Saskatoon

Meadow Lake Provincial Park logging worrying for some but necessary to mitigate risks, gov't says

People in and around Meadow Lake Provincial Park are alarmed the Province is going to allow targeted logging in the park over the next few years.

Agreement would allow company to harvest 3,100 hectares over 5 years

Mistohay Lake in Meadow Lake Provincial Park from August, 2017. (Leanne Tremblay)

A plan to log parts of Meadow Lake Provincial Park has some people who use the park very concerned.

The province has awarded Tolko Industries a contract that allows the company to harvest up to 3,100 hectares over a five-year period in the park, or more than 7,660 acres of forest.

"The scenery is going to be different. It's not going to be as beautiful," said Lynn Klemmer, who lives in the nearby village of Goodsoil.

"I'm worried about the wildlife, the eagles in these trees that we watch flying over the lakes. The Bears in their dens. Do they even know where the dens are. Do they care?

"They'll be moving the deer, the moose, they'll be changing their lives. They'll have to go to different places to look for their food."

Klemmer was one of the citizens who attended a public meeting to outline the plan earlier this month at Grieg Lake, which is situated in the park.

The Boreal Forest in Meadow Lake Provincial Park contains numerous hiking trails. (Jay Brown/SaskHiker.com)

Clearing necessary to mitigate potential problems, gov't says

But Pat Mackasey, a park forest ecologist with Saskatchewan's Ministry of Parks, Culture and Sport, said there are reasons for why the government want to allow targeted logging in the park.

Some are weather-related disturbances that have happened in the last couple of years.

An early snowfall during October 2016, for example, was followed by heavy rain and ice build-up in the crowns of the trees, causing significant damage. 

"Almost a third of the stands in some cases were destroyed and up to 150 hectares in certain patches were knocked down by these events," Mackasey said.

Then in 2018, there was a fire that covered more than 6,000 hectares north of the Waterhen Lake First Nation. This past summer, a tornado hit Murray Doell Campground in in the park causing significant damage.

Mackasey said there are also threats from dwarf mistletoe, a damaging parasite which could slow growth rate, and the possibility of mountain pine beetles making their way east from Alberta and making into Saskatchewan.

"It would likely target a lot of these older, damaged stands that are under quite a bit of stress to stay alive," he added.

Parks offer more than recreation

In 2018 the Tuff Fire scorched 1,500 hectare fire within the Meadow Lake Provincial Park and prompted health concerns at the nearby Waterhen Lake First Nation. About 6,000 hectares were burned all together. (Brenda Fiddler)

For Klemmer, the park is more than just a recreational area. She and her husband Tom have lived just outside the park in Goodsoil for the past 10 years. She said the park is an integral part of their lives.

"We hunt, we fish and we count on the meat and fish for our food," Klemmer said.

Klemmer is worried the logging will do more harm than good. She thinks it will also pose problems for local business, like outfitters operating in the area.

"This is affecting their way of life, their income — everything."

Klemmer said if the concern is about forest fires, they should also be clearing out all the dead fall as well. It can dry out and quickly catch fire, if conditions are ideal for a fire.

"I don't understand how that's fire prevention if they're going to be leaving all the fallen logs down there because they're a fire hazard," she said.

"They're more of a fire hazard than the live trees that are standing."

Older jack pine a target for clearance

Greig Lake is located at Saskatchewan's Meadow Lake Provincial Park. (Submitted by Don Munro)

Mackasey said over the past year or so the ministry has come up with two plans for the park: an ecosystem based management plan and a forest conservation management plan.

Public meetings were also held last year to let people see the plans, which were approved in June. From there, the ministry put together a request for proposals and Tolko was successful bidder.

He said there are certain areas, mostly jack pine and jack pine mixed woods, that need forest management. And the primary target for harvesting is older age jack pine and trembling aspen.

But before Tolko can start, the company is required to submit a forest operating plan.

"That's why we were in Meadow Lake (earlier this month) and Tolko hosted these (public) meetings and our ministry also participated in the meetings "

A tornado ripped through Murray Doell Campground in Meadow Lake Provincial Park this past summer. (Jason Warick/CBC)

Mackasey said at public meetings they heard concerns from cottage owners and other stakeholders who were not aware of a plan, or others who didn't believe any logging should be done in the park.

Mackasey said people can still contact them to voice their opinions.

"We appreciate people coming out and following up because so we can engage with them on some of their concerns," he said.

Klemmer said she doesn't think it's a good idea to mess with Mother Nature.

"What's going to happen with the loss of wildlife?' she said. "That's one of the best things about going into that park is is you always see wildlife."

A Tolko Industries spokesperson declined to comment.

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