shamrock Drilling Ltd receives permission to drill test well (LSD 16-25-13-2-5).
Joffre Resources test well in Trout Creek Basin is found to be “a very dubious success” (ERCB). AWA requests that well site and access road be reclaimed to contour as soon as possible and that, in the meantime, the access road be gated and closed to motorized recreational use.
AWA continues to oppose the construction of the 500 kV transmission line through the nationally important landscape of the Whaleback. “This area is a highly significant landscape with superb wildlife and vegetation features. As a landscape unit, it has been described as being of national importance.” The visual impact of the 30.5 metre towers would be enormous in this important Montane habitat. AWA suggests a far less environmentally damaging line down the Happy Valley secondary highway to the east. AWA’s calls are ignored and construction goes ahead.
McConnell Exploration Surveys undertake extensive seismic program in the North porcupine Hills. Program uses portable operations to reduce impact.
The ERCB announces route of final 25 km of power line, through Phillipps Pass just north of the Crowsnest Pass.
The ERCB holds a public hearing to reconsider the remaining 25 km of route of power line, though Board makes it clear that they will not discuss the need for the power line, which has already been acknowledged.
The Municipality of Crowsnest Pass pushes for routes with less impacts on the region. “Those (power) towers would be sticking out like sore thumbs,” says John Kupalka, municipality administrator.
AWA argues that, if the transmission line has to be built then it should use the Phillipps Pass route, which is already a transportation corridor, containing transmission lines, pipelines and other man-made features.
The Alberta cabinet approves most of the controversial 500 kV power line though approval is withheld on a short section near the Crowsnest Pass linking it with BC Hydro.
Alberta Energy and Natural Resources Fish and Wildlife Division (F&WD) produces report on the impacts of the proposed 500 kV transmission line. The report notes that wildlife concerns recognized by Calgary Power are:
The F&WD report suggests that Calgary Power addressed only first and last points above, but ignored others. The report notes that “some loss of extremely productive native winter range on the right-of-way may effectively reduce the amount of winter range (i.e. native grass forage) available to big game.
Though the July 1980 ERCB decision had recommended the Central Route, the F&WD report highlights the concerns of the three different proposed routes:
The F&WD report also suggests a number of mitigation measures to reduce impacts.
Despite AWA’s proven interest in the area, and ECA assurances (below), AWA is surprised to discover that a new 10 km long, 50 metre wide access road has been bulldozed along the Skyline crest and down to a new well pad (Blocker #1) in the Trout Creek Basin. Joffre Resources Ltd drill a test well at Section 26, TWP 12, Range 1, W5.
AWA also discovers that the Trout Creek Basin has been scheduled for 50% timber harvest over the next 5 years. This is in contrast to assurances from J.A. Brennan, Assistant Deputy Minister of Alberta Forest Service in 1979 that “by working together we hope to arrive at satisfying solutions to the many issues important to both AWA and AFS.” By the winter of 1981, the new 10 km access road has become a mud-filled quagmire.
A lease hand on Blocker #1, Trout Creek Basin remarks: “I’ve worked at quite a few rigs, and I’m sure I’ve never seen one in such a nice area. It makes it almost a pleasure to work here.” Blocker #1 well turns out to be a ‘dry’ well.
The controversial 500 kV transmission line is approved by the ERCB on July 8, 1980, subject to ministerial approval. The Board decides in favour of the Central Route which, according to Fish and Wildlife, would cross 29.2 km of critical wildlife habitat, including winter elk and mule deer range and two critical waterfowl areas. The decision on which route to adopt was based on:
The Alberta Court of Appeal rules that the ERCB has the authority to decide on the siting of a controversial 500 kV transmission line, from Langdon (east of Calgary) southwest to the BC border. Farmers and landowners along the three possible routes for the 230 kilometre line had argued that the ERCB did not have the constitutional power to decide upon a line which would cross provincial borders and connect to a BC Hydro line (and thence across the US border).
Upper Bob Creek is nominated as an ecological reserve.
Seaton Jordan receive permission (through Joffre Oils Ltd) to drill on a site 200 metres from valley bottom Trout Creek access road.
Despite an ongoing legal challenge, the ERCB holds hearings on the proposed 500 kV transmission line by Calgary Power (later to become Trans Alta Utilities). These hearings, the longest in ERCB history, last 34 days and include 248 interventions, all but five of which oppose construction of the line.
AWA’s submissions states: “In the view of the Alberta Wilderness Association the proposal by Calgary Power to intrude upon Alberta’s “viewscape” with a 500 kV interconnecting power line is currently unwarranted and the arguments for it are unclear and appear to be ill-founded. The environmental effects of the 500 kV power line are not simple, nor are they restricted to the immediate vicinity of the chosen right-of-way.” The transmission line would “significantly diminish the wildland and semi-wildland resources in Alberta’s scenic southern foothills.” The submission questions the assumed need for the transmission line: “The Interconnection proposal was spawned by an unthinking, uncaring, ethic of rampant growth. To allow it to proceed without correcting the gluttony of waste that sired its birth can be considered a criminal act.”
Alberta Environment (AE) rejects Calgary Power’s environmental impact assessment on the 500 kV transmission line. AE’s review notes the failure of Calgary Power to “clearly identify the adverse environmental impacts that cannot be resolved by either modifications in the route or by environmental protection plans.” Also, “despite the provincial significance of the existing wildlife populations and the uniqueness of their habitat, wildlife concerns were not treated adequately.” Calgary Power re-submits its report in August 1979.
At an ERCB hearing for a similar project near Edmonton, Bill Fraser, Vice President of Calgary Power claims, “we’re not here as experts on biology or ecology, but we have the knowledge and experience to construct power lines and protect the land.”
A Policy for Resource Management of the Eastern Slopes states: “The highest priority is placed on watershed management to ensure a reliable supply of clean water for aquatic habitat and downstream users.
“Land use practices are controlled to prevent stream flow from being unduly altered and to maintain the self-perpetuating recreation fishery of the Eastern Slopes. Watershed protection is a major emphasis through the region and this concern cannot be satisfied by establishing a separate zone.”
The ECA’s response to AWA’s submission (1978) on the Trout Creek Basin concludes, “Any timber harvesting in the North Porcupines/Trout Creek area should be conducted to maintain pleasing aesthetic environments.” To achieve this, “In addition to keeping cutblocks small, the harvesting system should be modified from the present two-cut system to a three- or four-cut system. This would help maintain an aesthetically pleasing landscape, with a minimum of observable cutblocks at any one time or place, and would still allow for regeneration of the forest.”
J.A. Brennan, Assistant Deputy Minister of Alberta Forest Service (AFS) writes “Having reviewed it [AWA’s 1978 submission], it is apparent we do indeed have mutual concerns and by working together we hope to arrive at satisfying solutions to the many issues important to both AWA and AFS.”
AWA’s submission to the Environmental Conservation Authority (ECA) Hearing Committee highlights the value of the Trout Creek Basin for informal recreation and for its huge old Douglas fir trees. AWA suggests that if forestry operations could be carried out in a very sensitive manner (no motorized access; single tree cutting in winter; no upgrading of trail; leaving old Douglas firs untouched etc), the “many Albertans would probably be willing to trade the periodic cutting of several hundred thousand board feet for 50 square miles of ‘almost natural’ Wildland Recreation Area.”
AWA repeats its proposal for North Porcupine Hills wildland recreation area to Environment Council of Alberta’s Hearings on the Environmental Effects of Forestry Operations in Alberta.
Calgary Power and British Columbia Hydro (later to become Trans Alta Utilities) file submissions for construction of an inter-provincial 500 kV transmission line, which would allow the two energy corporations to swap energy in periods of high demand. Opponents, including local landowners, AWA and Alberta Fish and Game Association, argue that the stated need for the powerline – to supply peaking power reserve capacity – could be achieved in a considerably less damaging manner, and at lesser cost, by construction of two standby generators. The groups believe that the prospect of future electricity sales to the US are the real driving force behind these proposals. Calgary Power suggests three possible routes for the transmission line (the East, Central and West routes). Each has its own specific impacts.
The Alberta government produces the Eastern Slopes Policy which provides objectives for integrated resource management in the Eastern Slopes. This Policy identifies zoning of the region, including prime protection (zone 1) and Critical wildlife (zone 2). Stated objectives include :
The Eastern Slopes Policy does not provide a category by which an area can be classified as both wildland recreation use and grazing. So much of the area proposed by AWA as a Wildland Recreation Area is zoned as Multiple Use (Zone 5), with a small portion of Critical Wildlife (Zone 2). AWA accepts this reluctantly and begins to work for management and timber harvesting practices which would retain as much of the wildland recreation qualities of the area as possible, with a particular focus on the Trout Creek Basin.
Calgary Power begins preliminary discussions with Alberta government on the proposed $32 million Langdon-Phillipps Pass 500 kilovolt (kV) transmission line.
AWA proposes protection of a 130 km2 area in the North Porcupine Hills in the 1973 Eastern Slopes hearings on Land Use and Resource Development.
Willow Creek Provincial Park is designated (109 ha).
A Dominion of Canada, Department of the Interior brochure descriptive of the five divisions of the Rocky Mountain Forest says: “It has been said that one of the primary aims of all National Forests is the production, in perpetuity, of a supply of timber. In mountainous regions the use of the forest may, by necessity, be subservient to another use-that of watershed protection.
“Bare hills and mountainsides offer no opposition to the rapid run-off or evaporation of rain and snow, and it has been found, in cases where the forests have been removed from the mountainsides, that sudden floods are frequent and that, later, drought invariably follow. With cities dependent on the mountain streams for light and power, with dozens of rural communities dependent on stream flow for irrigation purposes, it is vital that the run-off be controlled. Forests are the greatest factor in much control.”
The area is incorporated into the Forest Reserve. Fire suppression begins.
Cattle ranching begins with passing of Order in Council, permitting leasing of 100,000 acre tracts of land for 21 years at one cent per acre.
Colonel Peter Robertson-Ross (head of the Canadian Militia) climbs to the top of the south end of the Porcupine Hills and writes: “I had, I think, one of the most magnificent views I ever saw in my life. At a distance varying from 15 to 20 miles, in a sort of immense amphitheatre, lay the Rocky Mountains, towering their giant heads many thousands of feet high; on our left the boundless prairie stretching far to the east; in our front to the south at a distance of 50 or 60 miles lay the boundary line, the Chief Mountain and part of the Territory of Montana.”
The area is mapped by Palliser.
Native presence up to 9000 years ago.
January 10, 2011
August 16, 2010
March 1, 2004