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In 2018, the United Conservative Party at its convention committed to: “developing environmental policy and legislation based on robust, scientific, evidence-based information, that safeguards the quality of our land, air, and water for the health, use and enjoyment of Albertans, for generations to come.”1
The UCP believes that the Government of Alberta should “permit only ecologically and economically sustainable forest management methods.” 2
If elected, a UCP government will:
• Ensure that forest companies have long-term access to a sustainable secure fibre supply with our Forest Jobs Guarantee:
− Access to fibre through current quotas and forest management agreements will be protected by a UCP government.
− Any federally or court ordered policies that inhibit access to fibre will be offset by a UCP government with access to an equal or larger area for forestry in the same region.
• Ensure the newly-established Minister of Red Tape Reduction works with forestry companies and their workers on stable, strategic, outcome-based regulations to preserve Alberta’s working forests for future generations
• Review and enact legislation, regulation and policies that help ensure forest companies have responsible, sustainable access to Alberta fibre supplies
• Support environmentally sustainable forestry practices by working with Alberta’s forestry companies to optimize land management practices for the benefit of the environment, forestry jobs and for all Albertans.”
• Reverse four years of NDP reductions in the fight against the Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic by increasing funding by $5 million annually to $30 million (from $25 million currently) to combat the Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic
• Work with federal government ministries to ensure the same policies are applicable to federal parks and that Ottawa contributes its proper share to fighting the beetle infestation
• Include Alberta’s forestry sector in our “fight back strategy” against foreign-funded attacks on Alberta’s resource sector
• Defend Alberta’s forest sector and fight for Alberta’s proper national share of trade-allocated export quotas
• Ensure that Alberta’s foreign trade offices3 work with Alberta’s forestry sector to maximize market expansion possibilities, especially in Asia.
A UCP government will establish a common-sense policy that balances environmental and caribou habitat goals with economic and employment concerns.
- Launch a review of the Alberta Caribou Draft Plan by immediately forming a Caribou Range Task Force of local municipal governments, the Northwest Species at Risk Committee, forestry and other industries, Indigenous representatives, habitat scientists, and others. The Task Force will be mandated to develop practical made-in-Alberta solutions to species conservation that minimize economic impact.
- Ensure that the province’s land use consultations and planning is completed prior to any long-term decisions being made on habitat protection.
- Review all available data from experts including local expertise (hunters, trappers, hunters, guides, industry and First Nations) and socio-economic reports to create a made-in-Alberta solution. That will include:
− Data on herds to determine what a sustainable number threshold should be
− Current park plans and decisions taken before regional management plans or Land Use Frameworks were completed.
- Ensure all wildlife management plans are completed in order to consider the complex interaction of different species.
UCP Leader Jason Kenney has described the range-planning process as “not going smoothly,” noting the constant threats of both litigation from environmental groups and the federal government imposing its jurisdiction on the province.
“We need to trust experts here in Alberta to come up with a common-sense solution that ensures the safety of the species without reducing access to recoverable forest areas,” Kenney said. “There are thousands of jobs that rely on this and I would not be taking any measures to jeopardize Alberta jobs.”4
A UCP government will protect, promote and partner with Alberta’s forestry workers and Alberta forest companies to expand this sector’s economic opportunities at home and abroad.
Alberta’s working forests are a $6.5 billion annual industry that includes harvesting operations and the sale of lumber, pulp, newsprint, wood panels, engineered wood products, bioenergy, and ecosystem services. It is the province’s third-largest resource sector after oil and gas.
It employs more than 16,000 Albertans directly and another 23,000 indirectly with $1.5 billion in salaries and wages. Alberta’s forest companies and workers are world leaders in sustainable forestry practices and in managing Alberta’s land base for future generations.
Forestry is a true natural, sustainable resource, in which responsible harvesting policies ensure a stable timber supply. It is of great importance in small towns that rely on both energy and forestry sectors working. With the oil industry depressed, these communities can ill-afford a one-two punch should the forest sector also slow down.
Alberta’s forestry sector is deeply rooted in a century of operations, but it is critical to Alberta’s future. Both the province’s diversification efforts and its future renewable energy efforts including the potential for biomass and bio-energy, depend upon a sustainable supply of quality fibre.
Alberta’s advanced, responsible forestry practices are also positive for the environment, reduce the incidence of forest fires, and maintain high carbon sequestration.
Regrettably however, Alberta’s NDP government has failed the Alberta forest industry on several fronts.
1) The NDP has increasingly restricted timber access with both costly “front door” and “back door” regulations, and policies that endanger necessary, long-term timber supplies.
For example, in 2015, with logging activity set to resume in the Castle Wilderness Area in southwest Alberta for the first time in several years, the newly elected NDP government announced a stop to all commercial forestry activity. (At the same time, the NDP government also put a stop to all new oil, gas and mining activity in the area.)5
Also, the NDP government’s plans for creating another new protected land use area in Bighorn Country could have serious impacts on logging and other commercial activities in the areas to the west of Rocky Mountain House.
2) The NDP has assumed a far-too passive stance vis-à-vis Ottawa’s federal caribou policy.6 This threatens to further shrink working forests and could mean mill closures and possibly thousands of layoffs for some companies in northwest and northern Alberta.
The UCP recognizes the necessity of caribou protection. It also recognises that the federal Species at Risk Act takes precedence over Alberta legislation.
However, because the federal plan on caribou requires a 500-metre buffer between environmentally sensitive areas and a ‘disturbance’ – a road or logging show, for example – and that a minimum of 65% undisturbed area exist within each range,7 it is incumbent upon a provincial government to exercise careful and protective leadership.
In particular, satisfying the federally mandated caribou plan must be done in close collaboration with all who are affected. It must be based on science and common sense, not emotion or politics.
The NDP’s plan however, was made with virtually no consideration of the impact on communities or jobs in the affected communities or industries. As in southern Alberta, the NDP’s approach has created the massive uncertainty now hanging over the future of so many Alberta forestry workers.
3) The NDP has failed to adequately fund the fight against the Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic. This neglect has allowed the destruction of thousands of square kilometres of valuable timber.
4) The NDP has done nothing to prepare for more foreign-funded activism whose efforts8 (as with anti-energy activists) have the economic interests of Albertans in their sights.
- UCP Policy Declaration 2018, http://bit.ly/2VYsE6Y, 9
- UCP Policy Declaration 2018, http://bit.ly/2VYsE6Y, 14