‘Coast-like’ Star Creek next in loggers’ sights

In case you missed it, here’s a couple of links related to the go-ahead for logging in Star Creek, a Crowsnest River tributary that comes enters the Crow from the south, just west of Coleman.

Controversial logging project near Crowsnest goes ahead

Star Creek logging: It’s about water

The lower stretch of Star resembles something you might expect to see in a coastal rainforest. I’ve hiked up to the falls a few times, mainly with family, who were in awe. Someone had left a rope to help climb up a steep rock so you could see the falls.

Deciding it’s OK to log Star Creek so totally disregards the bigger forest picture, like its importance as a water source, wildlife, fish and plant habitat and recreation area (for responsible users, of course.)

Foresters and politicians will say, “We’ve been doing this for over a hundred years, so what’s the big deal?” That’s exactly what a former minister of Sustainable Resource Development, Mel Knight, told me just before he approved logging in the Castle area a few years ago. The big deal is that over more than 100 years, some of the trout that were in such abundance are now threatened with disappearing for good. Star Creek contains sparse remnants of a Westslope Cutthroat pooulation.

The pattern has been: open an area with logging roads, remove the trees, let silt wash over and smother fish eggs in their stream-bed redds, leave the roads so ignorant ATVErs (not all are in this category) see them as an invitation to go in and do whatever they please (including driving up the creeks over the same trout reddsLayout 1), then expect the trees to grow to a size in 30 to 100 years so they are big enough to start logging all over again.

You’d be wrong if you dismiss this as just another rant from a tree-hugger who’s anti-logging.  I understand the importance of merchantable timber. It’s just that there’s not enough specific, credible attention paid to other concerns in this part of Alberta. What the heck, why leave out the rest of the province?  The foresters seem to think they know best, which may be true when it comes to logging as long as you’re only interested in trees as a commercial entity. Or, they’d have you believe, logging is necessary to control pine beetles and fires.

They’d also have you believe this project is about research – to determine which of four kinds of logging is best. So, Alberta is so unique that research from elsewhere like B.C., Washington, Oregon, Montana is irrelevant?

Here’s a quote from a B.C. government document on logging practices:
“Where there is too little water, or too much, forests do not grow. And within the range of adequate water, small changes have profound influences on the forest, its structure, and the constellations of organisms that live within its enveloping sphere of influence. Those same water supplies from forested mountain slopes support fish populations of immense size. (Not here) As management of forests has evolved, care for the water resource, and its associated fisheries, has moved from a marginal issue to a touchstone for efforts to modify forest practices.”

I’m afraid we’re doomed to the same perpetual cycle in the Crowsnest Forest as long as foresters rule out there. It’s not just the foresters whose activities have led to a serious degradation in the forest. It’s just that they made it possible for people by the thousands to go out there for recreation. Many don’t have the common sense to enjoy the area without destroying it.

And yes, those who are working on the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan may say just wait, we’re working on it. Apparently, they don’t know the word hiatus, which they could have imposed on development while they decide what to do different out there. If they had, maybe there would be something left for them to plan for.

I dread the day when the headline will read “The last fish in the Crowsnest Forest Reserve.” And, don’t let them snow you into believing they do more than give lip service to whatever else is important in the forest. Check out the C5 Forest Management Plan 2006-2026. It includes all the buzz words to try and assure us their practices will “ensure the numerous benefits from Alberta’s forests and forested landscapes are protected,” but nothing specific about not damaging the fishery, which is affected by land around the streams.

Someone needs to push for a change in the name of the provincial department in charge to remove the word “development” from the name Environment and Sustainable Resource Development. As well, if you must log, don’t just say you’re logging responsibly, actually practice it so you leave something behind that works, like fish habitat, which means closing the damn roads when you leave.

And don’t clear cut. There are less destructive methods.