MacKenzie Creek is an important area for many, including Indigenous Peoples, the forestry industry, and recreational users, as well as various wildlife species. But balancing all these needs is hard work.
The creek is protected from angling and other activities because it’s the site of bull trout and Athabasca rainbow trout spawning and habitat. Over the years, off-highway vehicles (OHVs) riding near the waterways has led to more sediment in the water supply. This added sediment adversely impacts the spawning of threatened species, such as Athabasca rainbow trout and bull trout.
In 2018, the Government of Alberta (GoA) approached West Fraser about a project to help rehabilitate this area and to provide recreational users with a more sustainable and enjoyable OHV riding route.
“The GoA knew we planned to put a road into the drainage for timber harvesting. They wanted to address the existing OHV issues, but they didn’t have funding,” says Aaron Jones, a management forester with Hinton Wood Products.
So, we partnered on the project. West Fraser applied for funding through the Forest Resource Improvement Program (FRIP), and the government provided the staffing time to coordinate the project. It’s a large time commitment to manage this project because of the scope of the project and there will be numerous contractors involved.
Due to the size of the project, other stakeholders and partners were also brought onboard, including Teck, Trout Unlimited, Alberta Off-Highway Vehicle Association, and the Alberta Committee for Eastern Slopes Stewardship. West Fraser is contributing $300-thousand dollars to the project; the other partners are providing another $288-thousand.
Currently, the ad-hoc trails created by off-highway vehicles are creating severe rutting and erosion causing sediment and debris to run into the very sensitive watershed. Bull trout need clean, cold, well-oxygenated water for spawning, and the current off-roading trail network in this drainage is affecting that. This project will include the rehabilitation of the MacKenzie Creek OHV trails, including erosion control, building bridges, rerouting OHV trails, and building new trails where needed. It will mean not only an area that’s better protected but also a more enjoyable experience for OHV and other recreational users.
“This is such a good project,” adds Jones. “It’s a high-value stream, where there has been no angling allowed in MacKenzie Creek for the last 20 years to conserve fish populations. This project will further help the fish in this creek by addressing the ongoing issues of sedimentation and erosion.”
West Fraser works to manage for a range of “forest values”, that include wildlife, fish, water, wilderness recreation, and more. We are responsible stewards of the forest, and we consider all these values when developing plans. The work at MacKenzie Creek is another example of how we help to responsibly manage the land where we operate and balance the needs of all users.
This is a three-year project, and the bulk of the work will be done over the next two years.