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The forests of Alberta’s Rocky Mountain and Foothills Natural Regions are home to a diverse array of wildlife and serve as the water catchment for most of Alberta, as well as large parts of Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

AWA is committed to maintaining and restoring Rocky Mountains and Foothills forest ecosystems that will sustain biological diversity and viable wildlife populations, provide clean drinking water, and promote long-term economic opportunities.  AWA believes that these forests must be recognized and managed for their immense watershed and wildlife values, not just as a source of timber, and supports ecosystem-based forest management.

    • Introduction
    • Concerns
    • History
    • Archive
    • Other Areas

    AWA actively advocates for proper recovery of species at risks within Alberta’s Rocky Mountain Forests, including caribou, westslope cutthroat trout, and grizzly bears.  The Fish and Forests Forum collaboratively brings together groups to work on issues related to native fish and Eastern Slopes.

    Oldman headwaters, N Douglas

    Oldman headwaters (N. Douglas)

    Rocky Mountain Forests, which also equate to Alberta’s Eastern Slopes, are situated in the high elevation, high precipitation area of western Alberta. These forests serve as the water catchment for most of Alberta, as well as large parts of Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

    Healthy forests serve an invaluable role in collecting, storing and filtering water, and slowly releasing it into creeks and rivers. Forest elements such as soil, understory vegetation and dead wood store water during periods of high precipitation and slowly release it as conditions dry. In the same process, these forest elements filter water, improving its quality.

    In the past, management of these forested lands placed a priority on the production of a sustained and healthy water supply. In more recent years, this has arguably been superseded, so that the primary use of forests has become the production of a sustained supply of timber. By removing or damaging these essential elements, as through clearcut logging, the landscape’s ability to filter, store and slowly release water is compromised.

    Rocky Mountain and Foothills NRs with Protected Areas



    The 49,000-km2 Rocky Mountain Region is divided into three subregions: alpine, sub-alpine and montane subregions.

    The high-altitude alpine subregion is predominantly tree-free. The Subalpine subregion is characterized by closed lodgepole pine forests at lower elevations, open stands of Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir at higher elevations, and stunted krummholz trees near the treeline.

    In the montane subregion, higher elevations are characterized by closed mixedwood and coniferous forests dominated by lodgepole pine. At lower elevations, the montane subregion is comprised of lodgepole pine, Douglas fir and aspen stands with open grasslands on south and western facing slopes.

    The foothills region contains rolling hills and plateaus with deciduous and mixedwood forests at lower elevations; and coniferous forests at higher elevations.



    Eastern Slopes Policy

    In 1977, the Government of Alberta created A Policy for Resource Management of the Eastern Slopes, later revised in 1984.  The policy provided management intentions and direction to meet provincial social, economical, and environmental goals for the Eastern Slopes region.  Watershed management was listed as the highest priority with recreation and tourism benefits being extremely important as well.  The management of renewable resources, such as forests, was stated to be the long-term goal of the policy.

    Watershed management is approached in four ways. First, natural resources are to be developed to maintain or increase the volume and natural timing of surface and subsurface water discharge.  Second, headwaters are to be managed to maintain recharge capabilities and protect critical fisheries habitat. Third, the South Saskatchewan River Basin is to be intensively managed to maintain water supply stability.  And finally, the North Saskatchewan and Athabasca river watersheds are to be managed to maintain natural flows and provide the option for future increases in water yield.  Timber is to be managed to ensure a healthy forest environment and harvested through sustained-yield.

    The Eastern Slopes Policy introduced 2 designations for environmental protection: the prime protection zone and critical wildlife zone.  The prime protection zone preserves the high elevation forests and slopes that have high aesthetic and ecological value.  These zones get the greatest amount of precipitation, and therefore, are responsible for the majority of stream flow of the region.  These areas also contain critical wildlife ranges for big horn sheep and mountain goats.  A wide range of recreation options, from hunting to alpine skiing, are permitted in this zone.  Most industrial developments are incompatible with this zone.  The purpose of the critical wildlife zone is to protect terrestrial and aquatic habitats that are crucial to the maintenance of wildlife populations.  Critical wildlife zones contain ranges, migration routes, calving and spawning areas.  Recreational activities and resource extraction are permitted to varying degrees within this zone.

    AWA supports the Eastern Slopes Policy and strongly recommends a moratorium be imposed on motorized recreation and trail development in the prime protection and critical wildlife zones, as well as critical habitat for species at risk.

    Land-use Framework

    In 2008, the Government of Alberta promised to develop 7 Land-use Framework regional plans that outline an approach to managing Alberta’s land and resources.  Of the 7 regions, the forests of the Rocky Mountain and Foothills Regions are found in the Upper Peace, Upper Athabasca, North Saskatchewan and South Saskatchewan Regions.  The Land-Use Framework recognizes that biodiversity is important for the management for healthy and resilient forests and emphasizes the watershed value of forests: “Historically, watershed and recreation were deemed the priority uses of the Eastern Slopes. These priorities should be confirmed, and sooner rather than later.”

    Ecosystem Based Forest Management

    Currently, the quantity of forestry activity is managed through Forest Management Agreements (FMA), with mandatory cut requirements (e.g., allowable annual cuts), that may inadvertently allow logging beyond long-term sustainability. In addition, these management systems do not provide any incentive to harvest in a method that retains ecological diversity or limits impact to species at risk.

    Ecosystem-based forest management could include:
    – An adequate system of parks and protected areas
    – Ecologically appropriate harvest levels
    – Retention of critical wildlife habitat
    – Recognition of Aboriginal rights
    – Equally distributed benefits to the community

    This calls for several changes in approach to maintain healthy forests:

    1. Using integrated land-use planning, especially before tenure allocation;
    2. Maintaining natural forested ecosystems;
    3. Completing a system of representative protected areas;
    4. On a national basis, maintaining carbon reservoirs and managing the forest to be a net carbon sink, over the long term; and
    5. Conserving old-growth forests and threatened forest ecosystems.

    This strategy recognizes that the long-term benefit of a forest is directly reliant on the ecological health of the forest.  Maintaining biodiversity and forest production is essential to healthy forest ecosystems, which in turn provides long-term socio-economic benefits.  Forest ecosystem management consider both consumptive uses, such as forestry and hunting, as well as non-consumptive uses, such as low-impact recreation and aesthetic value.


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

    Due to these deleterious effects, AWA believes that industrial-scale clearcut logging should be eliminated from (a) Wild Spaces delineated on AWA’s Wild Alberta map, (b) Woodland caribou range, (c) the entire Eastern Slopes in the Bow and Oldman River watersheds, (d) Prime Protection and Critical Wildlife Zones of the Eastern Slopes north of the Bow River watershed, and (e) areas identified as environmentally significant.

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

    Species at Risk

    Forest management plans and procedures must be changed to comply with recovery plans for species at risk. The Alberta government’s 2008 Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan notes that “human use of access (specifically, motorized vehicle routes) is one of the primary threats to grizzly bear persistence”.  While linear disturbance thresholds have been set in theory, there is no indication that management plans are being updated to implement these thresholds in practice.  Similarly, critical habitat for endangered fish species have been established but largely ignored when siting access roads and limiting motorized recreation.  Caribou are also affected by industrial development: competing species, such as deer and moose, are stimulated and predators can hunt along linear disturbances with increased efficiency.  Woodland caribou populations require as much as 65 percent undisturbed habitat to have a better-than-even chance of being self-sustaining.  Additionally, protection of caribou and other species at risk will benefit many other species in the ecological community.

    Watershed Integrity

    Four of Canada’s great rivers originate on the Eastern Slopes of the Rocky Mountains: the Peace, Athabasca, North Saskatchewan and South Saskatchewan.  Healthy forest ecosystems play a critical role in ensuring a high quality and quantity of water, especially when located in large watersheds.  Forest elements such as soil, understory vegetation and dead wood store water during periods of high precipitation and slowly release it as conditions dry. In the same process, these forest elements filter water, improving its quality. By removing or damaging these essential elements, as through clearcut logging, the landscape’s ability to filter, store and slowly release water is compromised. Throughout North America, municipalities have recognized the importance of watershed ecological integrity in supplying quality drinking water. Some municipalities, including New York and Vancouver, have gained control of lands in their upper watersheds to retain their critical forest elements and protect the water supply. In contrast, the headwaters of much of Calgary’s water supply have been included within a Forest Management Agreement granted by the Alberta government.


    In July, the Alberta Government enters into a new Forest Management Agreement (FMA) with Crowsnest Forest Products Ltd. (affiliated with Spray Lakes Sawmills) in the C5 Forest Management Unit west of Lethbridge. There was no public consultation prior to entering into this FMA. The Alberta Government news release states that the Castle Provincial Park will be excluded from the FMA, but says nothing about the Castle Wildland Provincial Park.

    The Forests Amendment Act came into force on May 1st, 2021. The Forests Amendment Act is an update to the Forests Act (1971) and is intended to facilitate commercial interests. It was proposed in October 2020 without any public or indigenous consultation. AWA is disappointed at the missed opportunity for needed reforms to support forest ecosystems and transparent, inclusive forest management.


    In November, the U.S. Department of Commerce ruled to retroactively lower tariffs for forest companies that participated in the first administrative review of softwood lumber litigation as of January 2018, as well as rates applied to future exports.

    In October, the government of Alberta allocated new timber quotas in Forest Management Units G16 and S22. 51,000 cubic metres of deciduous timber was allocated in G16, about 70 kilometres northwest of Grande Prairie and 21,000 cubic metres of coniferous timber was allocated in S22, about 300 kilometres north of Edmonton.

    In May, annual allowable cut was increased by 13% province-wide as part of the Forest Jobs Action Plan. To our knowledge, there was no assessment of how this increase in AAC would impact valued ecosystem components such as biodiversity, water quality and flow, or wildlife habitat.

    In April, the government of Alberta announced that it will defer timber dues for six months to help forestry companies continue operating amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.


    In October, AWA and eight other environmental organizations sent a letter to Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources concerning a Forest Products Association of Canada publication. The report claimed that FPAC’s efforts on caribou conservation represented leadership, when in reality FPAC’s conservation plan didn’t meet the minimum science-based habitat requirements necessary for long-term caribou survival.


    AWA followed the development of the Alberta government’s proposed ‘structure retention’ policy that we had encouraged the previous year. The 2016 draft policy proposed to maintain at least 10 percent of forest structure within merchantable forest stands, which we viewed as the bare minimum supported by research. We were disappointed to learn that the proposed 10 percent minimum average retention was reduced to 5 percent plus existing riparian buffers, so less than 10 percent in total.


    In December, $5.6 million in federal funding is secured by Genome Alberta for the Resilient Forests: Climate Pests & Policy – Genomic Applications project. This project is led by Alberta and will assess the ability of trees to adapt to threats such as climate-change and climate-induced insect outbreaks.

    In November, the United States Lumber Coalition files a petition with the US Department of Commerce to investigate Canada’s softwood lumber exports and potentially add new duties to softwood imports.

    In September, Global Forest Watch Canada’s study on the Castle Parks indicates that the remaining intact forests in the proposed Castle Provincial Park have been significantly reduced. Between 2000 and 2015, 76% of the forests became disturbed landscapes and are no longer secure habitat and watersheds.

    In July, Global Forest Watch Canada releases Canada’s Intact Forest Landscapes Updated to 2013.  The report found that intact forest landscapes declined by 4.8% from the year 2000.  Approximately 17.5% of this forest loss was located within protected areas.


    In October, the Softwood Lumber Agreement (signed in 2006) between the United States and Canada expires on October 12.  A 1 year moratorium on the US lumber industry’s ability to take legal action against Canada’s softwood lumber industry is instated.

    In September, The Alberta Government announces on September 4 that it plans to designate the Castle Special Management Area under Parks’ legislation through the creation of a Castle Provincial Park and Wildland Provincial Park. Commercial forestry in the Castle Special Management Area has been stopped and the process to designate the entire area under Parks’ legislation is underway.

    In July, AWA sends a letter to FSC Canada’s President, outlining the need for FSC to take control over the auditing process to ensure it is truly independent of industry. As it stands today, FSC sets the rules and accredits independent certifying organizations to carry out the audits of forest management to the agreed set of principles and criteria. Forestry companies then hire any of the accredited certifying organizations and are able to transfer to a different certifier once every five years.


    In December, AWA learns that experimental logging of Star Creek Valley is going ahead, despite the number of groups and individuals expressing concern about the project. Of particular concern is that the creek, downstream of the proposed logging area, contains westslope cutthroat trout, which is a federally and provincially listed threatened species.

    FSC Certification to Spray Lakes Sawmills is granted on December 3 2014 by Bureau Veritas (BV). The transfer audit report from Smartwood to BV contained 60 minor non-conformances, which the transfer audit report stated was an “extremely high number of non-conformances for a Canadian forest.” Yet BV closed all but one minor non-conformance. This huge discrepancy between two certifying organizations in less than a two year time period between audits, calls into question the standards of FSC certification and the certifiers.

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


    In December, logging in Hidden Creek, the most important spawning grounds for threatened bull trout in the entire Oldman River system in southern Alberta, reaches its end. It also contains threatened westslope cutthroat trout. AWA believes that the details surrounding  this logging operation, including the lack of an appropriate risk assessment, the speed of the operation, and numerous deviations allowed from the Operating Ground Rules, point to a failure on the part of the provincial government to adequately protect these threatened species.

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

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


    In August, documents recently released under a Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) application by Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA) reveal that the Alberta Government receives just $20 in royalties for each truckload of non-merchantable timber removed from the Castle.

    In May, Spray Lake Sawmills (SLS) is unsuccessful in its application for certification of its forests as sustainably managed. The company applied in 2010 for certification by the Forest Stewardship Council for the Kananaskis and Ghost parts of its operations (the forests covered by SLS’ twenty-year Forest Management Agreement (FMA) with the Alberta government: from the southern tip of Kananaskis Country north to Sundre).

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

    In April, Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition and local residents initiate a judicial review into the Alberta government’s decision to allow clearcut logging in the Castle.

    Four protesters are arrested on February 1 by RCMP for declining to leave the Castle logging protest camp, despite a court order to do so. Road clearing work at the site begins.

    In January, despite extensive public opposition, government plans for a clearcut logging operation in the Castle continue. Most of the timber cut by Spray Lake Sawmills will be used for fence posts and garden mulch. Despite the frigid temperatures, local residents set up a protest camp in the planned logging location. More than 150 people attend a rally, January 22 to protest the logging.

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

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


    In October, “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…”

    Logging plans for the C5 forest management area are changed to include clearcut logging in the Castle, despite intense local opposition. 120 hectares of this “matchstick forest” are scheduled for clearcutting. The new premier, Alison Redford, receives thousands of letters and emails asking her to suspend the logging and protect the Castle.

    In March, South Saskatchewan Regional Advisory Council publishes its Advice to the Government of Alberta for the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan. Includes some strong recommendations, including: ““Manage land in the headwaters (e.g., Eastern Slopes and Cypress Hills areas) so that maintaining watershed integrity is given highest priority by considering impacts of land disturbance in management decisions.”

    But it also contains conflicting recommendations such as “All of the South Saskatchewan Region should be used by people for their economic interests and their enjoyment” (p7) and “The promotion of responsible exploration, development, and extraction of energy and mineral resources… and new investments are to be promoted.”

    No attempt is made to explain how these conflicting recommendations will be managed.


    In December, AWA responds to Spray Lake Sawmills’ application for Forest Stewardship Council certification for “sustainable” management of the forests in its Forest Management Agreement (FMA) area in Kananaskis and the Ghost. “While AWA believes that SLS’s interest in receiving certification for their forestry operations is significant and desirable, we also believe their current standards of forestry operations are inadequate to qualify them for FSC certification.” Considerable improvements will be needed before management of these forests can be considered to be “sustainable.”

    “AWA believes FSC has the potential to set a high standard of sustainable ecosystem based forest operations for Spray Lake Sawmills and that if SLS accepts that challenge, there will be significant gain for our forest ecosystems.”

    In August, Area 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.”

    In July, the new priorities from the draft Land-Use Framework document are seemingly ignored when the Alberta government publishes the final Management Plan for the C5 Forest in July 2010. AWA is intensely disappointed that the final plan shows very few changes from the discredited 2007 draft. The 125% “surge” cut has now become a 120% “surge” cut, but AWA believes that the new plan is still very much a “logging” plan rather than a “forest” plan.


    The Alberta government’s 2008 Land-Use Framework clearly states: “Historically, watershed and recreation were deemed the priority uses of the Eastern Slopes. These priorities should be confirmed, and sooner rather than later.”


    In March, New Minister of Sustainable Resource Development, Ted Morton, suspends implementation of the plan “with an eye to shifting priorities to better consider environmental protection.” (Calgary Herald, March 13, 2007)


    In May, the Alberta Forest Product Association releases the results of their Alberta Forest Usage Survey. The survey was intended to understand “societal values Albertan’s [sic] hold towards their forestlands.”  The top four values identified in the survey are replanting/reforestation; protection of wildlife and habitat; harvesting practices that manage ecological impacts; and regulations or restrictions on industrial land use.

    The AWA reports that the results of the Alberta Forest Products Association survey of Autumn 2005 indicate that, like the AWA, Albertans support “responsible ecosystem-based forest management that does not compromise wildlife and wilderness values …”

    In March, in a letter to the Alberta government, CROWPAC, the public advisory group for the C5 Forest, writes: “Our committee believes current cut block maximums coupled with low retained structure have great potential to compromise the ecological and social values inherent in the plan.”


    In November, in its response to the draft management plan for the C5 Forest, AWA writes: “AWA believes that current management of Alberta’s forests, particularly those along the southeastern slopes, is inadequate to achieve any meaningful targets for biodiversity or maintenance of forest eco-system health. The status quo is not acceptable, and the C5 Forest Management Plan (C5 FMP) needs to allow for some major changes in forestry practices. While the draft C5 FMP is full of some laudable principles, it is difficult to be optimistic that these will result in the substantive on-the-ground changes which are so desperately needed.”


    In August, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) National Boreal Standard for Canada is published. The Standard “is intended to identify the practices to be employed in a well-managed Canadian boreal forest.”

    In May, a report released by Global Forest Watch Canada states that between 1975 and 2001, the annual area logged in Alberta increased by 214%.


    In September, Canada’s Large Intact Forest Landscapes, a report by Global Forest Watch Canada, states that only 17% of Alberta’s natural, unprotected forests are ecologically intact and untouched by development.

    The Alberta government asks for public comment on a proposed management plan for the C5 Forest. In its submission, AWA writes: “AWA is concerned about the impacts of forestry within the C5 Forest Management Unit. We would like to see more compatible uses of the landscape, such as smaller-scale “post and pole” logging operations and ecotourism, that consider ecological values (i.e., water purification and wildlife habitat). Further, AWA believes that motorized recreation should not be present in sensitive wilderness areas and should be restricted to designated trails.”

    The huge Lost Creek fire burns more than 21,000 hectares of the C5 Forest. Fighting the fire costs and estimated $30 million.


    In December, “Whatever Happened to the Alberta Forest Conservation Strategy?” by Richard Schneider, Alberta Centre for Boreal Research, is published in Encompass. Schneider provides an update on governmental activity vis-à-vis the AFCS; the primary conclusion is that the government has not implemented any of the strategies outlined in the AFCS, but continues to focus on using forests for their economic values. Schneider does point out, however, that the forestry industry itself is stepping into the void created by government inaction. Forestry companies are responding to the public’s demand for responsible forest management, and have implemented forest certification through the Forest Stewardship Council.

    In November, the AWA and three other non-profit organizations publish Structural Impediments to FSC Certification in Alberta: Overcoming Barriers to Well-Managed Forests. The report highlights two impediments to well-managed forests and FSC certification:

    • The lack of a scientifically-defensible protected areas network in Alberta;
    • The inability of Alberta’s forest industry to manage forests for ecological sustainability due to the activities of Alberta’s petroleum industry.

    The report concludes that there are strategies to removing these impediments, and calls on government to provide the leadership to ensure the impediments are removed.

    The Pembina Institute publishes The Alberta GPI Accounts: Forests. (GPI = Genuine Progress Indicators). The report’s conclusion states: “…while the economic benefits in terms of Alberta’s forestry GDP have increased handsomely in 40 years there are reasons to be concerned about the long-term sustainability of Alberta’s timber supply and the condition of the forest ecosystem at current rates of industrial development and human impacts.”


    In May, the Old-Growth Forests of Alberta by Kevin P Timoney is published. In his conclusion, Timoney states “Old-growth forests in Alberta are disappearing at an exponential rate. If the public does not gain control immediately, old-growth forests and crown land in Alberta will share the fate of the plains grizzly and the passenger pigeon.”

    In an article in the Wild Lands Advocate Glenda Hanna (President, AWA) charges that the government is choosing to ignore the principles of the Alberta Forest Conservation Strategy. Hanna states that the Alberta Forest Legacy document is “a shallow, highly selective abstract of the … AFCS … the content and context suggests strongly that it will be interpreted at every turn to meet a pro-development, anti-conservation agenda.”

    In Spring, the Alberta Forest Legacy document is released by Alberta Environmental Protection.  This is the provincial government’s response to the Alberta Forest Conservation Strategy.  The document states that the Alberta Forest Legacy “…challenges us to… blend consideration of all resources values, measurable and perceived …”  The first subheading is Economic Opportunities Today and Tomorrow and discusses the importance of forest lands as a source of income.  Ecological Integrity of the Forest states that forest ecosystems are “subject to change… [due to] … recent human activities.”  “Maintenance of heritage areas in support of forest conservation will be achieved as necessary …” “The Alberta Forest Legacy accepts the vision, goal and principles of the Alberta Forest Conservation Strategy.”

    In January, an AWA media release criticizes the provincial government for ignoring public input it received in developing the Alberta Forest Conservation Strategy.  Glenda Hanna of AWA states that “Most of the actions of Minister of Environmental Protection, Ty Lund, and his staff … remain consistently and consciously contrary to the spirit, intent, and content of the AFCS … the government continues to overallocate forests for resource extraction and to ignore direction to include meaningful public input in decision making …”


    In September, the Alberta Forest Management Science Council presents its report, Sustainable Forest Management and its Major Elements: Advice to the Lands and Forest Service on Timber Supply and Management. The report recommends five elements of sustainable forest management:

    • Ecological Integrity and Inherent Disturbance
    • Desired Future Forest
    • Social and Economic Values and Public Involvement
    • Scales – Spatial and Temporal
    • Adaptive Management

    The report concludes that their “definition of Sustainable Forest Management is consistent with but not the same as the definitions of the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers or the Alberta Forest Conservation Strategy. The Council has changed the definition so that a clear connection between ecological integrity and social and economic values can be made. The Council advises the Land and Forest Service to raise this difference to the Minister of Environmental Protection and the Minister of Natural Resources Canada to ensure that this protocol is consistent with Alberta’s and Canada’s approach

    In June, Alberta Forest Conservation Strategy is published.  This 29-page document outlines the vision, goal, and principles of the AFCS, and its focus on sustainability, ecological management, sustainable forest economy, protected areas, range of management intensities, and participation and partnerships.

    The AFCS Vision for Alberta’s forests is:

    • “For centuries to come, Alberta will have vast forest areas, including forest areas with a pristine character, in which natural structures and functions continue to evolve.
    • Forest areas will continue to meet our needs for ecosystem services such as clean air and water, as well as economic opportunity, material goods, recreation, leisure and spiritual connection.
    • Albertans will have the opportunity to be informed and to participate in decisions made affecting the forest. Users of the forest will work as partners to meet the challenges of sustaining the forest.”

    Five Strategic Directions are:

    • Ecological Management. “Ecological management proposes that forestry and other human activities be conducted in ways that resemble the scale and effects of natural disturbances. The forests that result, and the environmental benefits we gain, should be similar to those crafted by natural ecosystem processes.”
    • Sustainable Forest Economy. “Alberta’ s economic gains can be enhanced by looking for ways to process and add value to raw products from the forest ecosystems.”
    • Protected Areas. “The Alberta Forest Conservation Strategy calls for protection of a network of representative areas within the forest ecosystems… protected areas are needed as storehouses of information and scientific controls. They are also vital to the realization of other values, such as recreation, tourism, culture, and wildlife habitat.”
    • Range of Management Intensities. “Four management intensities are proposed within the Alberta Forest Conservation Strategy – extensive management, intensive management, facility, and protection.”
    • Participation and Partnerships. “Participation in decisions, and partnerships in implementing ecological management, are key elements of forest sustainability.”


    In March, Alberta Forest Conservation Strategy: Report of the Initiating Workshop, March 10-11, is published.  The workshop was “an attempt to develop stakeholder consensus on the need for, and character of a Forest Conservation Strategy for Alberta … Ken Higginbotham, Assistant Deputy Minister responsible for the Alberta Forest Service, committed to the development of a Forest Conservation Strategy within the next two years and … agreed that the Forest Act needed to be reviewed and would likely require amendment once the Strategy was completed.” (AWA File A.F.C.S. 1993).  “The workshop concluded with the creation of an interim steering committee whose responsibilities were to include … developing a proposed process for the further development of the Strategy.”

    The Forestry Stewardship Council, an international non-profit organization, is founded to support environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable management of the world’s forests.


    In December, the Alberta Environmental Network and the Alberta Forest Products Association present Toward the Development of An Alberta Forest Conservation Strategy to Alberta Forestry, Lands and Wildlife. The document outlines the vision, composition, procedure and timeline of the AEN and AFPA Forest Policy Subcommittee.


    In Spring, meetings began between representatives of Alberta Environmental Network and the Alberta Forest Products Association. Among the broad mandates that both groups possess is the intention to protect nature. These meetings eventually led to the formation of the Alberta Forest Conservation Strategy.


    On December 19, the federal government announces that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans will spend up to $250,000 on a background study to learn more about the effect of clear-cut logging in the Prairie provinces will have on fish and fish habitat.

    In July, the Alberta Government announces a new policy for public involvement in forest management policy. The policy states that public involvement is mandatory for all companies holding forest management agreements.


    Alberta Forestry, Lands and Wildlife is created as a separate department out of the renewable resources sector of Alberta Energy and Natural Resources.


    The Policy for Resource Management of the Eastern Slopes states “The highest priority is placed on watershed management to ensure a reliable supply of clean water for aquatic habitat and downstream users.”

    In February, following public hearings held in 15 centres in western Alberta regarding forestry operations, the The Environment Council publishes The Environmental Effects of Forestry Operations in Alberta.

    “It must be remembered that some uses (of forests) are simply incompatible. If the public wants timber harvesting on a certain area of land, some other uses may have to be sacrificed. On the other hand, if people want these other uses to have primacy, timber harvesting may have to be prohibited from certain lands.”

    “The use of public land in Alberta is too important and too critical to be left exclusively to departmental managers or even ministers. The public at large wishes to have input into decisions about the use of public lands.”

    The AWA’s submission to the Council is included in AWA Newsletter 9(2) Fall 1979. AWA’s submission includes: “The almost complete past allocation to timber harvest of Green Zone lands in most areas of the province prior to any survey of other needs (i.e. natural areas, wildlife reserves, wilderness areas, wildland recreation areas) may preclude subsequent disposition for competing land uses where timber harvesting would be incompatible.”

    (Prior to the public hearings, the Environmental Conservation Authority publishes a series of Information Bulletins providing background information on Alberta’s forestry industry).


    In April, Environmental Effects of Forestry Operations in Alberta: Fish and Wildlife Division Concerns and Recommendations is published by the Fish and Wildlife Division of Alberta Recreation, Parks and Wildlife. The Conclusion states “… many of the recommendations pertaining to the Fish and Wildlife Division in the previous reviews have … not been implemented [and] for many it is almost too late for implementation.”


    Policy for Resource Management of the Eastern Slopes is adopted.


    North Western Pulp and Power (later to become Weldwood) prepares Alberta’s first detailed forest management plan, with three paramount principles:

    • Practice sustained yield forest management
    • Schedule the oldest ages first, and return them to fast-growing regenerated stands
    • Maintain a uniform log haul distance from the woods to the mill over time


    North Western Pulp & Power signs the first Forest Management Agreement in Alberta.


    The Forests Act is proclaimed, and new policies implemented, including area-based agreements, 20-year renewable leases, and sustained-yield management. A detailed forest inventory is initiated to define the available wood supply (a requirement for attracting large forestry projects).

    The Forests Act gives jurisdiction over the control and administration of public lands, timber and forest fires to the Department of Lands and Forests. It provides for timber berths and licences, as well as permits. It makes the first provision for forest management licence – the continuous leasing of a designated area as long as the holder practices sustainable yield forestry.  It provides authority for the government to enter into agreements for the disposition of pulpwood with a company involved in manufacturing.  It allows for long term agreements in exchange for construction or manufacturing activities.  All timber acquired under the Act (except for dry pulpwood) is to be manufactured in the province.


    The Alberta Forest Service is established, providing the basis for administering and servicing the expanding forestry sector.  The Green Zone, which restricts the encroachment of agriculture onto lands best suited for forestry, is also established.


    The Eastern Rocky Mountain Forest Conservation Board is established jointly by the federal and provincial governments to address fire protection and regulation of harvesting.


    The Alberta Forest Reserves Act is passed; the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council is empowered to establish forest reserves for the maintenance, protection and reproduction of lumber, animals, birds and fish.

    The Provincial Lands Act continues the system of timber berths and permits which had been established under Dominion legislation. One-year licences for timber berth holders are tied to establishment of a mill, and payment of rent and royalties.


    The Alberta Natural Resources Act is passed. The Natural Resource Transfer Agreements transfer jurisdiction over natural resources to the governments of the three prairie provinces, retaining power over the administration of Crown lands in the Yukon and Northwest Territories (as well as some federal lands within the provinces: reserves, national parks and military bases).


    The importance of preserving the forests of the Eastern Slopes to protect our watersheds is noted in a letter written by J. S. Dennis, Chief Inspector of the Department of the Interior, Surveys and Irrigation. He writes, “In discussing the subject of the water supply in the arid portion of the Territories (prairie region), I have directed my attention to the important part which the preservation of the forests on the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains and the foothills plays in the permanence of this water supply.” He goes on to emphasize that “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…. To accomplish this preservation, it is respectfully urged that no more permits to cut the timber on the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains south of the North Saskatchewan River, or in the foothills to the east of the Mountains be granted, and that some steps be taken to prevent the annual forest fires which sweep through that region. At present time there are some thirty or forty licenses in force authorizing the cutting of timber in the areas in question, covering in all, some 580 square miles, and as these licenses probably cover the larger portion of the area containing merchantable timber, no injustice will be done if further permits are refused. It may also be pointed out that the revenue received from timber permits or licenses in this region constitute a very small portion of the loss which will result to the whole western portion of the Territories from any diminution of the water supply, and this supply is certainly dependent upon the preservation of the forests in the watershed of the region. It is therefore respectfully urged that the magnitude of the interests involved justifies a determination on the part of the Department to refuse any further licenses to cut timber on the areas in question.”

    March 19, 2024

    Action Alert: Speak up for Banff’s ecosystems

    Dear valued AWA members, As you may have heard, plans are underway to rehabilitate Banff’s…

    Read more »

    February 22, 2024

    Northback Holdings response to AER’s review process

    On February 22, 2024, AWA was cc’d on correspondence from Northback Holdings Corporation to the…

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    February 21, 2024

    Upper Highwood Logging on Pause

    The controversial logging plan in the Upper Highwood of Kananaskis is on hold, for now….

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    January 8, 2024

    Then They Wrote it All Down as the Progress of Man

    By Kennedy Halvorson Click here for a pdf copy. In 1971, American singer-songwriter John Prine…

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    November 28, 2023

    Northback Holdings Corp. response to AWA statement of concern

    On November 9, 2023, AWA received a letter from the legal counsel of Northback Holdings…

    Read more »

    November 28, 2023

    Summit Coal Inc. response to AWA statement of concern

    On October 5th, the legal counsel for Summit Coal Inc. sent a letter addressing all…

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    September 21, 2023

    AWA’s letter to the Premier and Minister of Energy and Mineral regarding Coal Mining in the Eastern Slopes

    Alberta Wilderness Association wrote Premier Smith and Minister Jean on September 21, 2023 to express…

    Read more »

    August 16, 2023

    Provincial Forestry Issues and Recommendations

    Forest management in Alberta is not sustainable or inclusive. Click here to read AWA’s briefing…

    Read more »

    June 19, 2023

    The Spring 2023 Wildfires: What Needs to Change?

    Wild Lands Advocate article by: Devon Earl Click here for a pdf version of the article….

    Read more »

    April 24, 2023

    Conservation of the Cardinal Divide

    Wild Lands Advocate article by: Devon Earl, Kristen Andersen, Beth MacCallum, with support from Elisabeth…

    Read more »

There is an urgent need to engage people with nature. All aspects of it. Not just the pretty bears and cute snakes. Also the realities of it, the death, struggles, and pain. Not only are people losing touch with nature, they are losing touch with the realities of nature.
- Clayton Lamb, January 2018
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