The political support for the fight against clear cutting in the Highwood Junction is growing as Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann is now calling on the NDP government to stop the operation.
Balcaen Consolidated Contracting Ltd. plans to begin logging near the Highwood Junction, including areas near Highway 541 along Highway 940 this week, raising concerns for residents, and municipalities nearby.
Swann toured the area on Friday Aug. 11, and is now asking the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry to reconsider the approval of this operation.
"The area I was driving through on the way to the Highwood Junction to the Highwood Pass was really lovely, and pristine," he says. "Clearly the government needs to re-think the costs and benefits of this, the small amount we get from forestry fees from a management agreement with a B.C. company hardly compares at all to the risks and costs."
Swann says there are a number of impacts the clear cutting operation will have in the area, on wildlife, and tourism, he is also concerned about the pace of the project.
"They're pushing ahead in one year what was originally planned for five years, which simply raises the question if first of all; Can we put this on pause? Just to ensure this is the right thing for Albertans, and particularly the folks of that area. Number two; This is clearly going to benefit B.C. folks and enterprise with no benefits to Albertans, there are at least two big reasons why we need to re-consider this particular development."
He is also very concerned about impacts to the watersheds in the area, which he says are particularly relevant in this dry summer.
"This will be another blow to the water quality, and quantity coming out of there, the soil obviously can't retain the moisture. Not only will there be rapid runoffs, but there will be a tremendous amount of silt which threatens the fishery, and the downstream water supply, more water treatment is needed when this kind of debris and sedimentation gets into the water system."
Swann first raised his concerns during Question Period in May, and also wrote a letter to the Minister on behalf of Foothills communities, however the logging operation will still proceed.
"The Minister indicated both in the House, and in his letter that they review these applications and follow a process, and this has met their criteria for an acceptable process. I'm asking him to reconsider that in light of the evidence which certainly suggests some of the water impacts, habitat impacts, recreation, and tourism impacts have not in fact been considered in their totality, and he should consider pausing this approval."
Okotoks, Turner Valley and Black Diamond councils have all also voiced their concerns with the operation to the NDP government.
Swann encourages residents who are concerned about the clear cutting operation to contact the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry.
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