Making Bragg Creek FireSmart

Boundary Ridge near Bragg Creek A FireSmart plan for the community of Bragg Creek, near Calgary has been approved by my department of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development.

The plan, I believe, strikes a balance of maintaining recreational activities, fire protection and logging in the area. I commend the involvement of local residents and recreational users in developing the FireSmart measures for Bragg Creek while helping protect the great trail system in the area.

It has been a challenging and emotional process and I appreciate the time and energy put into this plan. Since 2007, we’ve had more than 30 consultation sessions including 9 public events and 25 meetings with various groups. The most recent discussions with residents and land users focused primarily on lessening the impact of the FireSmart plan on the Bragg Creek trail system.

At the end of the day, I am confident the plan balances government’s public safety and fiscal responsibilities to all Albertans, and the wishes of local residents to minimize impacts on local recreational uses.

Bragg Creek FireSmart Containment Strategy Map

Containment Map

Bragg Creek FireSmart Plan

The FireSmart plan will create a series of firebreaks on forested Crown land west of Bragg Creek by harvesting timber in an area of historic industrial use now shared with recreational users. Buffers of standing trees will physically separate hiking trails from the areas that are harvested and, where possible, work sites will be accessed by reusing old – and, in some cases, overgrown – industrial roads originally built for logging.

The plan also respects government’s obligation to manage the costs all Alberta taxpayers would have to bear to fight an extreme wildfire in the area. I think of the 2011 wildfire that entered Slave Lake and the devastation it caused. Like other Albertans, I do not wish to see that event repeated anywhere in the province. I also think of how a FireSmart plan helped with firefighting efforts just outside the small northern community of Zama City that was threatened by a wildfire earlier this year.

I’m confident this plan for Bragg Creek is the right plan. I invite you to learn more about the FireSmart plan and the map showing firebreak locations and sizes.

– Diana McQueen, Minister of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development

19 thoughts on “Making Bragg Creek FireSmart

  1. It is irresponsible to characterize the logging as a fire-smart program. It has been clear from the outset that the the process was initiated not by your office but by those seeking to capitalize on a preexisting aspect of your department for their own gain. Very sad and unfortunate that with only 3 percent of residents in agreement your department is going ahead with the program anyways. This is not a good decision!

  2. I am very disappointed to see that your department has failed to see the economic and social value of recreation and has instead focused on the needs of forest harvesting. There are 22.5 million hectares of harvest-able forest in Alberta and your department can’t look beyond the busiest 700 hectares, closest to 1.2 million residents and the head waters of Calgary’s drinking supply.

    As a resident of Bragg Creek, I can only recall three public meetings with an open invite from the ESRD. Two of which were simply informative and did not request nor want any public feedback. The only public input that the ESRD requested was on September 25, when we were asked to choose which of three logging plans we wanted to destroy Calgary’s recreation area. ~97% of the audience voted for “none of the above.” Every person that spoke at that meeting told the ESRD that they were not happy with this plan. It doesn’t make social sense, it doesn’t make economic sense and it was rushed through even though it will have an effect on the area for the rest of most of our lives.

    You ignored us and implemented that exact plan with ~3% public backing.

    Is it really consultation when your department isn’t listening?

    How does this plan protect us five or ten years down the road when the replanted cut blocks are maturing? There is no permanence in this solution and I’m afraid that there is a reason for the temporary nature of this plan. How long do we have until your department once again comes in and clear cuts the remaining old growth in this area, in order to once again reduce the fire hazard?

    How does this plan protect us the day after it’s completed, when it isn’t designed to stop a fire and the residents still only have a single bottle neck evacuation route?

    You’re not saving the residents with this LOGGING PLAN. You are simply force feeding a large order of clear cutting logging with a very small benefit of short term fire reduction on the side.

  3. In your first sentence, it seems you take ALL responsibilities for the outcome but are not too sure yourself… (The plan, I believe… But you are not sure?)
    Good luck Miss Mc Queen. 3% approval is as good as none, I sure hope you don’t live in the area yourself. Peter Lougheed, wouldn’t be proud, right now.

  4. I am very disappointed that with only 3% of residents approving of this plan that it would be approved. I feel strongly that this decision does not represent either the will of the people or one that is bring made with our best interests in mind. i am also very disappointed in the level of involvement with the community and interest group; especially initially. As a resident of Bragg creek, I feel we have something beautiful out here worth preserving and sharing, rather than reserving it for logging.

  5. I agree with Geoff, Commerce wins again. It’s clear that the decision-makers to not use this area for recreation or family activities.

  6. To say that i am disappointed in this decision barely touches my feelings. I am also not the least bit surprised at the decision. It was obvious from the beginning of the public input process what the outcome would be. Under the guise of a fire safe strategy the government is putting aside the needs and desires of a large number of recreationists to allow Spray Lakes Sawmills access to easily harvested trees. We are not fooled and you have not heard the last of our anger.

    • Wow…political bs in its finest form. Guess barricading and tear gas is next for the residents went they dont comply with this very well thought out process.

  7. My cynical self figured that this decision would be the only possible outcome from the start. But I still harbored some optimism that the huge public outcry would influence things for the better. It’s really disheartening so see that my cynical side was totally right. The final plan is only ever so slightly better then the original plans and has only 3% support from the community.
    And what I really find appalling is that even in this blog the fear mongering of “another Slave Lake” continues. None of the residents here fall for that and as independent experts have pointed out, this plan does next to nothing for fire safety of the region.
    If the government truly cared about the fire safety of the west Bragg Creek community, a first priority would be to create a second evacuation route so that everybody can get out safely in case of a fire.

    • Unfortunately, I must agree strongly with all of the above. In no part of this process have I gained any hope in the strength of our Albertan democracy. The government has obviously had an agenda from the beginning, and no amount of public outcry or well intentioned volunteer hours has in any way changed it. Shame, shame on AESRD, our forest stewards!

  8. “Public consultation, or simply consultation, is a regulatory process by which the public’s input on matters affecting them is sought. Its main goals are in improving the efficiency, transparency and public involvement in large-scale projects or laws and policies. It usually involves notification (to publicize the matter to be consulted on), consultation (a two-way flow of information and opinion exchange) as well as participation (involving interest groups in the drafting of policy or legislation).” – Wikipedia

    When you have a 3% public approval rating, has an effective consultation process taken place?

    Conusltation – a TWO-WAY flow of information and opinion exchange.

    Unless we’re referring to SLS and the ESRD, this never happened. The public input was never requested, the interest groups suggestions were ignored and the final plan was not considered acceptable by 97% of the public!

  9. This is an unbelievably bad decision! And it’s throughly dismissive of the public interest. Since the logging plans first came out (at the public meeting on 26 Jan 2012), there have been only 2 public meetings (2 Aug, 25 Sept.). Noting 9 “public events” is simply misleading.

    Also misleading is the suggestion that logging will help “firesmart”, when currently burn-prone past logged areas are not planned for logging, and reforestation of the new logged areas is planned. That is, within 10 years we’ll have the same fire risk all over again. But next time, when there is no merchantable timber, the management response will likely be different. Why not do the right thing NOW? That is, provide an effective, permanent fire break that does over the long term all the things that this ineffective response claims to accomplish (space to mobilize crews and back-burn, lower risk of fire to the community)?

    The recommendations from the Land Use Framework, now under consideration, might actually consider more publicly-minded management uses of the area, but this minister isn’t waiting. Instead, the most important forest for the communities of Calgary and Bragg Creek is to be liquidated in a rush, without first asking these communities for their input. They’ve done the Calgary equivalent of logging Stanley Park and the north shore mountains (were we Vancouver). Who’s looking after the public interest here? Clearly not the blinkered managers at ESRD. Clearly not the minister. It’s a shame.

    Is the Redford government listening? (that’s a rhetorical question; the answer’s clear). Sadly, we’ve seen the ball dropped in a splendid opportunity to do things differently.

  10. clear and simple ignorance is all this project defines. The value of this forest to the community and the overall ecosystem is exponential to its timber harvest value – sickening that despite having weak public consultation scheduling and clearly ignorant listening skills, that your department will try to ram something down the throats of a public that is nearly in complete agreement of not wanting. i hope that we see a 3% support in the next provincial election that removes such ignorane from representing the people.

  11. Unbelievable, unacceptable, ridiculous excuse on why this decision are taken.
    No economical reason, vice versa Calgarian will have to pay the bill for the mess up of the watershed
    No long term vision, growing recreational community, preserve something left of the old grow forest.
    False and misleading information public consultation, fire simulation, fire behavior, ecosystem preservation.
    You push before with pine beetles argument, now you try to play the card of the fire.
    Everybody know that the Prometheus simulation model you run was ridiculously set up to have the result you where looking for. One ignition point, one scenario, no public data for peer review, no available documentation to review the logging plan, no studies on the ecological impact.
    Instead of thinking about how to save people (alternate escape route, another bridge on the Elbow, a proper evacuation plan) the only thing that you ministry can come up is to buddy up with the old loggers of SRD and they friend at SLS.
    I think there are angry people in Bragg Creek and not just tree huggers, but businesses that has already suffer when the sky hill shut down and business had to close we don’t want to loose our tree and business for a beetle excuse or for the fire smarting excuse. Fire smarting is not clear cut logging.
    Try to come down from the pedestal and do what the taxpayers want. IS OUR LAND and I’m really waiting to see what people ask in the land User Framework (if we ever be able to see the result before everything is GONE)
    Do not come up with another 3 alternative plans that nobody except SLS and (E)S?RD like.
    if you build a house in the forest you know that there is the possibility that it will burn down, that why you have an insurance. If you are scarry by the fire you will not plan to live in a forest. We make our home here because we like it, we know the risks and we have no problem with that.

  12. It is sad that once again, our leaders have decided to go for the short term gain. I’m very disappointed and somehow angry, that they did not listen to the requests and the suggestions made by the residents and Calgarians.
    Once again, very often lately, we will see the logging trucks on our roads…we could see instead cars full of people smiling, people visiting the area, recreating and enjoying the beauty of it, bringing wealth to the community and money to the Tourism Industry, such an amazing growing sector here in Alberta. Too bad we cannot say the same for the Forestry sector, price of lumber is pretty low. Being farsighted is certainly not an attribute that apply to our government. Short term economics is the reality. What is left behind the logging for our future generation? ESRD reassure us, water pollution, soil degradation, loss of wildlife habitat, are just “collateral damage”.

  13. I can’t believe that this is going ahead – I thought the government was for the people – We’ll see what the Premier has to say, there are some other avenues to stop this and I think they should be exercised. Why not boycott those that buy timber from Spray Lakes?

  14. So let’s see if I understand this correctly. As ESRD has emphasized at every meeting, saving lives is of primary importance to them – hence the need to protect us from an event such as the Slave Lake fire. But, as indicated by Minister McQueen above, the government needs to balance this with its obligation to manage the budget for all Albertans. Given that ESRD is spending virtually nothing to effect this wildfire mitigation plan, indeed they are getting some revenue from stumpage fees, what does that say about the value they really put on the lives of residents? Do you wonder that there is such an enormous trust gap?

    If the intention is really to protect residents, then develop a plan that works in the long term.
    1. Create a permanent firebreak where firefighters can assemble personnel and equipment, and set backfires if necessary.
    2. Selectively reduce fuel load over time to the west of the firebreak in order to reduce the intensity of oncoming fires.
    3. Leave areas such as the northern cutblocks alone, as the probability of having a northwest wind on one of the 17 annual critical burning days is near zero.

    This is the plan that received the most support at the September 8/9 workshop. It would yield a permanent solution that would minimally impact recreation in the area but somehow was lost in translation as advice to the minister. Would it cost more money to do this? Yes, but by taking a longer term approach, and by using other methods less costly than clearcutting, the cost can easily be kept reasonable on an annual basis. With several more months of dialogue and a transparent process all the way along, ESRD stood a chance of getting community buy-in. Instead they are getting what you have read in this blog.

    Minister McQueen, when we met in August, you said that there was going to be logging in this area and that SLS “had to have its fibre”. This is a logging plan that would appear to have the side benefit of reducing wildfire risk, but the siren song of saving money has blinded your department into choosing an ineffective plan.

    I believe that what you are hearing from Albertans is that there is significantly more value in the area if it is left largely intact. While ESRD has taken steps to consult, the result bears little resemblance to the input. It’s not too late to reach a solution that makes more sense for this crucial area and, in doing so, prove that you indeed have been listening.

  15. ESRD is dysfunctional – they are not representing the interests of Albertans.

    At the root of the problem is the Forest Management Agreement in place between the Government of Alberta and Spray Lakes Sawmillls. An agreement akin to hiring the fox to manage the hen house. Under this agreement Spray Lakes has the exclusive right to harvest in these areas. If Spray Lakes Sawmillls are not allowed to get their “due” there will be law suits, bureaucrats may end up getting fired, and the ESRD minister may end up out on the street face down in the dirt. So we are left with a government agency motivated to protect their own self interests – not the interests of Albertans!

    What has been passed off as a “Fire Smart” plan is a joke. Put lipstick on a pig – it’s still a pig. Wrapping a logging plan with a “Fire Smart” banner doesn’t make it a fire protection plan.

    It’s time for the Alberta Government to wake up and recognize the recreational and environmental value of these lands both from the perspective of the health, wellness, and life-style of Albertan’s as well as the economic benefit of key recreational resources to the adjacent communities.

    It’s time for the Alberta Government to make it clear to ESRD that their responsibility is to the citizens of Alberta – not their pals at Spray Lake Saw Mills.

    It’s time for the Alberta Government to deal with the inadequacies within the FMA with Spray Lakes Saw Mills that has resulted in the dysfunction that is occurring within ESRD.

  16. extremely dissapointing for all of the previously made reasons, 3%? how pathetic, Your comments about consultation are simply untrue, shame on you Minister McQueen…

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