Spray Lakes logging in Ghost-Waiparous area mobilizes Bighorn residents

Clearcutting near Ghost-Waiparous west of Calgary is mobilizing residents in the area who are worried the project will cause watershed damage and put a dent in local tourism.

Residents raising concerns about speed of development, watershed damage and affects on tourism

Willow Balkwill says clearcutting near Ghost-Waiparous is mobilizing residents in opposition. (Colleen Underwood/CBC)

The view from Willow Balkwill's property near Ghost-Waiparous west of Calgary is breathtaking, but she is concerned what will happen when Spray Lakes Sawmills begins cutting down a three-kilometre block starting next month.

"It's too much at once, I wouldn't have a problem with them taking it off over 20 years," Balkwill said.

Dave Richards says clearcutting that will start soon is at a much faster pace than in the past and it will ruin tourism in the area. (Colleen Underwood/CBC)

Some residents in the Municipal District of Bighorn say that logging is being accelerated in the area from two decades to two years.

They worry about the impact on the watershed that drains into the Bow River, and the impact on tourism.

Dave Richards has been an outfitter in the area for three decades.

"It's taking something away and we're never going to get that back in my lifetime, or probably my kids' lifetime.... It's heartbreaking to be quite frank," he said.

However, Spray Lake Sawmills says the work that will get underway next month is not an acceleration but what was approved under the previous provincial government.

"SLS is harvesting within the government-approved sustainable harvest level and is following the government-approved 2007 harvest area sequence," said woodlands manager Ed Kulcsar in a statement.

He added the harvest levels will not "substantially affect water flow" and the company invests in extensive public engagement.

Residents are hoping a new NDP government will put the plan on hold until it can be re-evaluated, which recently happened in the Castle Wilderness area.

They staged a protest Saturday morning at the intersection of Highway 1A and Highway 40.


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