The lack of public consultation surrounding the renewal of a Forest Management Agreement (FMA), between Sustainable Resource Development and West Fraser’s Sundre Forest Products Inc., has raised the hairs of conservation specialists.
The agreements provide companies with the rights to establish, grow, harvest and remove timber from a particular areas. Alberta has 20 Forest Management Agreements.
The agreement between Sundre Forest Products Inc. was established on Sept. 1, 1992, and is set to expire on Aug. 31.
It covers 1,382,193 acres (559,354 hectares) of forest between Sundre and Nordegg, east of the Banff and Jasper National Park.
The company has a laminated veneer lumber plant near Rocky Mountain House and a sawmill and wood treating facility in Sundre. “This is a legal negotiation and the government has the lead on it,” Tom Daniels, Sundre Forest Products forestry superintendent, said on Monday.
Madeline Watson, Alberta Wilderness Association conservation specialist, said that the 20-year agreement should allow for public consultation.
“The forests in this area are really important habitats for a lot of wildlife as well as those are the headwaters for most of our major rivers in Alberta,” she said on Monday.
“The government is meant to manage public lands in the best interest of all Albertans but without consulting them, I’m not sure how they plan to do that.” Bruce Cartwright, Sustainable Resource Development area manager of the Clearwater lands division, does agree that there is no public consultation in the Forest Management Agreement renewal process but equated the agreement to that of a lease agreement.
“If things are going well, it is pretty routine,” he said.
“It is an opportunity to update issues that have occurred over the last 20 years but it is a fairly standard process,” he said on Monday.
Under Alberta law, Forest Management Agreement holders are responsible for planning and reforesting two years after harvest. But Watson said the company is not necessarily required to manage the forest from an ecosystem perspective, something the Alberta Wilderness Association — a conservation group dedicated to protected areas throughout the province — is hoping to ensure.
“What we would like to see is forest harvesting practices to emulate natural patterns,” she said.
“We are also looking for a transparent public process to ensure that Albertans views are accommodated within long-range plans that govern public resources.”
Cartwright assured that the conservation group’s input will be negotiated into the agreement where it is appropriate.
“Some of their concerns were at the detailed forest management planning level but the stuff that is appropriate for FMA renewal, we will definitely try to make sure it gets incorporated.”