The Town of Okotoks’ has received a response to their request for a logging moratorium.

In November, town council received a letter and presentation from the Calgary Climate Hub (CCH) requesting support in calling for a moratorium on logging in Southern Alberta, specifically due to an approved project from Spray Lake Sawmills in Kananaskis Country’s Upper Highwood drainage.

The CCH presented five reasons why a moratorium should be put in place, including effects on native species, the Highwood watershed, and harm to the region.

Mayor Tanya Thorn signed a letter of support for a moratorium addressed to Minister of Environment and Protected Areas Rebecca Schulz, specifically pointing to increased water absorption rates amid Alberta’s drought conditions.

At today’s (Feb. 12) meeting, council will review a response letter from Forestry and Parks Todd Loewen.

Loewen’s letter outlines the processes in which Alberta’s forestry activities are governed, including the Alberta Forest Management Planning Standard and the Forests Act, and how logging companies are held to those standards.

He also points to harvesting as a means of forest management, specifically referencing susceptibility to wildfires for aging forests.

“Harvesting is an important part of responsible forest management in that it removes some of the fuel that enable catastrophic wildfires to start and spread. Forestry companies are responsible for the reforestation of the area that is logged, and forest management plans are developed using an integrated planning approach that incorporates watershed, aesthetics, fisheries, wildlife, pest risk and damage, wildfire, and recreation,” reads the letter.

The specific concerns over the effects on the watershed are also alluded to in the letter.

“Our forest hydrologists are constantly evaluating research and best practices to improve forest management policies to ensure the long-term health of all our forest resources. Current analyses of the approved 2023 harvest in the Upper Highwood area indicate the activity poses low risk of negative impact to the hydrology of the area’s watercourses and, consequently, downstream users.”

The letter concludes by stating that the ministry does not support a moratorium on harvesting on the eastern slopes.

Today's town council meeting will be streamed live, and the agenda can be seen here.