Spray Lake Sawmills (SLS) would like to respond to the Jan. 14 letter to the editor in the Cochrane Eagle regarding the Alberta Forestry model.

The assertion by Mr. MacMahon that forest management practices in Alberta are outdated is simply incorrect.

Alberta’s forest management regime is based on best practices and takes into consideration the latest research pertinent to our province’s ecosystems. Any deviation from Alberta’s Operating Ground Rules must be identified up front in plans submitted to the government, which are approved only after a thorough review has been conducted to ensure environmental protection objectives are met.

Alberta forest companies follow rules put in place for operating in identified wildlife zones and/or adjacent wetland areas that are included as part of the environmental review and approval process. The definition of a wetland is broad; forestry ground rules contain provisions for protection of streams, lakes and water source areas. Other wetland areas are avoided altogether, out of the desire to conserve these ecosystems across southern Alberta.

Forestry recognizes there are differences between the impacts of timber harvesting and forest fires. However, research confirms timber harvesting can emulate natural disturbance patterns resulting in early succession plant communities and improved overall landscape variety. Patches of trees are always left in harvest areas and woody debris is strategically left on-site to further contribute to the biological diversity of the landscape.

Forest plans represent a balance of ecological, social and economic values. Within this extensive planning/regulatory regime, watershed protection is always a top priority. Our long-term, sustainable harvest level was modelled by an independent forest hydrologist who determined the impact of our harvest on water yield would be insignificant. An expert panel commissioned by the City of Calgary also concluded that land uses in the watershed did not contribute to the flooding of 2013. Additionally, after decades of responsible forest management, water-quality data collected by several agencies including the Government of Alberta, the City of Calgary, the Bow River Basin Council and the Oldman Watershed Council, demonstrates the water quality flowing from the forest reserve is in a natural or desirable condition.

Government and industry staff are Registered Forest Practitioners, with either management or regulatory mandates. The Government of Alberta has an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) certified Forest Operations Monitoring Program. In addition, many forest companies, including SLS, are also certified under third-party, independent forest management programs.

An innovative forest industry should – and can – thrive without damaging watersheds, which is why SLS is proud to operate under Alberta’s best practice forest management system. I encourage you to visit our website (www.spraylakesawmills.com) for more information on the many aspects of forest management and how we build healthy forests.