A logging project in Kananaskis Country near the Highwood River is going ahead despite concerns raised by area residents and a town in the region.
Neil Williams, who routinely hikes in Kananaskis Country, told Global News on Friday that a trapper in the area recently received notice indicating that a tree harvest was approved to go ahead near the Highwood Junction on Nov. 18. A provincial official confirmed that 225 hectares were approved for harvest over the next two years.
“We understand logging has a purpose, it does create jobs, but we are somewhat disappointed that they’re still going to go ahead with this area,” Williams said.
“It’s a wild land, and when it’s been harvested and there’s a lot of cutblocks, it’s just not the same.”
Williams is the spokesperson for the group “Take a Stand for the Upper Highwood,” which collected roughly 2,000 signatures on a petition calling for the province to halt the harvest. He said one of the main concerns is that the harvest will negatively affect tourism, given that many enjoy hiking in the area.
Downstream in High River there are also concerns about the project. Its mayor sent a letter to the premier asking for the harvest to be put on hold until an environmental assessment could be completed.
Town counc. Bruce Masterman said their main concerns revolve around how water levels and quality in the Highwood River will be affected by the harvest. He said he worries about what may happen if the area receives the type of extreme rain that led to the 2013 floods.
“We want assurance from the provincial government, whose job it is to ensure downstream communities are protected from things like this,” Masterman said.
“Every tree you cut down, it takes away that tree that’s going to hold moisture in the spring and hold the snow pack.”
In a statement, Alberta’s Agriculture and Forestry Minister said “experts worked hard with the company to address all issues raised by Albertans on the matter and the company has agreed to leave more trees than required, to realign the roads, to increase the buffer and to modify cutblocks to minimize visual disruptions.”
“Our staff will continue to closely monitor these operations to make sure that the high standards set by the government are adhered to by the company,” the statement reads.
The province also completed a watershed assessment in the area, according to the statement.
Both Masterman and Williams said they hope it’s not too late to have a discussion about the project with the provincial government, despite its approval.
Global News was unable to reach the logging company Balcaen Consolidated Contracting for comment.