The Alberta government has signed its first new forest management area (FMA) agreement in 12 years that will benefit the Cochrane area.

Over the 20-year term of the agreement with the Crowsnest Forest Products Ltd., affiliated to Spray Lake Sawmills (SLS), it will provide $32 million in payments to the province in the form of timber dues, holding, and protection charge payments while adding $225 million to Alberta's GDP.

It also means ongoing and reliable, well-paying jobs. In 2019, direct employment by the companies contributed more than $16 million in salaries and wages, with an average salary of over $80,000.

“I’m honoured to announce Alberta’s first forest management agreement since 2009," says Devin Dreeshen, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry.

Barry Mjolsness, owner and president, Spray Lake Sawmills, applauds the province's Forest Jobs Action Plan to provide secure access to wood fibre.

"The conversion of our timber quotas to a forest management agreement is an important step in the long history of the company. It provides the tenure security vital for our continued investment in the company, in our people, and the surrounding communities.”

FMU CU5The area in the new agreement is west of Lethbridge. It's approximately 3,511 square kilometres of public land and excludes the Castle Provincial Park.

The FMA is about 3,511 km and is located north of Waterton National Park to the south of Kananaskis Country. According to the government's C5 forest management plan from 2010, the logging will take place in the foothills that largely consists of mountainous terrain within the Eastern Slopes and contains numerous meadow complexes.

Alberta retains all of its roles and responsibilities as regulator and Crowsnest Forest Products will continue to have the legal obligation to comply with Alberta’s legislation, regulations, and policies to ensure sustainable forest management.

Appropriate environmental practices must be followed, such as approved watercourse crossings and reclamation. The company must operate within its approved annual cut and must minimize wood waste. Harvested areas must be promptly reforested.

Agriculture and Forestry officials say this FMA does not increase the amount of wood the company can harvest, however, it does provide them with secure and sustainable fibre access for the next 20 years.

The current forest management plan for the area is in effect until 2026. Future plans will be prepared by Crowsnest Forest Products Ltd. with the objective of ensuring that the long-term objectives, principles, and practices of sustainable forest management are maintained and consistent with the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan.

Indigenous, stakeholder, and public consultations take place before a forest management plan is considered for approval by the government. With respect to this FMA, the government says it consulted with seven First Nations: the Blood Tribe, Stoney (Chiniki) Band, Piikani Nation, Stoney (Wesley) Band, Siksika Nation, Tsuut’ina Nation, and Stoney (Bearpaw) Band.

This is the first new FMA Alberta has entered into since Weyerhaeuser Company Limited (Pembina Timberland)’s FMA was established in 2009.

FMAs give companies certain rights, including the right to establish, grow, harvest, and remove Crown timber, in exchange for various responsibilities such as forest management planning and creation, and maintenance of the forest inventory within the boundary of the FMA.