Clearcutting of popular Bragg Creek area impending, say opponents

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Clear-cut logging of a heavily-used recreational area west of Bragg Creek will happen unless a public outcry forces the province to cancel it, say opponents of the plan.

Starting in the fall of 2026, logging company West Fraser plans on clear-cutting nearly 900 hectares of forest in the West Bragg Creek and Moose Mountain areas that are laced with hiking, biking and skiing trails and considered a short-drive outdoor mecca for Calgarians.

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Conservationists and outdoor enthusiasts say maps provided by West Fraser showing the overlapping of logging areas over numerous trails signals the final phase in the lead-up to the logging that will devastate the area’s viability as a recreational jewel.

“This particularly small area is incredibly important for other reasons (than logging) and none of that is furthered by removing the tree cover,” said Jeff Woodgate of the group GROW Kananaskis.

He questioned why the provincial government would be investing so much money in recreation infrastructure like parking lots and trails in the area to then allow it to be logged.

Woodgate also noted the timber harvesting contradicts the province’s plan to double tourism in the province by 2035.

“The recreational usage has increased 10-fold, there’s plans to expand all the parking lots and it’s pretty plain when you look at these maps, (West Fraser) they plan to just remove trees to maximize revenues,” said Woodgate, adding a $90 usage fee for Kananaskis loses value with logging.

“The value to society has hugely changed (towards recreation)…”

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A PowerPoint presentation provided by the company lays out a timeline for public consultations, planning, and from October 2026 to April the following year “road and watercourse crossing construction, timber harvest, timber removal, log haul” with reforestation to follow.

That logging will commence then, said West Fraser spokeswoman Joyce Wagenaar “following the refinement of our plans to incorporate input gained through these (planning and public consultation) processes.”

Woodgate said the company’s local predecessor, Spray Lake Sawmills, was no stranger to timber harvesting in the region, having already cut in the Sibbald Flats-Pine Top area and in 2012 close by the upcoming 2026 harvesting.

Woodgate, who’s an avid mountain-biker, said logging on a trail in the area known as Snakes and Ladders provides a vivid illustration of the consequences.

“The snakes portion is delightful but then it pops out into the side of the ladders, which is a brutal clear-cut,” he said.

An open house on the plan is being hosted by West Fraser at 3 p.m. on May 8 at the Cochrane Ranche House.

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Woodgate said it’s imperative for clear-cutting opponents to make their voices heard, particularly by the provincial government, “since it’s not going to change the minds at West Fraser.

“We’re not against sustainable logging on the eastern slopes of the Rockies but a louder voice of the people is needed to protect this area” he added.

The forest-management plan for the Rockies’ eastern slopes region was approved in 2021 with the understanding the Bragg Creek-area timber be harvested in the next 10 years, part of a two-decade agreement based on tree age, says the company.

Last May, a spokesman for West Fraser predecessor Spray Lake Sawmills said past timber harvesting in West Bragg Creek hasn’t disrupted trail use, which has increased since the activity.

Cut areas, he said, aren’t recognizable 30 years after logging.

Critics say forestry legislation heavily favours industrial activity and that sustainable-practice qualifications are meaningless because they’re poorly measured.

In a statement issued Saturday, Wagenaar said consultation with stakeholder groups on the timber blocks began nearly a year ago.

“We will continue to provide opportunities to meet with local groups that are interested in sharing information regarding forestry operations in the region,” said Wagenaar.

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