September 26, 2017
The South Ghost is a rugged, majestic wilderness area in the robust Front Range of the Rocky Mountains.
It is located approximately 70 kilometres west of the City of Calgary, bordered by Banff National Park to the west and the Stoney Indian Reserve to the east. The name “Ghost”, first recorded by Dr. Hector of the Palliser expedition, originates from a Stoney legend in which ghosts were seen along the river picking up skulls of warriors killed in battle against the Cree.
The name “Ghost” is also attached to a number of areas adjacent to AWA’s South Ghost Area of Concern.
The South Ghost area is an important natural area, particularly because it is a “critical sub-basin of a small and shrinking watershed that is being called on to supply an ever increasing downstream population.” This is a wilderness area, known for its raw beauty.
The South Ghost must be a wilderness area, sensitively managed according to the original intent of 1977 “prime protection” and “critical wildlife” zoning under the Eastern Slopes Policy. Wilderness values including wildlife habitat, production of a clean, healthy water supply, and minimum impact recreation, are paramount. The entire South Ghost area will be protected with the expansion of the Bow Valley Wildland and Don Getty Wildland to complete the protection of this wild and free area.
AWA is grateful for the support of Calgary Foundation for community work being carried out in the Ghost watershed, in cooperation with the Ghost Watershed Alliance Society.
This History covers AWA’s South Ghost Area of Concern, and also includes information for the adjacent Ghost Waiparous and Ghost River Wilderness areas.
The Ghost Stewardship Monitoring Group dissolves in April. The government of Alberta anticipates a recreation management plan for the Ghost in 2017.
The summer sees continued lawless behavior, such as shot-up posters of a semi-nude woman on a recreational vehicle trail. Concerns for safety abound.
In July, the government announces $2.5 million in upgrades to the Public Recreation Areas (PRA’s) in the Ghost Public Land Use Zone (PLUZ). It will see 5 areas refurbished with campground roads, RV sites, bear proof garbage bins, new washrooms, and improved trail signage. Work begins at Waiparous Creek PRA, Ghost Airstrip PRA, Fallen Timber PRA, Burnt Timber PRA, and Red Deer River PRA to be completed in 2018-19.
A grassroots group of locals, the Ghost Valley Community, urges the government of Alberta to place an immediate moratorium on logging operations in the Ghost Valley. The petition gathers 1,363 signatures.
The Community’s efforts stops a mud bogging event from occurring on the May long weekend.
Spray Lakes Sawmill’s Bluff Block has been pulled from logging due to a court action enacted by a member of the community.
In November, the MD of Bighorn Council offered a voluntary road use agreement to Spray Lakes Sawmills, allowing the use of Jamieson Road for log haul through the area to their South B9 Quota area. The decision sparks a rally on November 14 and 21, of which dozens participated.
The community leads actions such as community halls, petitions, and participation in AWA’s Fish and Forests forum.
139 people in the Ghost River valley delivered a letter to Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi highlighting the importance of the Ghost River watershed to Calgarians’ lives. In the winter, as much as 20% of the Bow River’s flow to Calgary comes from the Ghost River.
Spray Lake Sawmills (SLS) is unsuccessful in its application for certification of its forests as sustainably managed. The company applied in 2010 for certification by the Forest Stewardship Council for the Kananaskis and Ghost parts of its operations (the forests covered by SLS’ twenty-year Forest Management Agreement (FMA) with the Alberta government).
Report, Sustainable Forests, Sustainable Communities. The Future of Alberta’s Southwestern Forests, is released. Citizens and associations from communities throughout southwestern Alberta have joined together to document serious concerns with current industrial‐scale logging practices and present an alternative vision for the management of Alberta’s southwestern forests.”There is an urgent need to create an alternative model of forest management in Alberta. We envision a new model, based on ecosystem management, guided by independent scientific expertise and augmented by local community participation and benefit. We are not opposed to all logging. Instead we support the development of a forest management model that maintains healthy forest ecosystems as its primary function, and offers sustainable benefits to communities from the wise use of these forests…”
The Calgary man is fined $2000 for driving his truck in Waiparous Creek and damaging spawning grounds for threatened fish such as bull trout and cutthroat trout. Damage to fish habitat by unregulated motorized use in the Ghost-Waiparous region is a daily occurrence, but prosecutions are extremely rare.
AWA congratulates the relevant authorities and hopes that this may be a sign of a new and long-awaited commitment to enforcing regulations. While we recognize that current provincial legislation has long been inadequate to deal with rampant motorized abuse, at least there may be a renewed will to use federal legislation to get the job done. The sentencing, which sees the proceeds of the court fine go to the Ghost Watershed Alliance Society is also a promising sign.
South Saskatchewan Regional Advisory Council publishes its Advice to the Government of Alberta for the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan. Includes some strong recommendations, including: “Manage land in the headwaters (e.g., Eastern Slopes and Cypress Hills areas) so that maintaining watershed integrity is given highest priority by considering impacts of land disturbance in management decisions.” But it also contains conflicting recommendations such as “All of the South Saskatchewan Region should be used by people for their economic interests and their enjoyment” (p7) and “The promotion of responsible exploration, development, and extraction of energy and mineral resources… and new investments are to be promoted.” No attempt is made to explain how these conflicting recommendations will be managed.
AWA responds to Spray Lake Sawmills’ application for Forest Stewardship Council certification for “sustainable” management of the forests in its Forest Management Agreement (FMA) area in Kananaskis and the Ghost.
AWA releases an updated report, The Forests of Alberta’s Southern Eastern Slopes: Forest or Forestry? “The forests in southern Alberta are managed principally to provide a sustained yield of timber for the forestry industry. Other functions of healthy forests – including watershed and environmental services, recreational opportunities, and wildlife habitat – are managed as secondary concerns.”
A progress report on an Ecosystem-based Conservation Plan for the Ghost River Watershed is prepared by Silva Ecosystem Services on behalf of AWA and the Ghost Watershed Alliance. Findings include :
AWA sponsors a workshop followed by field surveys and work with Herb Hammond of the Silva Foundation on contract. The project is supported by the Calgary Foundation and the RBC Bluewater Foundation. A final report of our joint work with Herb Hammond is posted to the AWA website. It has been a stepping stone to work that will continue with ALCES Landscape and Land-Use Ltd. studies.
A 2006 Alberta Environment report, Water Quality Study of Waiparous Creek, Fallentimber Creek and Ghost River, finds that a 10-fold increase in sediment loading in Waiparous Creek can be attributed to off-highway recreational vehicle (OHRV) activity.
The Ghost-Waiparous Access Management Plan (GAMP or GWAMP) for motorized access is released after 15 year of on and off stakeholder consultation. GAMP ends days of unlimited access to the Ghost Waiparous area. Under these new regulations, motorized recreational activities will be managed using a network of designated trails. The area will continue to provide other recreational opportunities such as hiking, cycling and horseback riding.
The AWA expresses support for GAMP process but concern that without assurances of future funding and enforcement, there is little reason to believe that GAMP will result in significant change
The Ghost Forest Land Use Zone (Ghost FLUZ) and accompanying designated trails network is established, restricting random camping and allowing for 600 kilometres of trail for motorized users (previously there were only 189 km of trails officially designated).
AWA agrees to be represented on the new Ghost Stewardship Monitoring Group GSMG, an assembly of committed stakeholders of the Ghost-Waiparous Forest Land Use Zone that will deliberate and recommend GAMP implementation. Created under the Alberta government’s division of Sustainable Resource Development (SRD), the goals of the GSMG include :
Draft Detailed Forest Management Plan for Spray Lake Sawmills Forest Management Agreement area released in May 2006. This includes land within the Ghost Waiparous area. Considerable public reaction is received.
AWA writes to SRD to express its opposition to proposed recreational development at Trapper’s Hill Lodges. AWA is “extremely concerned about, and adamantly opposed to, the proposal by Richard Blair and the Lazy H Trail Company to place a 100 unit and 90 RV site 4-season tourist resort on 160 acres of public land at a prime location in the Eastern Slopes.” No reply is ever received from SRD.
A series of stakeholder meetings is held between April and October, with representatives from government, watershed groups, industry, ranchers, motorized access groups and environmental organizations. These meetings are focused on developing a set of guiding principles for future trail selection, and a hotly-contested trail map.
The Bar C Ranch and Cattle Company Ltd. wins an injunction, restraining several small quota holders within the South Ghost area of the Spray Lake FMA from conducting further logging operations on its leased lands. A judge rules that SRD “must give those who are affected a chance to have direct input” in land use decisions, particularly when the Department specifically says it will.
AWA contributes a written submission to the Ghost-Waiparous Access Management Plan and participates in subsequent focus meeting.
AWA expresses support for “the safe and responsible use of OHVs on designated trails in appropriate zones” and concern about the negative effects of OHVs and random camping (particularly their impact on the watershed and wildlife), conflicts with other recreational users of the area, and future measures for monitoring, enforcement and restoration.
Forest Service intends to prepare an access management plan but wait for funding approval.
The Alberta provincial government announces the creation of Don Getty Wildland Park within AWA’s South Ghost area.
Despite concerted opposition by AWA and other groups, a twenty-year Forest Management Agreement is signed between Province and Spray Lakes Sawmills, hands over management of over 300,00 hectares, including the non-protected areas of the Ghost. The FMA, which includes the Ghost Waiparous area, allows SLS to manufacture 90 million board-feet of lumber, wood chips, and other products annually. It also states that the primary use of the forest management area is “to establish, grow, harvest and remove timber”
An SRD brochure published at the time states that “Like all other FMAs, this one is a private business transaction between a corporate entity and the Crown.” AWA disagrees entirely: this is public land, and all Albertans should have a say in its management. The City of Calgary also has minimal input into the signing of the FMA, despite the fact that the FMA area is an important source of the city’s drinking water.
Forest Service completes GIS video audit in 2000 of 900 infrastructure & environmental problem spots, but have no funds to analyze them.
Provincial cutbacks limit enforcement and education efforts.
Ghost River Sub-Regional Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) is updated. The report notes that “Motorized recreational use has been known to occur to a limited degree within the Ghost River Wilderness Area where such use is prohibited.” The AWA registers disappointment with the development rather than protection focus of IRP, and sanctioning of off-road vehicle use in Prime protection zone.
Ghost River Integrated Resource Plan is published. Few restrictions are placed on OHV use or industrial activity.
The AWA makes submission to the Ghost River Integrated Management Plan (IRP). In this submission it is noted that “The old seismic line up the South Ghost River also experiences some motorized vehicle use. This line extends approx. fours miles into the proposed WRA. At this point, approximate elevation 5900’, the trail becomes too narrow for 4-wheeled vehicles and too rough for all but the most determined motorcyclists.”
AWA participates in a productive liaison with industry, the Albert Forest Service, and local ranchers in devising a timber harvest plan which minimizes environmental and aesthetic damage in an area adjacent to the subject project area.
AWA offers to participate in the development of an access plan for the region, but the Alberta Forest Service recommends AWA direct these concerns to the Ghost River Integrated Management Plan team.
Policy for Resource Management of the Eastern Slopes published. This document prioritizes watershed management to ensure a reliable supply of clean water for aquatic habitat and downstream use. In addition, the Eastern Slopes policy designated large areas of land for varying degrees of protection, resource management and development. The South Ghost area is zoned as Prime Protection and Critical Wildlife.
AWA first formally proposes the establishment of Wildland Recreation Areas in publication called Wildlands for Recreation.
The Wilderness Areas Act affords the adjacent Ghost River Area the protection of a legal statute. The act is designed to preserve the natural beauty of the area, as well as safeguard it from industrial development and occupation by man, except as a visitor.
The Provincial Parks Act 1964 designates the adjacent Ghost River Wilderness Area.
The Rocky Mountain Forest Reserve formally is established by the Forest Reserves Act, provides “for the maintenance of water supply and the conservation of forests and other vegetation.”
Management of the Rocky Mountain Forest Reserve is transferred to the Province of Alberta.
The federal government establishes the Rocky Mountain Forest Reserve for the protection of watersheds, and for the maintenance of conditions favourable to a continuous water supply.
JS Dennis, Chief Inspector of Surveys, Department of the Interior, writes about the forests of the southern Eastern Slopes in a letter to the Secretary of the Department of the Interior, Government of Canada. “The permanency of our water supply is largely dependent upon the preservation of the forests at present covering the watershed, and this protection can only be secured by prohibiting the cutting of the timber.”
Botanist Eugene Bourgeau and geologist Dr. James Hector of the Palliser expedition pass through area. They are the first to refer to this area as “Ghost.”
Duncan McGillivray, travelling with David Thompson on a visit to Bow River Area, killed, collected and prepared several specimen animals from the region for the purpose of scientific description and classification.
First Nation’s peoples arrive in this location more than 10 000 years ago.
The protected areas of the South Ghost – Bow Valley Wildland and Don Getty Wildland – are managed by the Tourism, Parks and Recreation ministry of the Alberta government. These areas do not yet have Management Plans to guide and explain their management. The non-protected areas are managed by Sustainable Resource Development (SRD).
Though most of the area is zoned under the Ghost River Sub-Regional Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) as “prime protection” or “critical wildlife,” a variety of uses is allowed, including oil and gas development, motorized recreation, some tourism development and cattle grazing.
A twenty-year Forest Management Agreement (FMA), signed in 2001, gives exclusive forestry rights to Spray Lake Sawmills. Although the FMA agreement states that the primary use of the forest management area is “to establish, grow, harvest and remove timber,” AWA believes strongly that the use of the area for recreation, and a source of clean water, should be more important uses.
Access in the South Ghost is currently managed under the Ghost Waiparous Access Management Plan (GAMP) released in 2006. GAMP is designed to provide opportunities for recreational use while maintaining the area’s natural resources. In the plan, emphasis is placed on the managing of recreational OHV use and random camping in the area.
The plan includes a map and detailed descriptions of the types of trails and their uses. Motorized recreational activities are managed using a network 600 kilometers in length of designated trails.
Other aspects of the plan include :
The Ghost Stewardship Monitoring Group (GSMG) is a diverse group of stakeholders who deliberate and recommend how best to implement the objectives set out by GAMP.
Public Lands Act 47(1)
A person who occupies public land and
Public Lands Act 54(1)
No person shall cause, permit or suffer:
Forests Act 10
Except as may be authorized by the Minister, no person shall
Ghost River Sub-Regional Integrated Resource Plan (1988)
A Policy for Resource Management of the Eastern Slopes (1984)
Draft Detailed Forest Management Plan for Spray Lake Sawmills Forest Management Agreement (2006)
Alberta Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan (2008)
September 26, 2017
December 14, 2016