NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association request that the Government of Alberta complete an overall Socio-Economic Impact Assessment based on all the species at risk recovery and retention plans currently affecting the operations of all industries in the province, including but not limited to oil and gas, forestry, agricultural, tourism and mineral exploration;
AND FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association urge the Government of Alberta to not develop, implement or enforce range plans without the consent of the forest industrial partners affected within the range plan.
WHEREAS the recommendations from the May 2016 “Setting Alberta on the Path to Caribou Recovery” report were accepted by the Alberta Government under the Provincial Land Use Framework, whereby it states that 1.8 million hectares of land to be designated as permanent protection areas for caribou recovery in northwest Alberta;
WHEREAS the Alberta Government has released several recovery plans for species at risk, as well as a structure retention plan, which all have the potential to decrease wood supply, increase costs, and create job losses or mill closures;
WHEREAS the recommendations for the permanent protected areas for woodland caribou simply follow Forestry Management Unit (FMU) boundaries with no consideration for the existing and future local oil and gas dispositions, mineral exploration, tourism, agricultural, and interprovincial and territorial infrastructure and corridors;
WHEREAS forestry is Alberta’s third largest resource industry and the lifeblood of 50 communities throughout the province – employing 15,000 Albertans directly, creating 30,000 additional jobs through economic activity, and contributing over $4 billion to the economy, providing important jobs and wealth creation, even when prices for other commodities drop – and the economic contributions of the forest industry in Alberta would be negatively impacted by a reduction in the annual allowable cut (AAC) and a subsequent decrease in wood fibre supply and every part of wood fibre loss affects the entire industry and subsequently the spin off economy;
WHEREAS the local oil and gas industry supports jobs for many local people and numerous transient workers, and the tax revenues from this local industry accounts for significant portions of municipal annual budgets for local communities in northwestern Alberta;
WHEREAS each of these recovery plans and policies are completed in isolation and independent of directly affected operators, communities, and municipal governments and the provincial government has not undertaken a complete due diligence Socio-Economic Impact Assessment prior to putting these various recovery plans into action; and
WHEREAS the development of the Lower Peace Regional Plan (LPRP), Upper Peace Regional Plan (UPRP), and Upper Athabasca Regional Plan (UARP) are yet to commence with potential for identification of additional conservation areas for biodiversity and other species at risk given the cumulative effects of climate change;
The Lower Athabasca Regional Plan (LARP) was approved and implemented in 2012 with a lower than recommended quota for the protection of new, conservation areas and corridors for biodiversity, species-at-risk; and boreal ecosystem types; including boreal habitat for woodland caribou.
Ecosystem types which are important to protect for a broad range of biodiversity objectives do not fully meet the needs of certain species-at-risk, and equally, protecting habitat for certain species-at-risk will not achieve broader biodiversity objectives.
Vegetation types which are consistently targeted for protection included Lower Boreal Highlands Open Coniferous and Dry Mixed wood, and the higher density of these vegetation types is found in northeastern Alberta. However, after the implementation of the LARP which falls short of the protection of these vital categories – increased protection of low density Open Coniferous and Dry Mixed wood vegetation type must be protected elsewhere (northwestern Alberta) in order to fill the representation gap.
Although northwestern Alberta may contain some of the most intact boreal forest; with large areas within FMUs, which are free from anthropogenic disturbance and forestry tenure, there is no validated evidence to prove such land is best for certain species at risk.
Alberta is recognized as a world leader in forest stewardship and management. Over 60% of Alberta is forested, providing many values including economic, social, and environmental. The forest industry is a key contributor to the economy and standard of living for many Albertans, particularly families living in rural Alberta in and near forested regions. In addition to providing timber resources that support the forest products industry, the province’s forests provide a range of other resources and benefits that are important to Albertans, including wildlife, biodiversity, water and recreation.
Recently, the government of Alberta has been working to identify areas in Alberta where caribou habitat protection is a priority and to develop strategies that protect caribou populations. As various species at risk management strategies are contemplated, it becomes clear that there is potential for sustainable timber supply in the region to be impacted. Various alternative strategies reflect scenarios where reductions in annual allowable cuts (AAC) for Forest Management Units (FMUs) and Forest Management Areas (FMAs) are possible.
Wildlife habitat is a key component in the development of 200-year management plans for the forest. In the case of species at risk, such as caribou and grizzly bear, forest companies must ensure that habitat increases over the life of the plan. Range plans support a working landscape where species at risk and industrial activity co-exists, with strict regulation investment in aggressive and innovative approaches, and careful monitoring of outcomes.
Alberta has prepared a draft Little Smoky and A La Peche Caribou Range Plan, the first to directly address federal recovery requirements in Canada which requires each province and territory develop range plans that protect, over time, at least 65% of that habitat. These ranges include important forest and energy resources that continue to support local Alberta communities and the provincial economy.
Twenty-three percent of the overall provincial’s allowable annual cut are within caribou ranges alone, in which numerous forestry operations rely on to fulfill their quotas. Although the actual percentage of wood sourced from caribou ranges may seem low, these numbers become cumulative when you consider all the other Species at Risk Recovery Plans as a whole. On top of that, forestry’s work supply and landbase is also affected by the new Draft Structure Retention Directive, Mountain Pine Beetle, Land Use Framework and Protected Area recommendations, the energy sector, fire, and insect and disease agents. The extent of forest resources and the challenges forest managers have in balancing these inter-related uses is evident all across Alberta.
The Alberta Newsprint Company conducted an Alberta Forest Sector Economic Impact Study in January 2016 which provides some astounding stats based on wood supply reduction scenarios. In developing these scenarios, they identified the average lumber production in Alberta and extrapolated this to the province as a whole. Using that base data, they modeled a series of reduction scenarios including Allowable Annual Cut reductions between 10% and 100%. This represented reduction in the total annual harvest volume ranging from approximately 419,000m3/year to 4,200,000m3/year.
Forest products made in Alberta are some of the highest quality in the world and are shipped globally every day. The companies operating are highly inter-dependent, exchanging wood fibre in various forms to enable efficient operation of sawmills and pulp mills, and other facilities including biomass power generation and composite wood products.
A sustainable flow of wood supply is the basis for a healthy forest products industry. Creating an overall socio-economic impact assessment along with long-term forest management planning as a whole, including the development and ongoing review of the annual allowable cut, is necessary to ensure sustainable forest management and a reliable flow of wood fibre to processing facilities.
· Alberta’s Caribou Action Plan, Government of Alberta
· Alberta Forest Products Association
· Alberta Forest Sector Economic Impact Study, Prepared by MNP LLP, January 2016
· Alberta Newsprint Company
· Draft Little Smoky and A La Peche Caribou Range Plan, Government of Alberta
· Setting Alberta on the Path to Caribou Recovery, Eric Denhoff, May 2016
· Weyerhaeuser Grande Prairie
March 2017 - The Government of Alberta’s approach to the recovery of Alberta’s caribou population seeks to also preserve jobs and the local economy. Socio-economic impacts will be assessed and minimized as part of the range planning process. If the GoA does not take action now, the federal government has the legal authority to halt all industrial activity in caribou ranges.
The province is working with the forestry industry on finalizing the Little Smoky A La Peche Caribou Range Plan to provide the industry with flexibility in terms of implementation. The full letter from the Minister of Environment and Parks can be read here.