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The Primrose-Lakeland region is an approximately 6,000 km2 area that lies east of the town of Lac La Biche.

It is one of the best representative examples of the central mixed wood boreal forest in Alberta.  In addition to its old-growth forests, Lakeland boasts one of the highest concentrations of lakes in the province.  These lakes and their uplands provide critical habitat for numerous species of mammals, birds and amphibians. While the area has seen significant disturbance from settlements and extractive industries, the most extensive undisturbed areas are protected within a small provincial park.

    • Introduction
    • Concerns
    • Features
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    The diverse topography and waterways of Primrose-Lakeland in the boreal central mixedwood region of northeast Alberta provides excellent habitat for many mammals, birds and amphibians. A relatively small area of 147 km2 and 443 km2 is currently designated as a Provincial Park and Recreation Area respectively. However there is no approved management plan to ensure wilderness protection is a priority in these designated areas. Currently, the remaining 5,400 km2 has no level of protection and intensive in situ oil sands and other development pressures are increasing in adjacent areas.

    AWA and its members participated in public consultations for Alberta Parks’ proposal to build fixed roof cabins in Alberta’s only backcountry canoe circuit in Lakeland Provincial Park. In AWA’s view, the cabins would have increase mechanized access pressures and be a step towards urbanizing this relatively non-mechanized area. After sounding the alarm on the proposal and strong pressure from AWA and supporters, Alberta Parks decided against building the cabins in late June 2015.

    AWA strongly encourages the establishment of large wildlife reserves on the Alberta side of the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range compatible with military use, as Saskatchewan has already done. The relatively roadless Range could be an important refuge for species reliant on intact peat wetlands and older forests as Alberta’s southern boreal region faces severe pressures from climate change, industrial exploitation and agricultural conversion..


    • Lakeland Provincial Park (147 km2) was established on January 17, 1992 by Order-in-Council 56/92. Lakeland Provincial Recreation Area (443.3 km2) was established on January 18, 1992 by Order-in-Council 55/92. The two areas combined comprise 590.3 km2, or 0.089 percent of Alberta.
    • Management Plans for the Park and Provincial Recreation Area have yet to be finalized.


    • Restore and maintain a healthy and intact ecosystem in Lakeland that protects watersheds and unfragmented forests, sustains viable wildlife populations, and provides long-term sustainable and diversified economic opportunities for surrounding communities.
    • Finalize an ecologically sensitive Management Plan for the Lakeland Provincial Park and PRA. This Plan should prohibit aircraft from landing on any lakes; limit motorboat use to Touchwood, Pinehurst, and Seibert Lakes; limit ATV use to existing designated trails with the exception of the Mile 10 Staging Area trail. The Mile 10 trail should be designated for non-motorized use.
    • Cancel or purchase existing mineral/oil and gas leases in the Park and PRA.
    • Prohibit logging in the Park and PRA.
    • Extend the boundaries of the Park and PRA north to the Touchwood Lake Road. Consider extending the PRA boundary east to the Sand River.
    • Undertake a systematic ecological study of the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range with a view to establishing one or more protected areas on the Range.
    • Restore native fish stocks in the area’s lakes.

    Lakeland faces numerous threats from intense petroleum development, logging, encroaching settlements, and high-impact recreation such as OHV use. Extensive degradation from extractive industries is currently evident. Parts of the region overlie both natural gas fields and the Cold Lake oil sands deposit. As a result, high densities of well sites are located throughout, while subsurface leases for petroleum and natural gas occupy roughly one-third of the area. Old-growth forests in the region are particularly at risk as Alberta’s Operating Ground Rules target old-growth “decadent” stands. The fish stocks of many of the area’s lakes are depleted from commercial fishing operations, and hunting and trapping activities continue.


    • The rate of loss/environmental change of old-growth forest in Lakeland between 1949/50 and 1995 was greater than that of Amazonia.
    • North of Lakeland is the 58,000 km2 of Crown land allocated to the Alberta Pacific pulp mill for their Forest Management Agreement (FMA).
    • The southern part of the FMA borders both the Provincial Park and the Provincial Recreation Area. As part of its certification through the Forest Stewardship Council of Canada, Al-Pac has formally committed to defer from logging on 5,107 ha north of the Park and PRA boundaries for the next five years.
    • AWA remains concerned about logging in this area because of the self-perpetuating, old-growth mixedwood forest, which provides excellent habitat for neotropical birds, and because of popular hiking trails in this area.

    Oil and Gas

    • Intense oil and gas development continues in the Lakeland region. Existing leases are honoured in the Park and PRA.
    • Officially, no new leases can be granted for surface disturbance within these areas, but the greater Lakeland area has extensive linear disturbance from seismic lines and right-of-ways.
    • Companies operating in the area include Spiral Resources, Canadian Natural Resources, Ranchgate Energy, Candor Investments, Acclaim Energy West, Encana, Petrofund, Landsolutions, Windfall Resources, and Scott Land and Lease.
    • Exploration for oil and gas is of paramount concern to AWA because of damaging practices such as forest clearing for construction of well sites, gas plants, compressor stations, pipelines, and access roads. Such construction can lead to increased sedimentation in watercourses resulting in destruction of fish habitat and contamination of water and soils by oil or gas leaks. Well blowouts and gas flaring pose additional problems for ecosystems, wildlife, and human health in the area.

    Motorized access

    • OHV use is permitted in both the Park and the PRA, as well as in the surrounding area.
    • OHV use is of concern to AWA as it can lead to vegetation damage, soil erosion and compaction, damage to water crossings and streambeds, and noise pollution, which can disrupt sensitive wildlife populations, especially during critical times like breeding and nesting.


    • In the transition between Alberta’s Green and White Zones, marginal forestlands, which are often of great importance for biodiversity, are converted to agricultural cropland. Often this conversion results in deforestation, habitat fragmentation, and the loss of wetlands.


    • Hunting, trapping, recreational and commercial fishing continue within Lakeland. Due to increasing fishing pressure in some of the area’s more accessible lakes, fishery stocks are declining.
    • Boating and supersonic jets flights during sensitive nesting and breeding times for water birds also affect the health of wetland ecosystems.


    • The Primrose-Lakeland area covers approximately 6,000 km2 east of Lac La Biche and overlaps the 1.3 million-acre Cold Lake Air Weapons Range.
    • Portions of the Range that have already been seriously fragmented by oil and gas activity are excluded from the Area of Concern.
    • Within the Primrose-Lakeland area, 5,400 km2 has no legislated protection.

    Township and Range map: JPG | PDF

    Natural Subregions map:  JPG | PDF

    Natural Regions

    • Lakeland lies within the Central Mixedwood Sub-region of the Boreal Forest Region.
    • Lakeland in total represents 0.32% of the total Central Mixedwood Subregion (Al-Pac’s FMA covers approximately one-third of the subregion), which occupies about one-quarter of Alberta.
    • Lakeland is the province’s only significant protected area within this subregion.


    • Varies between 500 and 850 m above sea level.


    • Approximately 82 percent of the Provincial Park and PRA is covered by terrestrial ecosystems; the remaining 18 percent is water.
    • Marked by the retreating glaciers of the Pleistocene Age as well as by recent erosion and deposition, the varied terrain encompasses steep ravines, ridges, open slopes, hummocks, bogs and peatlands, marshland, gently undulating terrain, upland areas, and major river valleys with relatively flat floodplains.
    • The most abundant landform is moraine, made up of material deposited by glaciers.
    • Sand dunes are rare: a small field located between Touchwood and Seibert Lakes is protected from wind erosion by jackpine forests but is extremely vulnerable to disturbance, especially if vegetation cover is removed. The Sand River subglacial channel was initiated by fast-flowing meltwater that cut through glacial ice to the underlying material and into bedrock. Eventually, the valley filled in with approximately 80 meters of sandy material through which the Sand River now flows.


    • Lakeland is located on the height of land between the Athabasca and the Churchill rivers.
    • The area is drained to the east by the Beaver and the Sand rivers, two tributaries that join the Churchill River and eventually drain to the Hudson’s Bay. The Beaver River drainage includes the Sand River sub-basin.
    • The Provincial Park and PRA contain 12 major lakes valued for their commercial, domestic, and recreational fisheries. The area is drained by both the Beaver River and Athabasca River basins, the latter being the second-largest drainage basin in Alberta and containing 5 of the 12 lakes.

    Environmentally Significant Areas

    • Primrose-Lakeland contains several provincially significant areas, comprising 16% of its area, including the Lakeland Diversity Area, Sand River, Wolf Lake and a number of old-growth forest areas.
    • The Lakeland Diversity Area is one of the most diverse upland-lake complexes in the Central Mixedwood Boreal Forest of Alberta.
    • A significant portion of the Lakeland area has been designated Provincially Significant Woodland Caribou Habitat and is part of the Primrose caribou herd’s range.
    • A further 16% of the Primrose-Lakeland area is designated internationally significant, including the Lakeland Provincial Park and Recreation Area, as well as a slice along the Saskatchewan border, stretching between Primrose and Scheltens Lakes.

    Environmentally Significant
    Areas map:  JPG | PDF

    Biodiversity and Ecosystems

    • The varied terrain of the area supports a wide range of flora species, including 18 species of orchids; aspen, spruce, pine, balsam poplar, paper birch, black spruce, and tamarack; old-growth forests; and willow and sedge communities.
    • Terrestrial ecosystems cover approximately 30 percent of the land area of the Provincial Park and Provincial Recreation Area. The ten terrestrial ecosystems found in the Lakeland area are Jack pine forest; complex of Jack pine and black spruce or aspen forest; aspen forest; mixed white spruce-aspen forest; white spruce-fir forest; black spruce forest; bog-fen complex; fen; willow wetland complex; and stream channel.
    • Lakeland supports hundreds of vascular plants, thousands of non-vascular species (lichens, mosses, fungi), thousands of insect species, almost 200 bird species, 41 different mammal species, one reptile species, and four amphibian species.
    • Wildlife includes a variety of ungulates, including the provincially endangered woodland caribou; a number of carnivores, including wolf, lynx, and weasel; at least 15 species of furbearers; both cold-water and warm-water fish species, as well as a number of rare aquatic species; and tiger salamanders, Dakota toads, and chorus frogs.
    • Wetlands in the area consist primarily of black spruce bogs with communities of willow and sedges.
    • For more information, see An Ecological Study of the Potential for Biodiversity Conservation in and near the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range, Alberta (pdf 7300KB).

    Environmentally Sensitive Areas

    • The Jack pine/bearberry/lichen ecosystem on sandy dunes is highly sensitive to trail development. The lichen cover is easily disturbed and crushed by trampling. This ecosystem covers only 336 ha in the Park and PRA, but offers potential habitat for woodland caribou.
    • Old-growth forest is one of the unique features in Lakeland and requires a high level of protection, especially with respect to logging. Some plants and animals are restricted to or highly dependent on these forests.
    • Bogs and fens are highly susceptible to OHV traffic and to construction, both of which result in surface disturbance and an altered hydrologic regime. The rare pitcher plant occurs in this habitat.
    • Mature stands of white spruce/balsam fir and Jack pine forest are important habitats for most species recorded in the area. These habitats are also among the most attractive from a commercial forestry and recreational standpoint. Jack pine forest on very dry sites is characterized by a well-developed cover of ground and epiphytic lichens and may therefore provide important habitat for woodland caribou.
    • Aspen forest provides important ungulate habitat and is the most likely ecosystem to be affected by cattle-grazing leases.
    • Lakes in the area provide breeding and nesting habitat for birds such as great blue herons, loons, and common terns. Water-based human activities could lead to decreased reproductive success or colony abandonment.

    Beaches and Lakes

    • More than 200 lakes in the region offer opportunities for recreation and education.
    • Most of the province’s quality beaches are found in the Lakeland area, with long sandy beaches lining portions of the many lakes – the best beaches are at Touchwood and Pinehurst Lakes.
    • The western portion of Lakeland contains a complex of lakes created by melting glacial ice mixed with till, gravel, and other glacial debris. These “ablation till lakes” are characterized by irregular shorelines and lake bottom contours with till shores, few beaches, and shallow to steep treed shorelines. They are relatively undisturbed and have no recreational facilities.


    • While aspen and spruce dominate many stands, pine, balsam poplar and paper birch are mixed throughout. On wetter, poorly drained sites, black spruce and tamarack are common.
    • Of key interest are the old-growth spruce-fir forests. Sixty-five percent of all Lakeland’s old-growth forest is within the Provincial Recreation Area; in the PRA, almost half of all the white spruce old-growth has been logged.
    • Shrubs and understory include red osier dogwood, bearberry, blueberry, bog cranberry, wintergreen, strawberry, fireweed, feather moss, prickly rose, dewberry, alder, roses, Saskatoon and several willow species. Willow communities are found along intermittent and continuous flowing stream channels and marshy lakeshores.
    • Pitcher plant, uncommon in Alberta, was found during a 1991 field study. Other rare species, if they exist in the area, are most likely to occur in wetter areas such as fens or bogs. More recently, botanists have observed elephant head, touch-me-not, and striped coralroot, all uncommon plants, as well as the rare meadow bitter cress. Lakeland also contains several spectacular fern communities.
    • Eighteen species of orchids can be found in Lakeland, including two rare species, white adder’s-mouth (Malaxis monophyllos) and bog adder’s-mouth (Malaxis paludosa).


    • Ungulates: Moose, white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, and woodland caribou occur in the area. Of these, white-tailed deer and moose are the most abundant and widespread.
    • Caribou: The provincially endangered woodland caribou that occur in the Lakeland area likely constitute part of a herd centered in the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range and the extensive peatland complex southwest of Winefred Lake.
    • Furbearers: At least 15 species of furbearers have been recorded in the area, including red fox, snowshoe hare, red and flying squirrel, beaver, muskrat, and river otter.
    • Carnivores: Wolf, coyote, red fox, lynx, fisher, marten, otter, mink, and weasel occur within the region.
    • Other mammals include the black bear, Arctic shrew, silver-haired bat, and porcupine.
    • Birds: Over 200 bird species live within the Lakeland area, including many important neotropical migrant birds such as the rare and declining Connecticut warbler and the old-growth-dependent Blackburnian warbler.
      • Twenty warbler species have been identified in Lakeland, 19 of which breed in the area.
      • Cormorants, red-necked and western grebes, pelicans, pileated woodpeckers, northern pygmy owls and great grey owls, and turkey vultures can also be seen in the area.
      • The wetlands of the region provide stable breeding habitats for a number of colonial nesting and sensitive bird species such as the great blue heron, common tern, common loon, osprey, and bald eagle. These wetlands are also significant for moulting and spring and fall staging.
      • An active great blue heron colony on Pinehurst Lake and a large colony of common terns on Ironwood Lake were observed in 1991.
    • Fish – Touchwood and Pinehurst Lakes provide the large, deep, and well-oxygenated waters for cold-water fish species such as lake whitefish, cisco, and lake trout. Seibert, Jackson, Kinnaird, Ironwood, Blackett, and McGuffin Lakes support warm-water species such as walleye, northern pike, yellow perch, and burbot. The area also supports a number of rare aquatic species: logperch may inhabit some of the lakes; freshwater crayfish in Alberta are restricted almost entirely to the Sand and Beaver River drainages; and a large and unusual species of Unionid clam inhabits the Sand River.
    • Amphibians include tiger salamanders, Dakota toads, and chorus frogs.


    • The present-day Papaschase Cree Band seeks the traditional land around Elinor Lake (still Crown land) to perpetually preserve their sacred land: they have an active interest in claiming this land as per their abrogated rights under Treaty 6. To fully explore the human cultural aspect of the Lakeland region is to deal directly with the Papaschase Band and all of its historical and unresolved issues.
    • Sacred First Nations sites at the east end of Beaver Lake need protection. The Lakeland region has more than 50 prehistoric sites related to early activities of humans in the area since the last ice age. The shores of Lac La Biche and the Caslan-Hylo sandhills are particularly important archaeologically.
    • “Potential exists in the Lakeland area for uncovering archaeological findings of provincial, if not national, significance. Artifacts have been found at one site in the Touchwood Lake area. Further study is required which may shed light on movements of early hunters and gatherers in the region” (Lakeland Foundation Document, Alberta Recreation and Parks, June 1991).
    • The Lac La Biche Mission represents the early settlement and religious development of northern Alberta and has been designated as both a Provincial and National Historic Site.
    • There is local interest in developing and interpreting the Portage La Biche fur trade route, which was used by such famous persons as David Thompson and Peter Fidler during the late eighteenth century. There are also several fur trade post sites on the shores of Lac La Biche.
    • The region contains a rich cultural mosaic: First Nations, Lebanese, French Canadian, Ukrainian, and European cultures are part of the local social and economic community.

    (Abbreviations: CLAWR – Cold Lake Air Weapons Range)


    In May, as part of the Cold Lake caribou sub-regional Task Force, AWA provides comments to Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) on the draft Cold Lake subregional landuse plan and the associated Caribou Habitat Recovery Analysis. AWA believes that, while the plan has potential restore and consolidate industrial infrastructure, there are still key gaps that must be closed to meet Alberta’s commitment and legal obligation to achieve habitat requirements for naturally self-sustaining caribou.


    In December, the federal government and Cold Lake First Nations finalize a caribou conservation agreement. The agreement’s “Shared Recovery Objective” is to “set out and confirm the actions that the Parties have agreed to take in order to support the achievement of a self-sustaining population in the Cold Lake Boreal Caribou Range, consistent with the population and distribution objectives in the [federal boreal woodland caribou] Recovery Strategy, that will support traditional Indigenous harvesting activities, consistent with existing Indigenous Rights”. This agreement is a positive step to enhance Cold Lake First Nations’ capacity and leadership to recover woodland caribou within its traditional territory in northeast Alberta and northwest Saskatchewan.

    In November, the Government of Alberta launches the Cold Lake Caribou Sub-regional Task Force, a planning committee tasked with considering regional economic, access, and habitat scenarios to advise government on land-use planning at a local scale, including caribou recovery actions. The Task Force recommendations are intended to feed into a Cold Lake sub-regional land use plan for caribou recovery expected to be released by the end of 2019. AWA is an active participant in this Task Force, advocating for a Cold Lake caribou range plan that protects significant areas of the Air Weapons Range, manages other zones within disturbance limits compatible with caribou survival and recovery, and includes significant indigenous leadership and participation.


    In December, the provincial government adopts a ‘catch and release’ regime for northern pike in Lakeland Provincial Park lakes, to recover populations that are not currently meeting sustainable harvest fishery objectives.


    In March, the Alberta Energy Regulator released a Root Cause and Regulatory Response Report regarding the Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. Primrose Bitumen Emulsion Releases in 2013. AER’s investigation concluded the incident was caused by excessive steaming and have implemented steam volume limits to reduce the likelihood of a similar event occurring.

    CNRL Primrose incident caused by excessive steaming; AER releases final investigation report
    For immediate release.
    Calgary, Alberta (March 21, 2016)…


    In August, Lac La Biche County Council members decide to establish a Natural Open Space district along the eastern edge of the Garner Orchid Fen Natural Area west of Lac La Biche to help buffer effects from a recently approved nearby rural residential development

    On July 2, Alberta Parks informs AWA that they were not going to move forward with the proposal to build back country cabins on the canoe circuit in Lakeland Provincial Park based on public input results.


    On June 28, AWA submits comments on Proposed Camping Cabins in Lakeland Provincial Park. In AWA’s view, the proposed camping cabins will harm the backcountry wilderness character of Lakeland Provincial Park. In addition, they are completely unnecessary from an access viewpoint given the numerous nearby opportunities to enjoy fixed roof camping in RVs and rental cabins in rustic lakeside settings. AWA also sends out an action alert to members to further support the opposition of the proposal.

    On May 2, AWA writes a letter to Lac La Biche County Council members and sends out an action alert regarding the ecologically significant groundwater-fed wetlands of the Garner Orchid Fen Natural Area under threat by a proposed nearby residential development. AWA urges the council members to plan residential developments farther away from these sensitive wetlands and enhance its protection from future harmful impacts as the area’s population grows.


    On October 9, AWA writes a letter to Environment Canada requesting information to better understand the impacts of the bitumen releases at the CNRL Primrose operations:
    1. The species of birds and number of each species that have died as a result of the CNRL Primrose releases referenced above;
    2. The species of amphibians and number of each species that have died as a result of the CNRL Primrose releases referenced above;
    3. The species of mammals and number of each species that have died as a result of the CNRL Primrose releases referenced above; and
    4. Confirmation that the released bitumen has not entered any fish-bearing watercourses.

    On September 24, Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (AESRD) issued an Environmental Protection Order No. EPO-2013-33/NR (EPO) to CNRL in regards to a bitumen release in a water body at the CNRL Primrose Operations.

    The EPO requires that CNRL produce a number of monitoring reports with respect to the planned dewatering of the water body, including:
    • a Water Body Monitoring Report to be produced by October 7, 2013 and by the first Monday of every month thereafter (EPO, s. 10);
    • a Summary Report on Fish and Fish Habitat to be produced by October 30, 2013 (EPO, s. 27);
    • a Summary Report on Wetlands to be produced by October 30, 2013 (EPO, s. 31);
    • a Draft Summary Report on Water Body Restoration to be provided to stakeholders at least 60 days prior to CNRL requesting closure of the EPO (EPO, s. 35(a));
    • a Final Summary Report on Water Body Restoration to be submitted to the Director one month prior to CNRL requesting closure of the EPO (EPO, s. 36).

    Further, the EPO provides that CNRL is required to:
    • communicate on at least a monthly basis to stakeholders and First Nations on the status of the site (EPO, s. 40(c));
    • provide the Summary Report on Fish and Fish Habitat to stakeholders and First Nations (EPO, s. 40(e)); and
    • provide the Summary Report on Wetland Impacts to stakeholders and First Nations (EPO, s. 40(f)).

    On August 19, Alberta Energy Regulator declined to initiate such an inquiry but committed to enhanced transparency with respect to energy incidents in the province

    On August 13, AWA joined 22 other organizations in requesting that the Alberta Energy Regulator initiate an inquiry into the safety of oil sands CSS and SAGD in-situ operations.

    On August 8, AWA participates in a media tour of CNRL’s Primrose Project generating eyewitness accounts of spill impacts and concerns in subsequent Wild Lands Advocate articles and follow up communication with federal and provincial authorities on wildlife and water impacts.

    On July 30, AWA released an action alert to raise awareness about the fixed roof cabin proposal in Lakeland Provincial Park and encourage AWA members to write Alberta Parks in opposition.

    On July 3, AWA writes a letter opposing the urbanization of wilderness areas and the installation of fixed roof structures in remote areas such as the Lakeland backcountry canoe circuit.  Concerns were raised about environmental degradation, increased access for motorized vehicles, and lack of any public consultation or discussion about this plan.

    In June, reminiscent of unilateral actions taken in 2007 in High Island, Alberta Parks arranges for helicopters to drop materials to build permanent cabins on Jackson and Kinnaird Lakes in Lakeland Provincial Park, without any public consultation.


    In August, The Lower Athabasca regional plan is approved by Cabinet order, without any addition to Lakeland’s protected areas. The ‘Lakeland Country’ concept is adopted as a Tourism-led initiative to “offer a full range of recreation and tourism settings and activities with a particular focus on the water-based features that are unique in Alberta, and the rich cultural and heritage resources”. A biodiversity management framework for public lands is promised by the end of 2013 to set targets for selected vegetation, aquatic and wildlife indicators. Land disturbance standards such as limits are triggers are also promised by the end of 2013.


    In August, The Alberta government’s draft Lower Athabasca regional plan is released. It greatly reduces proposed new conservation areas in the southern part of the region, including dropping reference to expanding Lakeland’s protected area borders.


    In August, the Lower Athabasca Regional Advisory Council’s advice to the Alberta government for the Lower Athabasca regional plan is published. It recommends extending the boundaries of Lakeland Provincial Park and PRA north of Touchwood Road and south-east to the Sand River valley. The Council consists of members drawn from oilsands and forestry companies, First Nations and Metis communities, NGOs and municipal governments. AWA supports these extensions in the subsequent public consultations.

    On April 19, Sir Winston Churchill Provincial Park is expanded to encompass the other islands in the east basin of Lac La Biche.

    On March 2-3, AWA presents ongoing research on the significant risks to groundwater from in situ (drilled) bitumen development in the region to First Nations and other community members in Lac La Biche and Cold Lake. AWA also works with other ENGOs in opposing Forest Stewardship Council re-certification for forests leased to Alberta Pacific Forest Industries Inc. (Al-Pac), due to little progress on caribou habitat protection and protected area opportunities generally in the region.


    On July 22, Minister Ady responds to AWA’s request for including islands within Lac La Biche into Sir Winston Churchill Provincial Park saying that strong local support is important for potential expansion of parks and the request will be considered carefully. When support form additional local stakeholders and residents is received, the minister will proceed to have a proposal prepared for general public consultation.

    In July, AWA warns that a technique being used in the Alberta oil sands, Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD), could be endangering Canada’s largest aquifer (Edmonton Journal, July 27, 2008). Numerous oil sands deposits scheduled for extraction sit below this aquifer, which could potentially be contaminated if SAGD, which uses steam to liquefy bitumen so that it can be transported, causes a blowout. AWA and the Métis Nation in northeastern Alberta are urging tighter regulation and more vigilant monitoring of SAGD operations near aquifers.

    On June 18, AWA sends a letter to the Government of Alberta expressing support for the proposal to include several of the islands within Lac La Biche into Sir Winston Churchill Provincial Park. In a reply letter from Tourism, Parks, and Recreation Minister Cindy Ady, the government recognizes that “the support of the Alberta Wilderness Association is an indicator that wilderness advocates in Alberta see merit in protecting all of the terrestrial habitat found within Lac La Biche.”

    On May 21, more than a year after the installation of the High Island observation and communication towers, the meeting initiated by AWA finally takes place. Participants include representatives from AWA; the Ministry of Tourism, Parks, and Recreation; Lac La Biche Birding Society; Beaver Lake Cree Nation; CPAWS; and Lac La Biche County, as well as long-time Lac La Biche-based environmentalist Tom Maccagno, who first raised the alarm about the two towers.

    In a refreshing and welcome admission, co-chair Dave Nielsen, Acting Assistant Deputy Minister for Parks, begins the meeting by stating that a mistake was made in not consulting the public about the installation proposal. The meeting results in the decision to complete a broader consultation and remove the tower if public opinion dictates that that is the best course of action.


    On July 24, With the aim of protecting bitumen for future generation, the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board (EUB) has issued Decision 2007-056, “which concludes that continued or future gas production from the Cold Lake Oil Sands Area Clearwater Formation presents an unacceptable risk to nearby bitumen resources.” In a news release, the EUB states that they will order that “122 intervals in 121 gas wells must be shut-in or not allowed to produce.”

    On July 19, the Edmonton Sun reports that Alberta Tourism, Parks, Recreation and Culture Minister Hector Goudreau has been given a directive by Premier Ed Stelmach ordering him to develop a plan for parks and recreation in booming northern Alberta. This has revived an old idea for a Kananaskis-like park, complete with championship golf course and resort hotels, initiated by Premier Don Getty.

    In May, Osum Corporation, a Calgary-based firm that owns the mineral rights below Marie Lake, announces plans to conduct a seismic survey of the area. Local residents and stakeholders are shocked at the announcement. AWA has requested a moratorium on such activities and believes that residents and stakeholders should have been informed of such plans at a much earlier stage.

    In March, without any public consultation whatsoever, Parks and Protected Areas installs two communications towers in High Island Natural Area, an ecologically sensitive island in Lac La Biche. Local conservationists are extremely concerned, noting that this operation resulted in surface disturbance and shorebird habitat damage, and is in contravention of the Wilderness Areas, Ecological Reserves, Natural Areas and Heritage Rangelands Act. With the hope that this unfortunate event will trigger the establishment of an effective public consultation process, AWA initiates plans for a meeting between the Parks division and concerned Albertans.

    On February 27, in a letter to the editor of the St. Paul Journal, AWA expresses frustration over comments made by Premier Stelmach in regards to the proposed extension of Hwy 881. In a meeting in St. Paul, Premier Stelmach was asked about the proposal to extend Hwy 881 through Lakeland Provincial Recreation Area. “It’s an issue among the municipalities,” he replied. “The municipalities will work it out.” AWA takes the stance that provincial protected areas are not the responsibility of municipalities but of the Government of Alberta. By handing it over to local town councils, the Premier is abdicating his responsibility, showing a flagrant disregard for Albertans’ concern about endangered wilderness and refusing to acknowledge the long-term economic benefits of protected areas.

    On February 14, Premier Stelmach replies to AWA’s letter of December 22, 2006 opposing the proposal to extend Hwy 881 through Lakeland Provincial Recreation Area. The Premier notes only that he has forwarded the letter on to Luke Ouellette, Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation.

    In January, to meet its FSC-certification requirements, the forestry company Al-Pac must set aside a certain percentage of its Forest Management Agreement area for protection. Al-Pac will be working toward extending the boundaries of both Lakeland Provincial Park and Provincial Recreation Area. AWA initiated discussions on this project with Al-Pac in 2006, and Al-Pac is now expressing a desire to move forward in collaboration with AWA.


    On December 22, in a letter to Premier Ed Stelmach, AWA expresses opposition to the extension of Highway 881 through Lakeland Provincial Recreation Area to Fort McMurray. AWA fears that the “cumulative effects of oil sands, conventional oil and gas, and forestry, all of which have increased access to high-impact recreation, have already robbed many future generations of the solace, beauty, recreational opportunities, and ecological services of the boreal.” In his reply, dated February 14, 2007, Premier Stelmach notes only that he has forwarded the letter on to Luke Ouellette, Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation.

    On December 12, in his response to a letter from AWA (Nov. 15), Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation Ty Lund states that his ministry “has no intention of pursuing a Highway 881 connection/extension.”

    On December 8, St. Paul Mayor John Trefanenko tells AWA that the Town Council has had several meetings about the proposal to extend Highway 881, which the Town of St. Paul is initiating, and that they are hoping to meet with the Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation after the Cabinet shuffle later this week.

    On November 1, AWA makes a presentation to the Lakeland Industry and Community Association (LICA) in Bonnyville, asking them to oppose the proposed extension of Highway 881 through the Provincial Recreation Area. In a subsequent letter (Dec. 12), LICA informs AWA that they will not “provide stewardship” on this issue “at this time.”

    Although the government announced in September 1996 that it was “entering the final phase of public consultation before the Management Plan is implemented,” 10 years later, and 14 years after the Park/PRA’s official designation, we are still waiting for a plan to be finalized. Ironically, this delay may enhance the prospects of maintaining the ecological integrity of Lakeland, since attitudes have changed dramatically in the last decade, with ecological integrity and sustainable development being taken much more seriously.

    On August 24, representatives of AWA and Lakeland Industry and Community Association (LICA) meet to determine the extent to which the objectives of the two organizations overlap.

    On November 16, in a news release, the Alberta government announces that it plans to invest an additional $34 million in municipal resource roads and another $116 million for provincial highways that support the resource industry.

    On December 8, despite being a so-called protected area, Lakeland faces a resuscitated proposal for a new highway through the Provincial Recreation Area (PRA). Several northeastern communities, led by the Town of St. Paul, are supporting a proposal for the extension of Hwy 881 through the east side of the PRA, providing a more direct route from the St. Paul-Cold Lake area to Fort McMurray. Lakeland County opposes the proposal.

    On August 23, an AWA representative meets with Ray Danyluk, MLA to express some of AWA’s concerns about the Lakeland area. In a follow-up letter dated September 14, 2006, AWA expresses opposition to changing the name of “Lakeland” to “Ralph Klein Provincial Park” in light of Premier Klein’s poor record in regards to environmental protection.

    In March, in a news release, AWA announces that Alberta has an excellent opportunity to protect several significant unfragmented wild forests in northeastern Alberta, including those in the Primrose-Lakeland area, through both the judicious swapping of land that is already compromised by various industrial uses and a commitment to legislated protection for the intact forests gained through this process.

    “If land swaps in the Primrose-Lakeland region will further the Canadian Boreal Initiative’s goal of conserving at least 50 percent of Canada’s boreal forest in a network of large interconnected protected areas, then we should explore this option,” says Ian Urquhart, the University of Alberta political scientist who is leading AWA’s work in the Primrose-Lakeland area.


    On September 20, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) of Canada certifies 5.5 million ha of Alberta-Pacific’s FMA.

    • Twenty-three conditions and 12 observations are attached to this certificate. National Boreal Standard (NBS) criteria appear to be considerably more demanding than the current provincial government’s requirements. NBS requires certified companies to set aside and protect representative samples of the ecosystems found across the landscape in which they operate. Al-Pac has formally committed to defer from logging on 5,107 ha between Touchwood Lake and the Park and PRA boundaries for the next five years. However, under the specific conditions in Al-Pac’s FSC certification, Al-Pac simply commits to trying to establish protected areas.
    • FSC will perform annual scheduled audits as well as random audits in order to evaluate Al-Pac’s success in satisfying the set conditions.
    • Al-Pac’s ability to hold on to this “green” certificate demands that Al-Pac fulfills the certificate’s conditions and complies with FSC principles and the NBS criteria. These conditions are outlined in Al-Pac’s Certification Assessment report (pdf 177KB). • Nearly 300,000 ha of the lands found in the Al-Pac FMA are removed from the certified landscape. No discussion is offered, however, of how the FSC policy on excision and its 5 percent limit were applied to this certification decision.
    • Certification Condition 6.4(b) stipulates: “By the end of Year 1 of certification, Al-Pac shall document progress in terms of permanent protection of ecological benchmark areas within the Al-Pac FMA area. Al-Pac shall have worked with the provincial government, First Nations, the forest and energy industries and ENGO’s to achieve the protection of the Gypsy-Gordon, Athabasca Rapids and Lakeland deferral areas.” AWA is disappointed that this condition demands no more than that Al-Pac “document progress” and work towards establishing legislative protection in Lakeland.
    • Observation 6.4 states: “Al-Pac should consider encouraging the government to complete the Lakeland Provincial Park Management Plan, and supporting an assessment of the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range.” Again, AWA is disappointed with the timid language used here by the FSC.

    In August, in a news release, AWA urges the provincial government to discuss with the federal Department of National Defence the potential contribution the 1.3 million-acre Cold Lake Air Weapons Range could make to national boreal forest conservation efforts.

    AWA’s Ian Urquhart writes to Smartwood’s Director and Chief of Forestry concerning the Draft Report on Al-Pac’s FSC certification application. Urquhart reiterates AWA’s earlier position that the National Boreal Standard must demand stronger actions from Al-Pac in respect to promoting protection in lands adjacent to its FMA (such as Lakeland Provincial Park/Recreation Area and the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range). Specifically, as a condition of certification, “Al-Pac should encourage the provincial government to complete the Lakeland Provincial Park Management Plan to satisfy the IUCN’s Category II protected area criteria and support an assessment of the protected areas/ecological benchmarks potential of the forest contained in the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range.” AWA also argues that the certification decision must include an explanation of how the FSC policy on excising areas from the scope of a certification was applied in respect to Al-Pac’s FMA.

    AWA’s Ian Urquhart writes to Minister of Community Development Gary Mar requesting that his department endorse the need to conduct an extensive scientific study of the CLAWR’s biodiversity potential. Urquhart notes that Minister of National Defence Bill Graham has expressed his conditional commitment to this course of action and that in the past Saskatchewan negotiated with the Canadian military and established three protected areas comprising nearly 171,000 ha on its portion of the Range. Urquhart also repeats AWA’s request for the long-awaited release of the Lakeland Management Plan and for a description of the public participation mechanisms that will be established to examine the Plan.

    Minister of Community Development Gary Mar writes AWA to say he is pleased to learn of the conditional commitment from the Department of National Defence to work with the provincial government to establish a protected area on the Air Weapons Range and that his department “would be pleased to participate in discussions regarding protection of forests within the base.”

    In July, in a letter to AWA, Community Development Minister Gary Mar states: “My department is reviewing the Lakeland Provincial Park and Provincial Recreation Area draft management plan and I anticipate its release to the public in the near future.”

    In June, Minister of National Defence Bill Graham responds to AWA’s request (of March 3) for Canada to consider the ecological value of establishing protected areas on the Alberta portion of the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range. He points out that since the land is leased from the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, and the provinces retain natural resources rights, the Department of National Defence cannot created protected areas like that on CFB Suffield. However, while his department has concerns about possible limitations on military exercises, “DND will be pleased to participate in discussions with the Province of Alberta to establish any type of environmentally protected area.”

    In April, AWA’s Ian Urquhart points out that many rural Albertans feel that they bear the costs of environmental stewardship disproportionately to urban dwellers. “I would suggest … that if we want to build local support in communities such as Lac La Biche for our conservation objectives, we must find ways of marrying conservation to economic growth and diversification in rural Alberta. The potential of eco- or nature-related tourism ventures in the Lakeland area should figure prominently in this approach.… The recognition by the provincial government that tourism, particularly nature-related tourism, has an important role to play in the economic revitalization of rural Alberta fits well with what I hope will become a successful strategy in our Primrose-Lakeland campaign” (Wild Lands Advocate).

    AWA meets with local conservation organizations in both Lac La Biche and Cold Lake.

    AWA produces a brochure, “Primrose-Lakeland: Alberta’s Forgotten Boreal,” and distributes it to AWA members in northern Alberta and to households throughout the Lac La Biche-Cold Lake area.

    AWA participates in the Forest Stewardship Council audit of forest management practices on the Al-Pac FMA. This audit is required as part of Al-Pac’s application to have the so-called green labeling appear on its forest products.

    AWA urges the provincial government to finalize an ecologically sensitive Management Plan for Lakeland Provincial Park and PRA, and to participate in a systematic ecological study of the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range.


    In December, a poll about Lakeland’s future conducted by the University of Alberta at the request of AWA, two-thirds of those surveyed agreed (42% of them strongly) that wilderness protection in Lakeland should take precedence over logging and petroleum. Only 7 percent disagreed with this position.

    AWA’s Ian Urquhart writes to the team assembled to conduct an assessment of Al-Pac’s forestry management practices with respect to Al-Pac’s application for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) “green” certification. Following are the main points:

    • AWA does not support a certification of Al-Pac’s total FMA due to the extensive fragmentation of the FMA by petroleum operations and other forestry operations (so-called uncontrolled factors). This aligns with the FSC criteria that “the area affected by the uncontrolled factors is a very limited proportion of the Forest Management Unit.” If uncontrolled factors are affecting more than 5 percent of the landscape, then even a partial certification of Al-Pac would violate FSC policy.
    • If Al-Pac receives a partial certification, a condition should be that the company work with AWA to obtain legislated protection for the Touchwood Lake deferral.
    • The Annual Allowable Cut (and cutting activities) in Al-Pac’s FMU L1 must be reduced considerably to conserve the old-growth forests in that area.
    • Al-Pac should be required to work with AWA to secure a Lakeland Management Plan that will satisfy the IUCN’s Category II protected area criteria and to measure the conservation potential of the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range.

    AWA’s Ian Urquhart notes that a recent mapping of the locations of active petroleum, natural gas, and oil sands leases on the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range show that “some townships … appear to be characterized by more wells than forest. One oil sands company, for example, has erected 796 wells on 54 sections of land” (Wild Lands Advocate).

    In November, AWA participates in the site visits of the Al-Pac FMA conducted by Smartwood, an independent forestry certifier that is accredited by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

    In October, Kevin Timoney of Treeline Ecological Research completes a preliminary study commissioned by AWA: An Ecological Study of the Potential for Biodiversity Conservation in and near the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range, Alberta. The study describes the state of the ecosystem, identifies conflicts and threats to conservation, and predicts the future of the area based on current trends. The conclusion is that the CLAWR “is indeed biologically diverse, relatively unfragmented, and worthy of protection.” The report also underlines the need to gather better information about the flora and fauna found on the CLAWR, since the area has generally been excluded from previous scientific studies and likely contains many significant species about which little or nothing is known. Some additional conclusions are as follows:

    • It is almost certain that many rare, at risk, or sensitive species and ecosystems occur within the CLAWR.
    • Much of CLAWR is under strong development pressure due to abundant reserves of oil sands. The overwhelming source of landscape disturbance within the CLAWR proper is due to the petroleum industry.
    • The peatlands and mineral wetlands in the CLAWR occupy a large portion of the landscape, are little documented, and are at risk due to the activities of the petroleum industry.
    • Within the CLAWR, the data available indicate that forests older than 100 years occupy 11.6 percent of the area. There may be extensive old-growth in the widespread wooded fens and bog-fens, but age data are lacking.
    • No recent cutblocks are evident within the CLAWR, but logging is evident near the boundary and is intense in some areas.
    • Expansion of agriculture and settlement continues at the southern fringe of the CLAWR.
    • One of the current strengths of the region is its connectivity, which improves from west to east.
    • To the south of the CLAWR, the Elizabeth and Fishing Lake Metis settlements appear to be the least disturbed areas in the region and may hold high conservation value. Common goals may be found through discussion with the local Metis Associations.

    In August, AWA’s Ian Urquhart points out that although Al-Pac agreed to defer from logging in the Touchwood Lake area, the deferral was only for a year. AWA continues to press for a longer-term commitment and specifies that any longer-term commitment to a moratorium must involve other quota holders in the area, such as Vanderwell Construction (Wild Lands Advocate).

    In June, Al-Pac, as part of its effort to satisfy the protected areas expectations of its FSC certification application, proposes to defer from logging in those areas of its FMA south and east of Touchwood Lake road (5,107 ha). A permanent deferral of logging here, as a first step towards formal legislated protection, would partially meet AWA’s goals in the Touchwood Lake area.

    In May, the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NTREE) Boreal Forest Program holds a stakeholder workshop in Fort McMurray as part of a case study of the Al-Pac FMA. The study “will identify fiscal and regulatory barriers to conservation and policy options for conserving natural capital, while recognizing the importance of resource development and other economic and social values for land use in this area.”

    AWA writes to Al-Pac and urges the company to defer from logging in several cutblocks north of the Touchwood Lake road. AWA argues that deferrals in these areas are well-supported by the High Conservation Value Forests analysis conducted for Al-Pac/WWF Canada and by the commitments expected by signatories to the Boreal Forest Conservation Framework (Al-Pac is a signatory).

    In April, Al-Pac suggests it would be interested in evaluating the potential contribution a protected area on the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range could make as a “representative ecological benchmark” in Al-Pac’s forest management approach.

    The Population Research Laboratory at the University of Alberta releases the results of its Alberta Survey, an annual survey of public opinion in Alberta. The seven questions AWA added to the survey include several pertaining to Lakeland. Albertans’ responses to these questions indicate their strong support for promoting a protected areas agenda in Lakeland. For details on the survey see the relevant links in AWA’s Lakeland Archive.

    Al-Pac’s 2004 Draft Forest Management Plan notes the following:

    • Alberta’s oil and gas industry is impacting almost as much forested land each year as is harvested through all forestry operations.
    • Approximately 70,000 km of seismic lines touch virtually all of Al-Pac’s FMA and 143,500 ha of the FMA have been recently disturbed by oil and gas activity.


    In December, the Canadian Boreal Initiative announces the Boreal Forest Conservation Framework (BFCF), which proposes the establishment of a network of large interconnected protected areas covering about half of Canada’s boreal region and the use of cutting-edge sustainable development practices in remaining areas. Signing onto the Framework are conservation organizations, First Nations, and oil and timber companies, including Al-Pac. Concessions from Al-Pac in Lakeland will help demonstrate that the company’s commitment to the BFCF is more than symbolic.

    In October, AWA conservation biologist Laurie Wein makes the following points about Primrose-Lakeland (Wild Lands Advocate):

    • Al-Pac was going to begin harvest operations this year between the north boundary of the Provincial Park and the Touchwood Lake road. AWA and partner ENGOs succeeded in negotiating a harvest deferral for the area but remain concerned about any logging here because of the presence of self-perpetuating, old-growth mixedwood forest – excellent habitat for neotropical migrants.
    • Intense oil and gas development continues in the Primrose-Lakeland area.
    • The lack of data on boreal ecosystems means that we still have only a rudimentary understanding of biological ecosystems within the boreal forest zone. Precautionary measures, therefore, should be adopted. AWA feels strongly that for protection of the old-growth and High Conservation Value Forests, the precautionary principle must be used.

    The final draft of the AWA “Strategic Plan for Primrose-Lakeland” is prepared. The goals are to identify and protect the remaining High Conservation Value Forests in the area; to promote the restoration of ecological integrity; to consult with local communities; to inform management plans for the area; and to promote alternative, economically diversified and ecologically sustainable models of development for local communities.

    The plan will be implemented in three stages:

    • Phase 1: Produce a series of regional maps with the following eight map layers: general area of concern, ESAs, natural regions, road density, FMAs, forest cover (historical vs. present), well site density, and areas for restoration.
    • Phase 2: Consult with the public to engage stakeholders using focus groups with directed questions as well as ongoing meetings with stakeholders.
    • Phase 3: Uses a multi-stakeholder process to develop a Memorandum of Understanding about conservation values, management, and protection of the Primrose-Lakeland area.

    In August, a “Protected Areas Design in Northern Alberta” meeting is held with the following participants: CPAWS, WWF, BEACON Team, AWA, FAN, and Al-Pac. The discussion focuses on the projects of each group that relate to Lakeland and on how best to work together to protect the area.

    In July, Alberta Environment approves the Terms of Reference for the update of the Cold Lake-Beaver River Water Management Plan. Over the 20 years since the 1985 Plan was adopted, there has been increased industrial development, population growth, and water demand in the region. The update is being done by Alberta Environment in partnership with the Lakeland Industry and Community Association. In the open houses held in the area in March and April, the possibility of a water pipeline from the North Saskatchewan River was discussed.

    Al-Pac responds to AWA’s request that it defer from logging north of Lakeland Park and PRA. Al-Pac says that, pending the completion of the High Conservation Value Forests analysis commissioned by Al-Pac and WWF Canada, Al-Pac “will not harvest cutblocks south and east of the Touchwood Lake Road, adjacent to Lakeland Provincial Park and Lakeland Recreation Area.”

    With a grant from the Richard Ivey Foundation, AWA continues its Primrose-Lakeland campaign, but with a slightly different tack. Once old-growth and High Conservation Values Forests areas are clearly identified, AWA will initiate an extensive public consultation process that engages government, industry, local communities, First Nations, and the scientific community. By encouraging local involvement, AWA hopes to increase understanding of the benefits of these forests and the ecological services they provide and to reach an agreement with all stakeholders as to how such benefits can inform future management plans for the region.


    In October, Lakeland County completes a regional groundwater assessment.

    In Summer, a three-year watershed study program is initiated by the Lac La Biche Watershed Study Committee, which comprises elected officials, residents, and farmers and is coordinated by Jay S. White, a private environmental consultant. The Alberta Conservation Association is actively involved in the project, which is also supported by scientist Dr. David Schindler. This awareness and education program intends to investigate the impacts of land use and land management practices on the quality of water in Lac La Biche and to increase the commitment of watershed users and residents to healthy and responsible land use practices.

    In April, AWA’s Jillian Tamblyn and environmental consultant Richard Thomas attend Al-Pac’s open house in Lac La Biche regarding logging plans in the Touchwood Lake area.

    Vanderwell Contractors Ltd. and Al-Pac unveil plans to log part of the northern boundary of Lakeland Provincial Park near Touchwood Lake. In May, the House River fire puts these plans on hold for a period of one year as Al-Pac is occupied with salvage logging in the burned area.


    In June, Lakeland County councillors push for a road on the western side of the Cold Lake bombing range so that the range and its activity can be directly linked to the County. AEC reports plans to increase production within the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range over the next seven years (Lac La Biche Post 29 June 2001).

    “Regional Cumulative Effects Management Framework for Cold Lake, Alberta” is completed for the Research and Development Monograph Series. This research was supported by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency’s Research and Development Program. The report “provides a regional cumulative effects management framework, addressing the cumulative environmental effects that cannot be resolved by a single project proponent or industry acting alone.”


    In June, AWA puts out a media release announcing that petroleum CEOs who were asked by provincial conservation groups to withdraw from 10 key ecological areas in Alberta, including Lakeland, have refused to support this initiative.

    In April, the Special Places Local Committee members studying the Beaver Lake/Elinor Lake area decide that they will not recommend the area to Minister Gary Mar for designation due to lack of local public support. The Local Committee chair says, “I think people weren’t against the management principles.… A lot of it goes back to the Lakeland (Provincial Park) process and I guess at that time people accepted things that were later changed. They don’t trust the process” (Lac La Biche Post 18 Apr. 2000).

    In March, at a Special Places Open House on the Beaver Lake/Elinor Lake candidate site (326 km2 just west of Lakeland Provincial Park), most members of the local community who are present express opposition to protecting this area (Lac La Biche Post 28 Mar. 2000). Those opposed include First Nations, loggers, and ATV users.

    In January, Reeve Debra Lozinski of Lac La Biche points out that naming Beaver Lake-Elinor Lake as a Special Places candidate appears to have triggered industry (seismic) activity (Lac La Biche Post 25 Jan. 2000).


    In October, more than seven years after the Park and PRA were officially established, there is still no Management Plan in place and the Park does not appear on the government’s provincial parks website.

    On October 19, the Special Places Local Committee studying the area between Beaver Lake and Elinor Lake has its first meeting, and “member Mel Kuprowsky walks out of the meeting early, saying the ‘advisory’ status of the committee was just not good enough” (Lac La Biche Post 9 Nov. 1999). Kuprowsky believes that the government has frequently used advisory committees to diffuse the heat. “You and I both know the minister can grant whatever he wants to grant,” he says. “If this government really believes in citizens having a say, they can give the committee the authority.” Kuprowsky later leaves the Committee when the Environment Minister says that he cannot guarantee support of the Committee’s recommendations.

    In February, a letter to Premier Ralph Klein, AWA expresses concern about logging in Lakeland and the proposed Natural Heritage Act: “The proposition of logging those forests ‘to maintain biological diversity’ is absurd!” she says, in response to the Premier’s letter (Sept. 17, 1998). “A diversity of stumps is neither maintaining biological diversity nor ecological integrity.”

    In January, Lakeland County councillors go to Edmonton to meet with Environment Minister Ty Lund in response to his suggestion to move the Lakeland PRA boundary west in order to accommodate the proposed utility corridor along the eastern edge of the PRA. “Lund’s assistant Michael Lohner said other land to make up for the lost strip would be added to the Lakeland Special Place if the eastern boundary was trimmed, but [Lakeland Reeve] Lozinski said the minister never mentioned that possibility when they met.… The width of the proposed corridor makes residents suspect the province intends to put in a road, but Lund assured them there would be no roadway, she said” (Edmonton Journal 13 Jan. 1999).

    Peter Lee, WWF Regional Director for Alberta, writes in a letter to the editor of the Edmonton Journal (Jan. 9): “The proposed utility corridor is in addition to the gross disturbances that have already been approved in Lakeland Provincial Park and Recreation Area: for example, allowing 493 km of linear disturbances, cutting 49 percent of the old-growth white spruce forest, issuing 42 subsurface oil and gas leases that translate into 40 percent of Lakeland’s area, allowing many petroleum well sites and associated infrastructure to be constructed, and reducing the sport fishery through over-exploitation.”


    In December, shortly after Lakeland’s Draft Management Plan is approved, Lakeland County Reeve Debra Lozinski expresses concern about development plans in Lakeland: “We wrote a letter to [Environmental Protection Minister] Ty Lund a month ago. We asked him to please consult us.” Lozinski reports that the County has no idea what is being planned for the Park and PRA regarding developments or utility corridor.

    Lund’s solution to the contradiction of bulldozing a corridor through a protected area is simple: “We can simply move the boundary of the recreation area a mile or half mile to the west. I would sooner move the boundary than bring in that economic activity” (Lac La Biche Post 8 Dec. 1998). This is in complete contradiction to the department’s Environmental Resource Committee’s recommendations to further restrict access and expand the boundaries of the Lakeland area, recommendations that arose from public hearings in the region (Edmonton Journal 24 Nov. 1998).

    Former Lac La Biche mayor Tom Maccagno says, “[Lund’s solution] left most thinking people here breathless. If this is how you solve a problem it’s a stunning exercise in logic” (Edmonton Journal 13 Jan. 1999).

    The publisher of the Lac La Biche Post asks for the resignation of Environment Minister Lund and writes that “all levels of municipal government in the area are opposed to the idea of an energy corridor, including the Chamber of Commerce.”

    Environmental Protection spokesperson Jim Law insists that there have been no discussions with the military to put the proposed utility corridor inside the Air Weapons Range (Lac La Biche Post 8 Dec. 1998).

    In November, AWA comments on the proposed utility corridor through the PRA: “Only 5.1 per cent of the Lakeland region … is roadless, and, excluding lakes, only 1 per cent of the entire region consists of core habitat areas. The utility corridor would also cut off access for the woodland caribou.… As of January 1998, total lengths of linear disturbances in Lakeland (including clearcuts, roads, pipeline corridors, etc.) were 120.48 km in the Provincial Park and 372.25 in the PRA” (Wild Lands Advocate).

    The Department of National Defence appears to have changed its stance on allowing a proposed utility corridor through the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range (see January). Wing Operations Officer Lt.-Col. Jim Grecco says there is room for another pipeline through the range without disrupting weapons training. There are already two pipelines through the range and a third would be acceptable, says Grecco (Edmonton Journal 25 Nov. 1998). Energy Minister Steve West, however, is loathe to cede control of the corridor to the federal government and would prefer it to go through the PRA: “Future generations of Alberta are going to thank us for setting aside this pathway through this recreation area.… Anybody who denies that today is only doing it to be politically correct” (Alberta Hansard 24 Nov. 1998).

    In October, in a letter to Lakeland County, Environment Minister Ty Lund states: “Environmental Protection is supportive of the local committee’s recommendations that selective thinning (tree by tree harvesting) be used within the PRA as a management tool in maintaining stand age class diversity.… The only time logging could be allowed in the Park would be for salvage and sanitation purposes.”

    In August, the Alberta government’s plans to approve a major utility corridor through Lakeland PRA causes the withdrawal of the Federation of Alberta Naturalists from the Special Places 2000 Provincial Coordinating Committee, leaving only one environmental group, WWF, on the committee. Although Lt.-Col. Jim Grecco, Wing Operations Officer at the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range confirmed that Environment Minister Ty Lund has the option of running the corridor through the Range, Lund has instead selected a route through the PRA (Globe and Mail 19 Aug. 1998).

    In a letter to Environment Minister Gary Mar (August 17), WWF’s Peter Lee expresses concern about Lakeland Provincial Park and PRA, including linear disturbances, clearcut logging, oil and gas activity, OHV use, declining health of fishery, floatplane landings, approval of utility corridor, and the permitting of hunting in the Provincial Park beginning in fall 1999.

    In a letter to Environment Minister Ty Lund, AWA’s Sam Gunsch expresses opposition to the proposed utility corridor through Lakeland. Lund responds by saying, “This route is being considered to provide one possible option for a corridor. A route through the military range could still be explored in the future and is a preferred option.”

    In July, AWA puts out a news release critiquing Environment Minister Ty Lund’s decision to permit logging in Lakeland Provincial Park and PRA. There is still no finalized Management Plan for the area.

    In a letter to Premier Klein (July 24), AWA points out that Lund’s decision to open the area to commercial logging completely contradicts previous government commitments, Local Advisory Committee recommendations, scientific reports, and regional tourism development plans. Klein responds by saying that “the moratorium on timber harvesting within the PRA, which was instituted in 1993, remains in effect.” This is in contradiction to Ty Lund’s letter to Mayor Langevin in March indicating that logging would be permitted, resulting in possible changes in the preservation objective for the PRA.

    In June, Energy Minister Steve West and Environment Minister Ty Lund tacitly approve a utility/pipeline corridor through the most pristine area of the Lakeland PRA to accommodate northern Alberta’s oilsands expansion. This approval occurs after the Department of National Defence informs the province that “it [wants] nothing to do with a proposal to have part of the utility corridor cut through the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range” (Edmonton Journal 24 Nov. 1998).

    West initially makes the suggestion that the utility corridor be arranged before the Lakeland Management Plan is released (see January 1998) and Lund concurs: “I hope to conclude all matters related to the corridor so that the Draft Lakeland Management Plan can be brought forward to Standing Policy Committee” (memo to Minister West, June 12). Lund states that the route will follow the east side of the PRA, around the west side of Spencer Lake, east to the east boundary of the PRA, and south to Seibert Lake.

    Deputy Energy Minister Bob King writes to Deputy Environment Minister Jim Nichols outlining the predicament the government is in regarding the proposed utility/pipeline corridor, given the Department of National Defence’s opposition to a corridor through the Air Weapons Range: “As discussions are actively underway to reconfigure this protected area, and possibly further restrict access, I ask that you delay any decision on the boundary, on new access restrictions, or a different designation … pending the outcome of our discussion with industry on the best location for a corridor” (Edmonton Journal 24 Nov. 1998).

    In his response to an inquiry by MLA Denis Ducharme, Environment Minister Ty Lund indicates that floatplane access to Lakeland may be extended: “The present policy in Lakeland Provincial Park is not to allow floatplane access except for emergency, safety or resource management reasons. This policy is in keeping with other provincial parks in the province.… The Lakeland Open House Panel Committee recommended that limited aircraft use be allowed in Lakeland Provincial Park for recreation purposes. This recommendation will be submitted to Standing Policy Committee for approval.”

    In May, in a memo to Environment Minister Ty Lund about the proposed utility corridor through the Lakeland PRA, Deputy Minister Jim Nichols makes the following points:

    • The department’s Environmental Resource Committee supports additional oil and gas activities along existing corridors within the PRA with conditions to minimize environmental disturbances.
    • The public supports honouring existing oil and gas activities but does not support any new activities, including new utility corridors.
    • Lt.-Col. Oullette of the Air Weapons Range supports a corridor along the common Range and PRA boundary but does not support new, additional lines along the existing corridor within the Range.

    In April, in a memo to Environment Minister Ty Lund, MLA Debby Carlson asks the Minister what progress has been made with the recommendations of the Northeast Boreal Environmental Resource Committee’s (ERC) review of the Lakeland Open House Panel Committee’s Report. She states that in a letter to the community in April 1997, Lund promised that “we well keep the community informed as the review progresses.” A year later, the public has been given no details and has had no opportunity for input or final comment on the ERC’s recommendations, which are soon to be submitted to a government Standing Policy Committee.

    Liberal Environment Critic Debbie Carlson points out that arsenic levels in excess of the Canadian drinking water standards have recently been found in some wells in the Cold Lake area. A 1979 groundwater study in the area showed that arsenic was undetectable at that time in most wells. Environment Minister Ty Lund admits the truth of Carlson’s statements and states that the source of the contaminant remains unknown and that his department has asked Imperial Oil “to do more work on it” (Alberta Hansard 6 Apr. 1998).

    In March, in a letter to Lac La Biche Mayor Ovide Langevin, Environment Minister Ty Lund announces logging in the protected area, rescinding Premier Klein’s 1996 promise to maintain a moratorium on logging in the area. Lund introduces what he calls “enabling legislation” to legalize resource development in provincial parks, including logging in Lakeland. Premier Ralph Klein writes to AWA suggesting that “carefully managed timber harvesting” within the Lakeland Park and PRA “is consistent with government policy.”

    An Environmental Protection Ministry report entitled The Final Frontier: Protecting Landscape and Biological Diversity within Alberta’s Boreal Forest Natural Region, makes the following points:

    • The Lakeland area is heavily fragmented. Almost 75% of the combined Park and PRA has a linear disturbance density of >1.0 km/km2 and, excluding lakes, only 1.0% of the entire region consists of core habitat areas = 10 km2 in size (from Sawyer & Haskins’ 1997 BFNR linear disturbance inventory).
    • Roughly 5% of the total area is occupied by human-generated disturbances such as clearcuts, campgrounds, roads, pipeline corridors, wellsites, cutlines, etc. About 85% of the total area of these disturbances is located within the PRA.
    • As of January 1998, total lengths of linear disturbances in Lakeland are the following: Provincial Park = 120.48 km; PRA = 372.25.
    • Overall linear disturbance density for Lakeland’s terrestrial surface area are as follows: Provincial Park = 1.15 km/km2; PRA = 1.16 km/km2.
    • As of March 1996, Lakeland Park and PRA contained parts or all of 42 subsurface PNG leases (8 in the Park; 32 in the PRA; 2 in both). The combined area of all these leases is 28.4% of Lakeland’s total area, or approximately 40% of Lakeland’s forested land surface.
    • The Park currently contains 3 wellsites (2 of them active) with 8 others (5 active) within 1.0 km of its boundary. In the PRA there are 23 wellsites (15 active) with another 13 (5 active) within 1.0 km from its boundary. Lakeland’s overall well density (land surface only) is 0.06 wells/km2.
    • In contravention of the Provincial Parks Act, OHV use has continued in the Park ever since it was established in 1992.
    • Livestock grazing leases cover 4.71 km2 of the PRA.
    • Trapping is still occurring throughout Lakeland. In 1996/97, 1,059 animals were trapped.
    • Except for McGuffin Lake, motorized boating occurs on all of Lakeland’s larger lakes. Unauthorized floatplane landings still occur in Lakeland.

    In February, an Edmonton Journal article (Feb. 18) reports on the threat of closure of provincial parks and protected areas due to a lack of interest in the private sector in operating them. Lac La Biche Mayor Ovide Langevin writes Minister Ty Lund, inquiring whether Lakeland will be affected. Lund responds (March 17) with the assurance that Lakeland Provincial Park has been listed as a Natural Heritage Site and such sites will not be closed and will continue to be funded by the Department of Environmental Protection.

    The Department of Environmental Protection contacts the M.D. of Bonnyville requesting a meeting to discuss the issue of the plan for a new access to the two private properties on Snug Cove in the PRA (see June 1995). Since 1995, the Department has contacted the M.D. every year requesting a commencement date for the construction of the new access road.

    In January, Environment Minister Ty Lund signs the Lakeland Draft Management Plan completed in 1996.

    Energy Minister Steve West writes to Environment Minister Ty Lund (January 29) asking Lund to ignore the recommendations of his department’s Environmental Resource Committee (ERC) to protect Lakeland by restricting resource extraction and further access, and by expanding the area’s boundaries.

    • West advises Lund that the ERC’s recommended initiatives “would further restrict industry access” and that “any decision on the boundary or on new access restrictions within the Lakeland Park and PRA needs to be delayed pending the outcome of our discussions with industry on the most feasible location for a [utility] corridor.”
    • The proposed corridor would facilitate the expansion of power transmission and pipeline capacity in order to serve the growing oilsands operations in northern Alberta.
    • According to Lund’s assistant, “The proposed corridor should be able to accommodate all utilities including perhaps a high voltage transmission line” (Alberta Report 7 Sept. 1998).

    In a memo to Environment Minister Ty Lund, Deputy Minister Jim Nichols cautions that resource extraction (e.g., timber harvesting, PNG activity) may jeopardize the area’s current inclusion in the Special Places program inventory. He also suggests downgrading protection of the area to Wildland Park designation to accommodate activities that are incompatible with Parks policy.

    With respect to the proposed AEC Pipelines utility corridor through Lakeland, “National Defence is adamant that no further expansion of [the existing] right-of-way and no new right-of-way will be allowed to compromise the integrity of the Air Weapons Range” (memo from Energy Deputy Minister Bob King to Environment Deputy Minister Jim Nichols, Jan. 13).

    Provincial government ecologist Richard Thomas authors the report The Boreal Forest Natural Region of Alberta, one in a series of reports for the Special Places 2000 Provincial Coordinating Committee. Thomas includes the following points:

    • The Primrose-Lakeland area is one of the best representative examples of the Central Mixedwood Natural Subregion.
    • Three-quarters of the area is bisected by seismic lines, roads and pipelines, and oil and gas activities.
    • Other threats to the ecological integrity of the area include illegal OHV use, the increasing pressures on wildlife populations from sport fishing and trapping, and the deleterious impacts from unauthorized floatplane landings and frequent low-level flights from the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range.
    • The annual rate of deforestation here is greater than that of the Amazon.

    AWA, along with a host of other environmental organizations, calls upon Premier Klein to upgrade the Park and Recreation Area to a Wildland Park designation, to ban OHV use and industrial activity, and to add 1,000 km2 to the protected area. Tom Maccagno, former Mayor of Lac La Biche and a supporter of protecting Lakeland, who advocated an end to industrial activity within the proposed area, comments about the actions of the provincial government: “Everything is looked at as a resource. We should look at these things as treasures. They should be respected and cared for, they’re not for sale.”

    In an undated memo responding to a memo (August 17, 1998) from MLA Denis Ducharme, Minister Ty Lund refers to aircraft use in Lakeland: “Seasonal letters of authority are currently issued to float plane pilots who request, in writing, permission to access lakes in Lakeland PRA for recreational purposes. These letters of authority … permit the pilot to access lakes during allowable periods.… Aircraft access into Lakeland Provincial Park has previously been prohibited in keeping with the department’s policy of not allowing aircraft onto water bodies in provincial parks for recreational purposes.

    Amendments to the management plan will permit aircraft to land on a number of lakes. The process in place for issuing seasonal letters of authority for Lakeland PRA will likely also be instituted in the park.”


    In July, a long-standing grievance of the Cold Lake First Nations (CLFN) related to the 1952 creation of the Primrose Lake Air Weapons Range (now called the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range) is finally settled. Under the Settlement Agreement, the government of Canada provides CLFN with $25.5 million and 2,023.5 ha of provincial Crown land to be added to CLFN’s reserve lands. Members of CLFN will also regain access to the Range.

    Alberta Liberal Environment Critic Debbie Carlson reports that groundwater pollution has become a major concern in the Cold Lake area. Landowners report that the quality of their well water has significantly deteriorated over the last few years, and Imperial Oil has discovered high levels of chlorides associated with oilwell activity at more than twice the Canadian Drinking Water Standard in deeper aquifers or water-bearing rock formations.

    In May, AWA’s Cliff Wallis expresses concern to AEC Pipelines about the impact of the proposed Fort McMurray-Hardisty pipeline on major streams and on Environmentally Significant Areas (letter 10 May).

    In April, AWA’s Cliff Wallis writes to AEC Pipelines to express AWA’s concern about the proposed Fort McMurray to Hardisty pipeline. The plan is for the pipeline to traverse the Lakeland PRA.

    AEC Pipelines holds public open house sessions in several communities that may be affected by the proposed Fort McMurray to Hardisty pipeline.

    AEC Pipelines begins the process of obtaining regulatory approvals for their Fort McMurray to Hardisty Pipeline, proposed to traverse the Lakeland PRA, by filing applications with Alberta Environment and the AEUB and by submitting a Lakeland Pipeline Project Conservation and Reclamation Plan.

    In February, the “Panel Report on Public Consultation Regarding the Draft Management for Lakeland Provincial Park and Recreation Area” is completed by the Open House Hearing Panel struck by Environmental Protection Minister Ty Lund and Paul Langevin, Lac La Biche-St. Paul MLA. In addition to Langevin, the panel chair, the panel comprised five representatives of local municipal governments surrounding Lakeland, the Public Advisory Committee chair, and the Lakeland Steering Committee chair.

    According to AWA’s Ian Urquhart, “This panel [was] not nearly as inclusive as the PAC and [gave] off a decidedly ‘handpicked by the minister’ aroma” (Wild Lands Advocate October 2005). The Report summarizes approximately 50 presentations at three open houses held in Edmonton, Lac La Biche, and Glendon in November/December 1996 as well as 278 completed response forms received at the open houses and 193 letters. These public reactions came overwhelmingly from the motorized recreation community.

    The following are some of the summary points made by the panel:

    • Protection: strong public support for some form of protected status
    • Traditional access: strong support for less restriction on access for snowmobiling, fishing, hunting, etc.
    • Public involvement: user groups interested in being involved in developing management plan
    • Resource extraction: support (although not unanimous) for small local timber operators to harvest some timber on a low-impact basis in the PRA (not the Park)
    • New oil/gas leases: no support
    • Boundary expansion: much opposition, fearing further access restrictions; some in support to provide further buffer to the park

    The panel expressed the following:

    • Panel is concerned about the impact of logging in the area generally (including Lakeland)
    • Some old-growth forest should be maintained in the PRA for research purposes
    • Extra protection is needed for sites with sensitive flora and fauna in both the PRA and Park
    • Panel supports increased access within Lakeland for traditional outdoor recreation activities beyond that allowed in the Draft Management Plan
    • Panel is concerned about allocation of adequate resources to properly manage the area

    AEC Piplines proposes a crude oil pipeline system from Ft. McMurray to Hardisty. The proposed pipeline will run directly through the Lakeland PRA. While an alternative route is proposed to divert the pipeline through the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range, the Department of National Defence is opposed to this proposal. Minister of Environment Ty Lund suggests moving the boundary of the PRA, much to the consternation of environmentalists.


    In December, in a presentation to a political panel as part of the Lakeland public consultation process, environmental consultant Dr. Richard Thomas provides background material on the management planning process, discusses Lakeland’s importance from a conservation perspective, and comments on a few of Lakeland’s controversial management issues. His points include the following:

    • The Draft Lakeland Management Plan as “an atrocious document – a textbook example of ‘how not to do it.’… It is, in reality, an Integrated Resource Management Plan dressed up in ‘Green Drag.’”
    • The Management Steering Committee included representatives from the Departments of Energy, Forestry, Fish and Wildlife, and Tourism and Economic Development – “Where else but in Alberta would you have a group of people opposed to Lakeland … in charge of the planning process and the development of a management plan for the site?”
    • The recommendations of the Lakeland Public Advisory Committee for the Management Plan were effectively ignored by the Steering Committee, after the PAC invested over a year in becoming familiar with Lakeland and its management issues. The PAC had called for using the precautionary principle and expressed an overarching concern with environmental protection to guide the management of Lakeland.
    • While the idea of establishing a wilderness canoe circuit on the Park’s lakes was truly visionary, “the current situation (proposed to continue in the Draft Management Plan) is ludicrous” because of the presence of ATVs and motorboats on and around these lakes.

    In November-December, public hearings are held regarding issues identified in the Draft Management Plan and Discussion Paper. Until January 15, 1997, 193 letters are received as well, most from motorized vehicle users (ATV, snowmobile, 4X4) and traditional users, as well as a few from school groups, family groups, and those concerned with protection of the area.

    In October, a discussion paper prepared by various provincial departments states: “On average, the economic contributions of parks and protected areas are comparable to those of other resource-based sectors.”

    The government releases its long awaited Lakeland Draft Management Plan.

    In September, the Department of Environmental Protection announces the last stage of public review of the Lakeland Draft Management Plan, including public open houses, formal presentations, and written submissions, all to be completed by January 15, 1997.

    Environmental Protection puts out a Discussion Paper on the Lakeland Draft Management Plan in order to highlight instances where recommendations of the Lakeland Foundation Document, the Draft Management Plan, and the Lakeland Public Advisory Committee Summary Report and Recommendations are not in full agreement.

    The Draft Management Plan for Lakeland is completed.

    AWA puts out an Action Alert on
    Lakeland, identifying urgent issues: access, especially to motorized vehicles; hunting, fishing, and trapping; timber harvesting; and oil and gas exploration.

    In June, Tera Environmental Consultants informs AWA in a letter that they have been retained to prepare a conservation and reclamation report for the proposed AEC Fort McMurray to Hardisty pipeline that will traverse part of the Lakeland PRA.

    In April, AWA puts out a press release announcing that ORV use continues in Lakeland Provincial Park and PRA, that logging is under consideration there, and that at least one well has been drilled.

    In March, Premier Klein responds to AWA’s concerns, stating, “We certainly intend to honour the commitment to a moratorium on logging to provide time to complete the management plan for the park and provincial recreation area. Please be assured that this management plan will protect the resources these areas were established to protect.” AWA argues that if logging proceeds in Lakeland, this will destroy all credibility of the Special Places 2000 program. Without legislative prohibitions on industrial uses like logging, the Special Places 2000 campaign is essentially meaningless in terms of preserving biological integrity.

    In the Legislature, Environment Minister Ty Lund says, “We do not allow logging in a provincial park. That’s not to say that we don’t cut some trees in a provincial park.… But the general policy is: no logging as we know it.… I can assure the hon. member that the moratorium on logging that is currently in place – it was put there in 1993 – does apply to both the recreation area and the park” (Alberta Hansard 11 Mar. 1996).

    Representatives of AWA, CPAWS, and WWF meet on March 31 to discuss the possibility of working toward a Central Mixedwood Protected Area of Global Significance. The goal would be to have an integrated protected area large enough to include natural disturbance regimes such as fires and floods. This would include the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range, the whole of Lakeland as depicted on the AWA map, Cold Lake Provincial Park, and Meadow Lake Provincial Park in Saskatchewan.

    In February, AWA writes to Premier Ralph Klein documenting that the Alberta Forest Service and the Environment Minister are proceeding with plans to log the protected area despite the promise given for preservation in 1992.

    In a letter to Hon. Ty Lund (February 7), Lakeland Public Advisory Committee member Tom Mccagno expresses concern that the Committee has been kept in the dark about possible logging in Lakeland, contrary to PAC’s recommendations, and about the inexplicable delay in producing a Draft Management Plan.


    In November, in his response to AWA’s Brett Purdy’s letter (October 12) expressing concerns about a timber reconnaissance flight over Lakeland PRA, Environment Minister Ty Lund says that the purpose of the flight was “to review the potential for timber extraction should there be a future decision to log in the area.”

    In fall, Environment Minister Ty Lund, ignoring the recommendations of the Public Advisory Committee and prejudging the outcome of the management plan about which he is consulting Albertans, assures the Northeast Alberta Lumbering Association representative and the local MLA, Paul Langevin, that logging will be permitted in the protected area. The Alberta Forest Service flies prospective logging companies over the PRA, in essence lobbying for logging permit applications within the protected area. AWA writes a letter to the province condemning these actions.

    In August, the Lakeland Management Planning Team invites AWA’s Brett Purdy to an information exchange session regarding the concept of a proposed Lakeland Environmental/Interpretive Centre. The Centre will promote long-term conservation, foster stewardship, promote and facilitate ecotourism, and encourage non-consumptive recreational activities.

    The Public Advisory Committee’s 44-page Summary Report and Recommendations for the general Management Plan for Lakeland is published. Issues considered are zoning and boundaries, access, biological resource management, cultural resources management, aesthetic resource management, and dispositions and development. Some of the 100+ recommendations made include Wildland zoning of the land base and lakes in the Park; establishing a wildland canoe circuit; restricting OHV use to designated access routes; improving fisheries management; upgrading major roads to “parkway” standards; upgrading some campgrounds; and creating a visitor centre.

    Alberta Environmental Protection Natural Resources Service (Parks) publishes a 215-page “Background Report for the Lakeland Provincial Park and PRA General Management Plan.” Topics covered are zoning; access; biological, cultural, and aesthetic resource management; and dispositions and development.

    The Public Advisory Committee recommends a prohibition on logging in the PRA and Park, with the possibility of highly selective and low-impact logging in future to maintain the goals of ecosystem management; information gaps regarding the health and fire history of Lakeland’s forests need to be filled in order to establish an “ecological benchmark” before any forest management activities should take place. The Environment Department’s own scientists point out that 65 percent of the protected area’s old-growth forests is in the PRA. The Committee notes that the forests of the park and the recreation area are “Lakeland’s most unique vegetation feature … one of Lakeland’s most important contributions to biodiversity … [and that] it is best to leave the forest undisturbed.”

    In June, the Department of Environmental Protection notifies the M.D. of Bonnyville that it will approve a new alignment for access to two private properties at Snug Cove within the Lakeland PRA. Both owners want to develop tourist facilities on their properties and both parties want a good access road developed to replace the existing four-wheel-drive access trail, which runs through highly important and sensitive waterfowl and marsh bird breeding habitat. The proposed new access will bypass this area. The estimated cost is $70,000 and the provincial government is prepared to provide a total of $25,000. The remaining cost will be divided between the M.D. and the landowners.

    Public consultation and a public opinion survey by the province on a management plan for Lakeland find that Albertans want a larger area (the entire 1,124 km2) set aside for protection and do not want resource development in the protected area. The Minister refuses to release the report on the public opinion survey.


    In December, “Environmental Assessment Cold Lake Air Weapons Range” is completed by D.A. Westworth and Associates Ltd.

    In November, in a document entitled “Ecosystem Management Issues for Lakeland,” Lorna Allen of the Natural Heritage Protection and Education Branch, Parks Services includes the following points:

    • Within the Provincial Park boundary, 20 hectares of forest have been cut. Within the PRA, 495.4 hectares have been cut. The overall area lost as effect habitat is generally greater than the size of a cutblock, since the remaining stand may be highly fragmented.
    • In Lakeland, significant blocks of old-growth have escaped fire, perhaps for hundreds of years, possibly due to being adjacent to lakes and wetlands and downwind from the prevailing wind, or because of soil and topography. Studies are needed to determine the fire history of Lakeland.

    Allen makes the following recommendations:

    • Keep forests as intact as possible; linkages must be maintained between intact blocks.
    • Identify sensitive species and areas and minimize impacts on them.
    • Minimize activities that increase the fire hazard in old-growth stands.
    • Evaluate, expand, and use mapping layers that have been developed to define areas critical to the ecological integrity of Lakeland.
    • Develop and monitor goals and targets for ecosystem management.

    In June, Dr. Brad Stelfox of the Alberta Environmental Centre speaks to the Lakeland Public Advisory Committee regarding the biodiversity study he is currently conducting in the Lakeland region. He points out that Lakeland supports hundreds of vascular plants, thousands of non-vascular species (lichens, mosses, fungi), thousands of insect species, almost 200 bird species, 41 different mammal species, one reptile species, and four amphibian species. He cites agriculture, forestry, the fossil fuel industry, recreation, water management, human population, and habitat loss as forces shaping and potentially threatening the boreal forests.

    AWA’s Cliff Wallis addresses the Lakeland Public Advisory Committee on the topic of birds in Lakeland, including the importance of old-growth forests and other significant bird habitats. He discusses the current and potential impact of motorized vehicles, facility development, and industrial development on the area’s birds.

    In March, the Lakeland Public Advisory Committee holds its first of 17 meetings over 18 months. The purpose of the PAC is to represent the interests of Albertans as they pertain to developing a detailed management plan for the Park and PRA, taking into consideration the Provincial Parks Act, regulations, and policy directives; appropriateness of activities within a Natural Heritage Provincial Park and PRA; and the intent for establishing the Park and PRA as defined by the Lakeland Foundation Document.

    Cottonwood Consultants releases a bird inventory for wetland, old growth and riparian species for the Lakeland area.

    Dr. Richard Thomas produces a draft paper entitled “Managing Lakeland’s Forests,” in which he strongly recommends eliminating all commercial logging of Lakeland’s deciduous forests and protecting the area’s old-growth forests in order to maintain the current level of biodiversity.

    A government report states that about half of Lakeland’s old-growth trees had already been logged when the land was set aside for protection.

    Al-Pac submits to the Alberta government a draft proposal for the development of a Heritage Forests Strategy with the goal of “wise use and protection” of FMA lands. The draft emphasizes the role of fire in the boreal forest and the idea that protection from disturbance (including logging) degrades the health of the forest. “Alberta-Pacific is of the opinion that the rich biodiversity created by this fire process can best be maintained through the careful integration of its harvesting operation as part of the disturbance regime.… Alberta-Pacific believes the ecosystem is better protected through an overall integration with development and not within the boundaries of a protected area.”


    In November, a draft document entitled “Putting Lakeland into Perspective,” Alberta Parks Service discusses Lakeland in the context of the global environmental crisis, biodiversity, and habitat loss. Lakeland has international importance as a protected area that conserves biodiversity in the midst of ongoing, massive industrialization of the boreal forest. “Lakeland’s primary function as a protected area supersedes the desires of individuals and interest groups whose activities would result in detrimental effects to Lakeland’s environment.… Users must modify their behaviour to suit Lakeland rather than manipulate and modify Lakeland to suit their perceived ‘needs.’” Lakeland is a “small but vital cog in the wheel of global protected areas” and has the potential to attract tourists from around the world at a time when tourism is fast becoming the world’s number one industry.

    In August, an Environmental Impact Assessment is completed by Griffiths and Griffiths Ecological Consultants for the proposed Pinehurst Lake facility development and campground upgrade to identify environmentally sensitive areas that should be protected. Several rare or unusual plant species were identified, along with significant and sensitive vegetation communities and wildlife species and habitats.

    In July, in a letter to Land and Forest Service ADM Ken Higginbotham, Parks Service ADM Dave Chabillon recommends that the area between the north boundary of the Park and the Touchwood Lake Road be removed from the Al-Pac FMA so that these lands would truly serve as a buffer and Parks’ access issues could be resolved. He further recommends considering adjusting the Park boundary to incorporate this area. Higginbotham replies on August 20: “During the development of the Alberta-Pacific detailed forest management plan, due September 1, 1994, the options available to meeting both the timber and recreational values will be explored. If it is found that the recreational interests cannot be protected through the use of a special management zone concept, then the removal of this land from the FMA can be pursued.” He makes no response in this reply to the possibility of reconsidering the Park boundary.

    Motorized traffic into the Park is restricted to two designated routes to comply with the Provincial Parks Act.

    In May, in an Alberta Parks Service document called “Lakeland – Questions and Answers,” the following points are made:

    • “The key criterion used to judge the compatibility of any current or proposed use of Lakeland [Park and PRA] with Parks’ mandate for the area is: ‘Will the impacts of this use negatively affect the future ecological integrity of the resource?’”
    • “Of critical importance when discussing industrial resource extraction is the principle that such activity must not detract from, impair, or jeopardize the recreational, historic, cultural, or protection values of Lakeland.”
    • Parks Service identifies the following key objectives for Lakeland: maintaining, in perpetuity, Lakeland’s historic levels of biotic and forested landscape diversity; preserving Lakeland’s forest ecosystems and landscapes in as natural a state as possible; maintaining the pre-(recent) logging age-class distribution of Lakeland’s major forest types; and ensuring no net loss of its old-growth forests.

    In March, Alberta Parks Service prepares a draft paper entitled “Managing Lakeland’s Forests: Background, Guiding Principles and Objectives” for internal discussion. It includes the following points:

    • “Given our current dearth of detailed knowledge, the most sensible and responsible Lakeland forest management strategy for Parks to pursue (during the initial 10-year planning period) is to err strongly on the side of caution. It is sobering to contemplate that any errors in judgement we make today (that result in losses of old-growth forest) will take a minimum of 80 – 120 years to ‘repair.’”
    • “Current, official forestry practices in Alberta can crudely but accurately be characterised as ‘fibre farming.’ To date, forestry in Alberta remains stolidly in the ‘traditional’ camp, with little penetration of the innovative, so-called ‘new forestry’ ideas and techniques pioneered in the northwest U.S.A. over the last 30 years.”
    • “Lakeland cannot be viewed in isolation from the land use patterns in northern Alberta: i.e., massive industrialisation of the boreal forest and accelerated encroachment of agricultural clearances. Given these trends, Lakeland (whose total area is less than one percent of that of Al-Pac’s Forest Management Area), will soon attain the stature of an ‘ecological island’ of inestimable value.”

    Minister of Environment Brian Evans promises a five-year moratorium on logging in the Park and Recreation Area, until a Management Plan is completed.

    Lakeland Provincial Park is closed to sport hunting to comply with its designation under the Provincial Parks Act.


    In November, the document Special Places 2000: Alberta’s Natural Heritage is released by the Alberta government.

    In an article for Environment Network News, Don Appleby, manager of the Community Advisory Committee¬ – Cold Lake Region, expresses serious concerns about the drought in the region due to declining annual precipitation levels and about the continuing high levels of water use, especially for oil processing: “The idea of destroying one of our most important renewable resources to produce a non-renewable resource while so many people don’t even have a decent source of potable water somehow doesn’t make sense to most people.”

    In October, Local Timber Permits are issued for cutblocks east of Seibert Lake and within the Lakeland PRA. This is later recognized as “an unfortunate administrative error”: “it would be in the best interest of all concerned to let this incident slip by quickly and quietly.… This incident is not a precedent for any forest harvesting activity in the future within Lakeland Provincial Recreation Area” (memo from Roger Reilander, Tourism, Parks and Recreation District Manager, to Brydon Ward, Alberta Forest Service Superintendent, Dec. 17/92).

    According to the Daily Oil Bulletin, lakes in the Cold Lake region have dropped to their lowest levels in 30 years. Imperial Oil has announced plans to increase production in its Cold Lake heavy oil plant, but it needs government approval for controversial additional water use. There is discussion of a water pipeline from the North Saskatchewan River to accommodate water needs (including those of oil companies for processing) in the region.

    A provisional draft of a Zoning Brief for Lakeland Provincial Park and PRA is prepared by the Provincial Parks Service, Lakeland District Office. It outlines the four broad objectives for Alberta’s parks system : protection, heritage appreciation, outdoor recreation, and tourism. The draft summarizes the Provincial Parks Service’s zoning scheme, which comprises seven zones: preservation, historical/cultural, wildland, natural environment, integrated management, facility, and access. The Zoning Brief states that “given current land-use trends in northern Alberta, Lakeland will become an increasingly significant ‘ecological island.’”

    At the time of writing the draft, the bulk of both the Park and the PRA has been zoned as Wildland, and each contains significant areas zoned as Preservation. One site in the Park (the Shaw Lake area) and one in the PRA (south and east of the major Pinehurst Lake Facility Zone) have been designated Environment Zones. Areas designated for Integrated Management (which allows for extractive and consumptive activities such as oil and gas exploration, logging, etc.) are restricted to the PRA. “The lack of a complete, detailed inventory has hindered precise zone boundary delimitation.” Because of this lack, the brief suggests erring “on the side of caution” and states that the Lakeland Zoning Plan will be refined and improved when further scientific research has been conducted. Thus far, the primary source of biophysical data used to develop the Zoning Plan is the Westworth study conducted in 1991.

    Other points made in the provisional Zoning Brief are as follows:

    • To expedite the zoning exercise, old-growth was defined by age alone, seriously underestimating the true extent of functional old-growth forests in Lakeland. The definition should be expanded to include criteria such as forest structural complexity and the levels of biodiversity supported by individual stands.
    • Alberta Culture has identified five significant historical/cultural sites and 10 others worthy of investigation. Formal delimitation of any Historical/Cultural zones must await archaeological and historical research. “In the interim, extreme care will be exercised that any recreational development or resource extraction activity does not jeopardize the integrity of any locations of potential cultural importance.”
    • In the Integrated Management zones (only in the PRA), industrial activities (primarily hydrocarbon exploration and development and logging operations) “will be treated as subordinate in importance to the primary purposes, namely protection and recreation, for which Lakeland was established. Consumptive resource users will be required to demonstrate that their activities will not compromise the ecological integrity and recreational capacity of the landbase.”
    • “The Provincial Parks Service will employ stringent operating guidelines and conditions to regulate the conduct of industrial/commercial resource extraction activities within Lakeland.” Operators will be required to use existing corridors for access purposes; the cumulative environmental impact of all such activities will be carefully evaluated.
    • It is the Parks Service’s intent that the Lakeland PRA forests maintain their “pre-(modern) logging age-class distributions” and that there be no “net loss of old-growth.”
    • Existing oil and gas agreements will be honoured within both the Park and the PRA. New oil and gas agreements within the Park may be issued but surface access will not be permitted. New agreements within the PRA will be permitted although surface access will be subject to specific restrictions.
    • All “main” roads within the Park and the PRA are designated Access Zones. Any major trunk trails within the PRA on which ATV use is permitted will also be identified as Access Zones.

    In September-October, a series of memos by Deputy Minister Al Craig and Minister Don Sparrow (Tourism, Parks and Recreation), and Deputy Minister C. B. Smith and Minister Leroy Fjordbotten (Forestry, Lands and Wildlife) express their support for “a high degree of protection for the wildland resources of Lakeland Provincial Park and Provincial Recreation Area.” On Sept. 14, Minister Don Sparrow writes that with the designation of the Park and PRA came significant changes in management priorities for the area: “Protection of the environment for wilderness recreation, tourism and heritage appreciation become the priority concerns. Commercial activities related to natural resource extraction within the Provincial Recreation Area, eg: oil and gas exploration and development, commercial timber harvesting will be considered where they are compatible with the priorities.”

    In September, a Draft Minister’s Briefing Report for Lakeland Provincial Park and PRA is prepared and submitted by Roger Reilander, Lakeland District Manager, Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation. It addresses major issues, background information, recommendations, and required actions to facilitate discussion for development of a detailed Management Plan for the Park and PRA. The report says, “Lakeland Provincial Park is envisioned as a ‘sanctuary’ where wildland values and environmentally sensitive, low-impact tourism (i.e., ecotourism) take precedence.” The report points out that tourism statistics indicate that less mechanized, largely non-consumptive tourism activities such as birding are increasing in popularity while highly machine-oriented, moderate-to-very high impact activities such as hunting and ATV use are declining.

    Among the report’s recommendations are the following:

    • That areas north and south of the Park and east of the PRA be put under reservation immediately to indicate the intention of Tourism, Parks and Recreation to acquire this land in the future.
    • That funding be made available for further biophysical and cultural research in Lakeland for zoning purposes, and that zonation err on the side of caution until that information is available.
    • That the Park and PRA be managed separately from management guidelines expressed in the Lakeland Sub-Regional IRP. The Park and PRA fall under the authority of the Provincial Parks Act, and the mandate of preservation, conservation, recreation, and promotion of tourism will take precedence in all cases over other resource-based uses, including oil and gas exploration and development.
    • That Lakeland’s Management Plan include basic guidelines for appropriate development in the Park and PRA in relation to policies, regulations, zoning, municipal requirements, environmental impacts, economic and social impacts, and recreation.
    • That stringent forestry management guidelines be developed that fully address ecological and aesthetic concerns, and that current Alberta Forest Service silvicultural practices not be deemed appropriate for the PRA.
    • That OHV use in the Park and PRA be carefully controlled and that all regulations be strictly enforced. Parks should encourage low-impact, environmentally sensitive, non-consumptive, high carrying capacity recreational pursuits and increase awareness that activities such as OHV use can contribute to resource depletion and degradation if not managed under strict control.
    • That no sport hunting be permitted in the Park; that hunting by Treaty status Indians for subsistence purposes be permitted to continue in the Park; that hunting in the PRA be restricted to short seasons at a time when it would cause the least conflict with non-consumptive users.
    • That floatplane landings on Park lakes be prohibited except in case of emergency, resource management studies, or fire-fighting; that landings in the PRA be confined to one or two of the large lakes.
    • That traplines within the Park be bought out as soon as possible; that the use and location of trappers’ cabins within the Park be reviewed.
    • That Park lakes eventually be made powerboat-free.
    • That currently used random campsites be charted and decisions made regarding which will be designated formal backcountry campsites; that random camping be eliminated.

    In August, Lakeland Provincial Park and Provincial Recreation Area are officially dedicated.

    In June, administrative control of the land base is transferred to the Provincial Parks Service (June 18, Order-in-Council #375/92).

    In May, in a letter to responding to the concerns of a citizen regarding the boundaries of the Park and PRA, Tourism, Parks and Recreation Minister Don Sparrow promises the following: “These boundaries will be reviewed again. It has been proposed that every five years the lands involved will be reviewed to determine whether or not they should be annexed by the department as part of the Lakeland PRA.”

    In March, in a press conference, the government cites Lakeland as an example of “Alberta’s commitment to protect representative examples of its natural heritage and to setting aside large tracts of land as protected areas.”

    In February, in a forest industry/environmental round table meeting, representatives of the environmental community raised concerns that logging (“harvesting”) around Lakeland would create problems. The minutes note that the “Lakeland plan does not have support from the environmental community.” Representatives from CPAWS, AWA, Edmonton Friends of the North, and AEN were present to represent the environmental community.

    On January 17, Lakeland Provincial Park is established by Order-in-Council 56/92. On January 18, Lakeland Provincial Recreation Area is established by Order-in-Council 55/92. Prior to the establishment of the Park and PRA, approximately 12% of Lakeland Provincial Park and 25% of the PRA were leased for oil and gas development. The Lakeland Foundation Document states that agreements made prior to January 17 will be honoured.

    At a joint press conference, His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh and Environment Minister Ralph Klein announce the establishment of Lakeland Provincial Park and Recreation Area as the flagship for the new Special Places 2000 protected areas initiative for Alberta. The entire protected area is established at only half the size recommended by the government-commissioned scientific assessments and by the public, with just 13 percent (147 km2) of the recommended size under the designation of Provincial Park. Thirty-nine percent (443 km2) is instead established as a Provincial Recreation Area and the remaining half is left with no protection at all. This is done with little regard for the government’s scientific assessment commission’s recommendation that “the proposed park is in itself not large enough to sustain populations of some of the larger and wider ranging species…Some of the important natural systems represented in the proposed park extend across the park boundary and into the proposed recreation area, and beyond.”


    In November, in a letter to Recreation and Parks Minister Steve West, AWA Director Brett Purdy once again requests a copy of the analysis of public input prepared from submissions and public responses put forward by Alberta Recreation and Parks in the summer of 1991. Purdy has been requesting this since early September, with no response from the Minister. The Minister finally responds on December 4, 1991: “The results of this analysis are being taken into consideration as we deliberate towards a final decision under the Provincial Parks Act in the Lakeland area. Release of the public input analysis will follow in due course.” Purdy writes to the new Minister, Don Sparrow, on March 31, 1992 with another request. He receives a reply from Deputy Minister Julian Nowicki dated May 28 denying his request: “It is not possible to release this document in isolation of other information that was used to make the decision [for designating the boundaries of the Park and PRA].”

    In October, in a letter to the Lac La Biche Forest District Superintendent, AWA’s Brett Purdy critiques current negotiations for a new timber quota and puts forward AWA’s position that all timber harvesting be cancelled within the boundaries of Lakeland Provincial Park and PRA.

    A summary of public opinion is prepared by Maureen Payne & Associates.

    In June, Alberta Recreation and Parks publishes a Foundation Document in order to “establish the government’s intent relating to proceeding with establishment of Lakeland Provincial Park and Provincial Recreational Area.… Proposed activities for the park will be carefully considered so they are appropriate for a wildland-type park.” The document “addresses the importance of maintaining a high degree of protection for the wildland resources of Lakeland Provincial Park and Provincial Recreation Area” (memo from Tourism, Parks and Recreation Deputy Minister Al Craig to Forestry, Lands and Wildlife Deputy Minister C. B. Smith, Sept. 11/92). However, many of the “permitted activities” incorporated in this Foundation Document do not conform with “standard” Parks Services’ Regulations or zoning policy; among these anomalies are ATV and snowmobile use, aircraft access to lakes, trapping, commercial fishing, and powered boating (from “Background Report for the Lakeland General Management Plan,” Alberta Environmental Protection, August 1995).

    AWA puts out a news release summarizing the results of the Public Opinion Survey conducted by Recreation and Parks in 1990, the Westworth biophysical assessment of Lakeland produced in March 1991, and an analysis of the Park and PRA proposal. It includes the following statement: “The cumulative effect of natural resource extraction and recreational development will seriously impair the ability of the greater Lakeland ecosystem to maintain the diversity of plant and animal communities found there presently. The new park options have incorporated most Forestry and Fish and Wildlife concerns expressed about the original proposal. Yet there has been virtually no move for increased conservation or preservation despite public requests and the definite and urgent need to do so.”

    Liberal MLA Grant Mitchell raises suspicions in the legislature about Lakeland’s prospects, saying that the idea of a park in Lakeland is just a public relations move, a sop to Albertans troubled by the province’s decision to allocate most of Alberta’s boreal forest to multinational timber companies.

    In May, Bonnyville MLA Ernie Isley abandons the principle of cabinet solidarity by retreating from his earlier support for the proposed Lakeland Provincial Park and PRA. He now expresses support only for a PRA (Grand Centre-Cold Lake Sun, 21 May 1991).

    In March, in a meeting sponsored by the Grand Centre Chamber of Commerce, Alberta Recreation and Parks Minister Steve West and MLA Ernie Isley meet with local residents of the Lakeland area. Among those who express concern about the impact of the park on the local economy are CFB Cold Lake officials and municipal mayors and reeves. There is concern that the establishment of the Park and PRA will seriously hamper base operations (Grand Centre-Cold Lake Sun, March 12/91).

    The Draft Cold Lake Sub-regional Integrated Resource Plan is completed. The Cold Lake planning area overlaps with the southern portion of AWA’s Primrose-Lakeland Area of Concern.
    A biophysical assessment by D.A. Westworth and Associates recommends an expansion of the protected area to 1,124 km2 and argues that without such an expansion species will be lost over time. A public review also recommends the same. The provincial government ignores both these recommendations.

    Other recommendations by the Westworth biophysical and resource assessment include the following:

    • Clearly define management strategies to ensure that proposed uses for the PRA and adjacent Crown lands are compatible with management goals for the Park.
    • Consider setting aside land in the interlakes region between Touchwood-Seibert-Pinehurst Lakes and the proposed park to maintain viable populations of wildlife species in the area.
    • Identify requirements for biological corridors linking the park with important adjacent habitat areas.
    • Develop an old-growth management strategy for the proposed Park and PRA.
    • Construct no new access roads within the Park or PRA and give serious consideration to the possible adverse effects of upgrading existing roads.
    • Develop a coordinated access management plan for the area: under such a plan, access use decisions are not made on a road-by-road basis but rather reflect a broader context and the full spectrum of users’ needs.

    Alberta Forest Service has a clear opportunity to accommodate existing Timber Permit holders outside of the recommended 1,124 km2 when Northern Timber forfeits their Timber Quota, freeing up timber outside the proposed park for reallocation to the permit holders within Lakeland. Instead of seizing this opportunity, the AFS re-issues the quota to another company and continues to count on timber from within the protected area for small local operators.

    In January, in a letter to Forestry, Lands, and Wildlife Minister Leroy Fjordbotten, AWA vice-chair and education coordinator Brett Purdy expresses his concern about the credibility of the process that the government is undertaking to solicit public and stakeholder opinions prior to the advancement of development schemes in Lakeland. “There is considerable evidence that senior civil servants in the Lac La Biche-St. Paul area are undermining this review process for their own purposes. Individuals of the Fish and Wildlife Service are enhancing opposition in local Fish and Game clubs and allied groups against a park concept in the area. These actions not only jeopardize the credibility of the review and decision-making process but we fear the actions of these civil servants is undermining the potential for a park to be established in the Lakeland area.” In his reply, Minister Fjordbotten asks Purdy for specific facts to back up his allegations.


    In winter, AWA’s Wilderness Alberta publishes a summary article of Brett Purdy’s submission to the Integrated Resource Management Plan Review Team for the Lakeland Subregion. The article outlines a number of potential management problems in the Park and PRA having to do with the development of hiking, equestrian, and biking trails; commercial development such as golf courses and hotels; logging; commercial fishing; trapping; hunting; ATV use; logging; and oil and gas development and exploration.

    In December, in a letter to John McInnes, NDP Environment Critic, AWA expresses concern that the government, in planning the Park and PRA, is bending to local wishes, especially the local timber operators, the local Fish and Game club, and commercial fishermen.

    In a letter to Recreation and Parks Minister Steve West, AWA expresses concern regarding the IRP and the Park and PRA proposals. Included are the following points:

    • Continued concern with the designation of a PRA, which provides no protection and does not serve conservation goals in a meaningful way, and concern with the small land base proposed for both the Park and PRA.
    • Continued oil and gas exploration and development, extensive ATV use, and timber extraction will violate protected lands status and do little to serve the recreational potential of the land.
    • Old-growth forests in the area east of Seibert Lake are being threatened by logging interests, and the opportunity to select new lands for conservation of this natural region are disappearing with the continual expansion of the agriculture, forestry, and oil and gas industries.
    • Only three other parks conserve a significant number of natural themes common to the Mixedwood Boreal Forest.
    • Land use planning for the Lakeland area must go beyond local consideration and include provincial, national, and international strategies.

    In October, CPAWS Edmonton Endangered Spaces Education Committee publishes a Lakeland Factsheet in which they make the following comments on the Lakeland proposal:

    • The PRA would not afford any significant protection for the mixedwood ecosystem.
    • The proposed Provincial Park is not large enough to guarantee the long-term viability of its mixedwood ecosystem.
    • The proposed boundaries of the Park do not encompass important habitats such as patterned fen, so the ecosystem preserved within the boundaries would be neither viable nor representative.
    • The boundaries should be expanded to include at least Elinor Lake, Touchwood Lake, Seibert Lake, the drainages of the Sand and Wolf Rivers, and Wolf Lake.
    • A thorough biophysical inventory must be completed as a necessary step toward the final boundary determination and subsequent park management.
    • The existing proposals do not give preservation objectives and guidelines priority in the management of the Park. The entire proposal is oriented toward recreation and tourism development.

    In September, the Lakeland Public Opinion Summary prepared for Alberta Recreation and Parks by JB’s Communication Service is published with the following general findings:

    • People support the government’s proposal to develop a park featuring wilderness type of experience, with non-mechanized recreational focus and modest facility development.
    • People want a larger area set aside as a Provincial Park.
    • People support concentrating the recreational facility development in the southern portion of the area, at Elinor and Ironwood Lakes.
    • There are high levels of public support for an expansion to the proposed park.
    • There is a general consensus that no natural resource development should occur within the park (especially commercial fishing, logging and oil and gas activity); trapping can continue as planned.
    • People express concern about road access and about the impact of increased visitation on the fisheries.
    • A full biophysical assessment is requested.
    • Those against the proposal are concerned about increased pressure on resources, loss of livelihood, and jeopardizing the existence of CFB Cold Lake.

    In summer, AWA publishes an Action Alert on Lakeland, asking the public to support stronger conservation initiatives in Lakeland as follows:

    • The Park needs to be larger than that proposed.
    • It should be managed as a “heritage class” Provincial Park.
    • The wilderness core must be maintained.
    • Facility development should be oriented to the south end of the Park and to other PRAs and Parks in the Lakeland region.
    • A complete set of ecological information should be collected.

    In July, AWA presents a submission to the Integrated Resource Management Plan Review Team asking for the following changes:

    • The PRA should be included under the Provincial Park designation.
    • The park boundaries should be expanded to include Elinor and Wolf Lakes, and the Sand and Wolf Rivers to the confluence of the Sand River and Punk Creek. AWA argues that these inclusions will allow the park to accommodate recreational uses without affecting the park’s wilderness core (i.e., the Jackson-Kinnaird-Blackett-McGuffin-Dabbs Lakes area, the Touchwood-Spencer-Siebert Lakes area and the uplands between these lakes).
    • Recreation facility development should be directed toward the southern end of the Park along Elinor and Ironwood Lakes.
    • Less intensive development should occur on Pinehurst Lake.
    • The Park should be managed as a Heritage Provincial Park, including the proposed PRA, since such a designation focuses on the protection and interpretation of the natural environment.
    • Within the park’s wilderness core, facility development, motorized vehicle use, and natural resource development should not be permitted.
    • Full biophysical inventories of the land encompassing the Park must be completed to provide a firm foundation for wise park management.

    In a letter to Recreation and Parks Minister Steve West, Kevin Van Tighem expresses his support of AWA’s proposal for a larger wilderness provincial park. “Compared to 170,000 square kilometers for pulp companies, 1,036 square kilometers for heritage protection and wilderness recreation/tourism is clearly less than even the barest of bare minimums.”

    In June and July, Alberta Recreation and Parks participates with Alberta Forestry, Lands and Wildlife in a five-year review of the IRP. In June and July, members of the planning team meet with various groups that had an interest in the area: local timber operators, individuals interested in fisheries and economic development, the Metis association, the Treaty 6 Tribal Council, AWA, Lac La Biche Town Council, and the Alberta Trappers’ Association. Open houses are held in Lac La Biche, Glendon, and Edmonton.

    In June, Public Open Houses are held in Fort McMurray, Glendon, Edmonton, and Lac La Biche on the proposed Park and PRA.

    In May, the Lakeland Tourism Destination Resort Plan, commissioned by Alberta Tourism Minister Don Sparrow, is completed by an independent consulting firm. The plan identifies and assesses five kinds of potential tourism generators: lakeside resorts, adventure opportunities, heritage tourism developments, Lac La Biche, and Lakeland Provincial Park and Provincial Recreation Area. The conclusions include the following: “There is significant interesting developing the recreation tourism industry in the Lakeland area. If the area is developed prudently, and reasonable coordination occurs, there is reason to believe that tourism developments in the area can be viable and can generate regional economic benefits.

    “However, the conservation of the landscape and fish and wildlife resources in the area will be critical to long-term success. It will be important that cautious management of these resources is a major concern in the planning and locating of tourism developments.”

    Existing auto-access camping areas are transferred from Alberta Forest Service to Alberta Recreation and Parks.

    In March, Alberta government announces its intention to establish a major new Provincial Park and Provincial Recreation Area in the Lakeland area. Recreation and Parks sees the park as serving two purposes: to conserve a representative example of mixedwood boreal forest and to provide a boreal outdoor recreation node in the province.

    Lakeland Provincial Park is announced in the Throne Speech. The goals of the proposed Lakeland Provincial Park and Recreation Area are two-fold: to preserve the mixed wood boreal forest in the area and to provide a recreation area.


    Tom Maccagno, president of the Lac La Biche Mission Historical Society, expresses his concerns in a letter to Premier Don Getty about a proposed pulp mill in the Lac La Biche-Athabasca region. Maccagno’s concerns include the impact such a development would have on the environment and indirectly on the restoration of the historic Lac La Biche Mission.


    Three grazing licenses are issued in Lakeland, and then cancelled the following year because of public opposition to agricultural expansion in the area. A moratorium is placed on further agricultural applications.


    The Water Management Plan for the Cold Lake-Beaver River Basin is adopted.

    In June, the Lakeland Integrated Resource Plan for a 3,370 km2 area is approved on June 19. Its primary recommendation is to develop a wide range of recreational uses, although it also outlines strategic directions for the management of the area’s many resources, including agriculture. Twelve resource management areas are created, nine of which have a recreation focus; the other three are designated for multiple use and agriculture.

    • Major destination areas are proposed for Beaver, Pinehurst, and Touchwood Lakes. Minor destination areas are proposed for Wolf, Fork, Square, Frenchman, Ironwood, Elinor, and Rich Lakes.
    • The Jackson, Kinnaird, Dabbs, Blackett, McGuffin, and Helena group of lakes is to be managed as a wilderness boating and canoeing area.
    • Most of the land base remains accessible for non-recreational uses and activities, including agricultural expansion, timber harvesting, and oil and gas development. The latter two uses will be restricted in areas of high recreation value.
    • Access into and through the area will be geared to the needs of recreational development. Road developments and utility corridors will not be permitted in the central portion of the planning area.


    In October, A round table meeting is held on Oct. 17 in Lac La Biche to permit the Alberta Integrated Planning Advisory Committee members to discuss their concerns with the planning team. The public consultants do not have any major concerns with the plan and the planning team decides to recommend some minor revisions but no major changes.

    In September, The Lakeland Integrated Resource Plan is distributed to the Alberta Integrated Planning Advisory Committee on Sept. 12.


    Lakeland is proposed for preservation.


    January: Alberta Environment begins the Cold Lake-Beaver River Water Management Study.


    The Lakeland Resource Management Policy, developed by an interdepartmental planning team and providing a policy framework for resource management within the planning area, receives approval.


    The Draft Cold Lake Regional Plan is completed. The Cold Lake planning area overlaps with the southern portion of AWA’s Primrose-Lakeland Area of Concern.


    An interdepartmental committee comprising representatives from Recreation & Parks and Forestry, Lands & Wildlife agree that the Lakeland area should be designated as a special integrated management unit. Recreational land uses are to have priority over other resource land uses.

    The initial Request-for-Decision proposed a 147 km2 Provincial Park and a 441 km2 Provincial Recreation Area. The 588 km2 area represents 15 percent of the Lakeland Sub-Regional IRP area.

    A brief prepared for the Premier states that “an integrated management plan could be prepared for the area. This plan would integrate recreation, forest harvesting, agriculture, oil and gas exploration and development, commercial fisheries operation, angling, trapping, and wildlife management.”

    A Community Advisory Committee is set up in the Cold Lake area as a forum for discussing issues related to water use. Members include representatives from local government, environmental groups, farmers, trappers, and industry.


    The Alberta government initiates an Integrated Resource Plan for the Lakeland area. A report suggests that recreation uses should have priority over all other uses in the area.


    In the Provincial Park Proposal prepared for the Hon. A. Adair, the following “potential issues and conflicts” are identified: snowmobiling, hunting, commercial fishing, forestry, acquisition of inholding, location of park boundary, and native hunting and fishing rights. Among the stated goals is “to conserve, for the continuing benefit of Albertans, outstanding natural resources through wise management and use.” Among the objectives is “protection of special and sensitive features such as unique and outstanding representative plant communities and land forms, nesting habitats, ungulate range, etc.”


    Hon. Dr. Allan A. Warrack identifies the Lakeland area as a priority item for consideration in his submission of unfinished business to the Hon. Peter Lougheed. He indicates that a park boundary could be identified and a recommendation to establish a park could be presented in 1976.

    An interdepartmental task force, including members from the Department of Recreation, Parks & Wildlife, Energy & Natural Resources, and the Northern Development Group, is formed to assess the consultant’s report completed in 1974 and to propose management options to deal with resource conflicts.

    Five hundred km2 of land in the Lakeland region is put under Crown reservation for Provincial Park status, including the south half of Elinor Lake.


    A biophysical resource inventory is completed by Clissold & Tress covering the area from Lac La Biche to Cold Lake. This report follows a study of the area indicating a high degree of recreational potential in the Lakeland area.


    The need for additional provincial parks to provide more and varied recreational opportunities and to conserve unique and representative natural and cultural resources is identified in the Provincial Parks Policy Position Paper #13.


    A park reservation is placed on an area from Lac La Biche to Cold Lake, which includes the Lakeland area.


    The Local Timber Permit program is established, allowing farmers to remove wood from the Lakeland area for their needs (fence posts, etc.). A small sawmill industry develops in the area.


    The Primrose Lake Air Weapons Range (later renamed the Cold Lake AWR) straddling the Alberta-Saskatchewan border, is established following the creation of NATO in 1951.

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