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Logging Plans in the Bragg Creek Region

Report Submitted by SkierRoger
(trip) Date: Sunday Jun 18, 2023

Submitted: Sunday Jun 18, 2023 at 09:58


Members of the XC skiing community may be aware of concerns being expressed on social media regarding potential logging plans in the Bragg Creek region. I see that Bragg Creek Trails has recently posted a statement about the 2026 logging on their website:

I was asked to post a petition on this website but first began by reaching out for information from a very knowledgeable member of our skiing community. Here are a few things that everyone should know:

The so-called "logging maps" currently being circulated on social media were part of the 20 year long-range outlook that Spray Lakes Sawmills is required to update every 10 years. The intent of the maps is to provide a high level view of general forest areas that will be CONSIDERED for future planning. The maps are NOT the detailed cutblock layouts. Instead, they are the starting point for detailed planning and discussion with stakeholder groups (like Bragg Creek Trails, Moose Mountain Bike Trail Society, etc).

Spray Lakes Sawmills is legally required to consult with groups like Bragg Creek Trails. A detailed planning process for the 2026 logging cycle starts in January to March 2024. Forestry staff will be doing a detailed field evaluation of the forest to identify the various tree types, sizes, slope angles, water courses, etc. Once done, meaningful discussions can be held - including what areas are actually possible to log, options for hauling trees out and ways to minimize trail impact.

The resulting cut block and haul road plan will be substantially smaller than the generalized area shown in the overview map.

Both Bragg Creek Trails and Moose Mountain Bike Trail Society constructed their trail networks on public land with the full knowledge that this was public land, with multiple land uses, including oil and gas activity, forestry and cattle grazing.

In the past, forestry and energy has worked together to help build these trails. Here are several examples:

-Mountain Road is a Peiradea Energy Licence of Occupation road, which they allow to be used as a ski/multi use trail.

-Hostel Loop was originally a logging road.

-Telephone Loop was partially a logging road and partially the alignment of a telephone land line (from Elbow to Jumpingpound). The NW corner was upgraded by SLS in 2012, when the were logging in the area.

-East/West Crystal Line is mostly an old seismic cut line, however the part of East Crystal that goes up to Sundog is a logging road, which was upgraded by SLS in 2012. Most of the Crystal Links are old logging roads.

-Loggers is... a logging road.

-Iron Springs is a logging road and a portion of it was upgraded by Spray Lakes Sawmills in 2012.

-Iron Creek is a 50 year old logging road.

-Elbow is mostly an old logging road, and the north-south part is an old seismic cut line.

-Sundog is an old logging road.

-Moose Loop is a reclaimed energy road (on the east side) and an old logging road (on the west side). About 2 km of the NW portion was moved onto the 2012 Spray Lakes Sawmills logging road and they paid to turn it into a ski trail.

-Mountain View and Mountain View West were Spray Lakes Sawmills logging haul roads in 2012/13 and Bragg Creek Trails went through a formal process to have those roads transferred to be used as ski trails. Spray Lakes Sawmills replaced all of the culverts on those roads (now ski trails) and helped Bragg Creek Trails install the bridges, and upgraded the ditches and graded the road at no charge.

Ask yourself… what would the WBC XC ski trail network look like, without all these logging roads, seismic lines and energy roads?

If you hike or mountain bike at WBC, you should look at trails like Braggin Rights, Long Distance, Disconnect, Boundary Ridge, Bobcat or Snakes & Ladders to get an idea of how logging and trails can coexist on the same landscape.

Experts in the field, who possess far more knowledge than me urge us to allow the consultation and planning period to happen, starting in 2024. This will enable an open dialogue, with careful consideration of the impacts and potential solutions.

3 comment(s) posted


2023-06-21 at 08:31 - comment by MaSid

Nothing better than some real facts to inform a public consultation such as this. So thanks for sharing.

As a side note, recent logging in BC near elk pass has made the east elk-west elk traverse possible with light touring gear in safer terrain (previously best descended with AT gear in the older cut block: steeper avalanche terrain). This new route has provided a fantastic and invaluable ski experience for me and many others that is worthy of publication (coming this fall!).

Happy solstice and national indigenous awareness day!

Looking south from the high viewpoint on the traverse, above the old cut block.

2023-07-04 at 12:45 - comment by ShaunP

As someone who was involved in the full consultation process in 2012, here are my comments regarding this issue:

Logging definitely has the potential to benefit the Nordic community in the long run but that comes with a giant caveat and the question of how long, the long run is.

To address the point made regarding the maps posted. Yes these are very high level maps and they will change (as has been indicated in most posts showing the maps). They show the spatial harvest sequence as laid out by their 100 year plan. It’s a starting point only and plans will change.

What won’t change is the size. SLS has given notice that they will log 900ha (the equivalent of ~833 soccer fields). They’ve made it very clear that this size won’t change. 450ha will be taken from Moose Mountain and 450ha will come out of West Bragg. We welcome Spray Lake Sawmills to correct this statement if that is not correct.

Spray Lakes sawmills is legally required to consult with Bragg Creek Trails and Moose Mountain Bike Trail Society. Consultation only means that they need to listen to their concerns. There is no requirement to resolve the issues that are raised.

The trail network was built on public land and the right to log this area was issued to SLS in 2021. All of our parks were also built on Public Land and SLS used to log up and down the Spray Lake Valley until visionary leaders recognized the value in Tourism and Recreation as far greater than Forestry.

Alberta has 22.5 Million Hectares of harvestable forest. SLS holds Forest Management Agreements for 475,000ha. This cutblock is 900ha. It’s economic return to the province’s economy as a clearcut is little to nothing in the big picture.

On the other hand, this cut will remove the vast majority of remaining old growth in the busiest trail network outside of the parks. Outdoor Recreation on Crown Land produces $551 Million in tax revenue, 36,000 full time job equivalents and $2.8 Billion dollars in GDP.

This logging might benefit Nordic skiing in that it will likely result in a new ski trail. It will however remove lots of the shade and wind blocks that make the current trails useable. Last winter was an anomaly and Bragg normally is fighting hard to save their shallow snowpack from chinooks and warm spells. Trees are often the deciding factors on which trails survive.

Aside from Mountain View, ask those celebrating skiing old logging roads, how old those roads are. It takes at least 100 years for the forest to regenerate to a point of being harvestable again. Did you know that Spray Lake Sawmills has never logged a previously harvested area?

Yes the harvest in 2012 did result in numerous cuts that didn’t effect a vast majority of trails, but did you know that none of that was the result of the regular consultation with SLS? Had the government not got involved, the result would have been the first image attached in comments. It was only after massive outcry that the government forced the second photo to happen. Trail buffers (50m of trees either side of trails), haul roads not placed over singletrack and crossing at 90 degrees, cutblocks arranged to be placed inbetween trails, a reduction in the cut size were all adamantly fought against by SLS. Despite this mitigation, trails like Boundary Ridge, didn’t survive the harvest after the blowdown of the buffer. Other trails without buffers become so dry in the exposed hot sun that they become “kitty litter” with no traction or reprieve from the sun. In the winter the snow drifts make fatbike grooming near impossible and ski grooming difficult at best.

Safety is also a major consideration. Clear cuts attract grizzly bears. Grizzly Bears and high speed MTB traffic do not mix.

Fire is also a major consideration. The latest science is showing that managed forests are burning hotter and faster than old growth. Unlike the 2012 cut, this one will not be done under firesmart procedures. The slash and stumps will be left behind and the scarification process will encourage a highly flammable thick coniferous regrowth instead of fire resistant Aspen.

SLS also holds the only FMA’s in the fragile headwaters servicing the majority of Alberta’s population. Despite this they operate under the same guidelines as the companies in the vast forests of northern Alberta. The old forest harvest practices required a 20 year green up period between adjacent cut blocks. SLS will be pulling three major harvests covering the majority of the area between Moose Mountain and Bragg Creek all within 15 years. The past government also requested a 10% stand retention (leaving 10% of the forest within a cut behind). SLS uses up to 3%. New guidelines allow for all of this but we believe our headwaters deserve more stringent guidelines than minimum forest practices.

Do we think the petition will stop the logging? Probably not
Do we think the petition and a large public opposition will provide enough public attention that the government will be forced to step in and ensure that the logging is done responsibly? Hopefully so

You can sign the petition here: A grass roots petition has already received over 10,000 signatures and continues to grow!

It’s unfortunate that the fight and ensuing negotiations between the public and SLS aren’t being remembered accurately. It’s also disappointing that SLS is sharing a far more accurate map of the proposed logging with trails organizations that can’t speak publicly about it, while also not sharing the same map with the public. To just trust this company to do the right thing would be the biggest mistake that we all (including skiers) could make at this point.

Original plan

Plan after major opposition

2023-07-11 at 19:43 - comment by DEMOCRATIZE AB

If you look at Google Earth time lapse photos dating back to the 1990's you will see that more logging has occurred in the last 30 years in the Alberta Eastern Slopes than the previous 150 years, thanks to primarily the Conservatives in Alberta. The UCP are butchers of the Alberta Forests and are logging at a rate that the former corrupt Leader of Brazil would be shocked by.

I see pics of skiers skiing clear cuts and I just gag. Yes clear cutting can and provide some good skiing for a few years but after that they are too thick to ski. What really makes me gag is the looks of them and knowing the damage they cause.

The environmental damage occurring by the logging industry is unacceptable. More floods occur with clear cuts. More sediment fills lakes and reservoirs. Less wild life occurs and endangered species become more endangered with every clear cut. The caribou get wiped out. If you wonder why the bird population is crashing, it is because of the logging industry. Wood peckers like old growth trees to make holes in, which provide habitat for all sorts of bird species and animals.

Clear cuts lead to food inflation as irrigation water supplies dwindle and birds that eat food eating pests are killed off. Then the pests eat crops which leads to less food and higher prices because there are fewer birds eating the pests. Logging creates vicious circles of harm.

The NDP increased Spray Lakes Sawmills allowable cut when they were in power which disgusted me. The UCP does not care for forests. The UCP are the United Clearcutting Party. Some of the forest being logged is being chipped up and sold to the Chinese or whoever. Yes, Conservatives are chipping up our Alberta forests for the Chinese and others. Chipping up our forests to make butt wipe is immoral in this day and age when hemp could be used as a replacement. For every 4 acres of forest cut, only 1 acre of hemp is required to get the same volume. Hemp can replace most wood products such as chip board or OSB along with paper. Hell, it can replace all oil production as well.

If we lived in a legalized real democracy I would introduce a bill that bans logging in the Eastern Slopes in order to protect the remaining old growth forests of 100 years or more. Spray Lake Mill can disappear like the forests with a just transition for the workers. Corporations should not profit on logging when it affects water supplies for drinking and irrigation, water quality and when it is done without the consent of the people. Alberta's Forests should be reserved for Albertans, not corporations.

The Eastern Slopes used to be called the Forestry Reserve until the Provincial Government took control of the slopes from the Federal Government. The Conservatives give no respect to our forests as anyone who has travelled this province as much as me can understand. Voting Conservative or NDP means the liquidation of our forests and that is not responsible or moral, it is just expensive in the long run as the old growth forests provide more benefits alive than cut as any mushroom or berry picker will tell you. A forest is much more than just trees. It includes everything else in it including the mycorrhizal fungi and the caribou or red squirrels.

Lets hear about skiing in old growth forest where the best lightest snow is found rather than skiing the wind blown crud of clear cuts which are just man made scars from political hell. Skiing is more beautiful in a natural landscape than it is in an unnatural landscape.

Ski the Naturehood while it is still in existence, not the butcheredhood the Conservatives are leaving the next 7 generations.

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