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Local forestry industry concerned about caribou range plan

The roughly $200 million a year Weyerhaeuser contributes to the Grande Prairie community could be in jeopardy. The company says it’s not confident it will be able to re-invest in the area based on what’s been asked of them to help recover woodland caribou population.

Manager of forest stewardship for Weyerhaeuser Timberlands in Canada Wendy Crosina says their concern lies in the federal requirement to reduce how much of their range is considered disturbed to less than 35 per cent. Right now it’s around 80 per cent.

“That’s a huge leap,” she told Grande Prairie city council Monday night. “That means we may lose the opportunity to harvest in roughly 35 per cent of our range.”

There are two caribou ranges within Weyerhaeuser’s Grande Prairie forest management area: Narraway and Redrock-Prairie Creek Range. Crosina argues that instead of using a blanket number of 35 per cent for all ranges, they should instead be looked at on a case-by-case basis.

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“Different herds, different ranges would respond differently or should be treated differently,” she explains. “There are some ranges that may be able to meet 35 per cent target and still have fibre for mills or still allow energy access to the land base; there are some ranges that won’t happen in and they will be severely restrained or constricted.”

Weyerhaeuser has been working with several partners to come up with a plan it believes will keep their timber supply, maintain caribou population, and satisfy the federal government. General manager of lumber Terry Jean says if they are too restricted in where they can harvest trees, it could affect their plans to re-invest in the Grande Prairie area.

“Right now with our estimation of how much would be reasonable in the plan to restrict harvest, we would have enough to be able to invest, have a new mill, and continue on for the foreseeable future, but if it’s any less than that, then it really starts to question.”

The company is hoping the city and its residents will advocate on their behalf, as well as the forestry industry, as the province looks to finalize its caribou range plan. City councillor Eunice Friesen also encourages anyone concerned to speak out.

“I understand the economic impact this would have just in Grande Prairie, but it would completely decimate some northwestern Alberta communities and that again impacts us economically because we are such a retail economic draw from those communities.”

Alberta Environment and Parks is putting on an open house on the issue at the Elks Hall in Grande Prairie on March 8th.

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