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Documentary studies Upper Elbow clearcut impact

A tourist area southwest of Bragg Creek popular with bikers and hikers could soon look very different with a planned clearcut scheduled for December 2018.
The planned clearcut of an area known as the Mustang Hills, located southwest of Bragg Creek, has prompted public consultation prior to the project’s start in December
The planned clearcut of an area known as the Mustang Hills, located southwest of Bragg Creek, has prompted public consultation prior to the project’s start in December 2018.

A tourist area southwest of Bragg Creek popular with bikers and hikers could soon look very different with a planned clearcut scheduled for December 2018.

Known as Mustang Hills and located south of Highway 66, plans for the project were approved for logging by the Alberta government in August 2017. The project will be completed by the Cochrane-based forestry and logging contractor Spray Lake Sawmills.

With clearcuts in the Ghost Valley area in mind, the creative team of Michael Glaser and Courtney Lawson produced a mini-documentary entitled Forests, Fins and Footprints.

“We saw this as an opportunity to educate the public on all the things that happen when logging occurs so they can come away with facts and how they want to move forward,” Lawson said.

The film examines how clearcutting affects the landscape, water, animals and people situated in the area. Glaser, who grew up in Bragg Creek, said Mustang Hills draws a number of tourists to the area and is thus very economically valuable for Bragg Creek businesses and families.

“The area attracts half a million annual visitors. Along Highway 66 as you go past Elbow Falls, the landscape is going to be dramatically altered along the highway, the most breathtaking stretch of that highway,” he said. “It’ll see a massive clearcut and that clearcut will continue all the way to the riverbank.”

Glaser and Lawson hosted a screening of the film at The Heart of Bragg Creek café Feb. 23 along with an information session for residents. A future screening is scheduled in Cochrane March 23 at St. Andrews United Church.

“I think that we really need to be more cognizant of what’s happening, to be educated in what goes on (in our landscapes),” Lawson said. “We need more open dialogue, more communication with industry and the government to figure out how we can work in the future. That might help the environment and help us and help industry all together.”

In addition to screenings of the documentary, Glaser and Lawson plan to organize a number of initiatives throughout 2018 in order to petition lawmakers to redesignate Mustang Hills into a provincial recreation area.

Oneil Carlier, Alberta’s minister of agriculture and forestry, said the government seeks an approach to forest management that balances “the economic, social, and environmental needs of Albertans and our communities – in the Ghost region and across the province.”

“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 to minimize impact on wildlife, water and other environmental values,” he said in an email to the Rocky View Weekly.

Becky Best-Bertwistle, conservation engagement co-ordinator with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, said forestry management issues have been a problem up and down the slopes of the Rocky Mountains in many different communities.

“The government needs to reevaluate forestry management in Alberta,” she said. “Values such as headwater protection, ecosystem management and recreation need to be considered, not just volume of timber harvest.”

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