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Home > History of Development > Early Industry: Case Studies > Forestry > Bow Valley Beginnings >Logging Declines

Early Industry Case Studies

Logging Declines

Standing Timber And Log Scaling, c.1910.By the end of the First World War, logging west of Calgary was in decline, in part because Banff National Park was curtailing logging activities within its borders. Also, many older berths were no longer quite so profitable, as the best lumber had been cut first. The federal government also imposed a set of harvesting regulations as a part of every timber lease. The main stipulation was that no tree under a diameter of eight inches (20 centimetres) could be cut except for road building. Licensees were also responsible for preventing unnecessary destruction of growing timber on the part of their men, and to "exercise strict and constant supervision to prevent the origin and spread of forest fires." As well, some lumber companies did adopt conservation measures of their own. These measures only delayed the inevitable, however, and logging in the early twentieth century was clearly not based on notions of sustainable yields.

Standing Timber And Log Scaling, c.1910.Companies also faced intrusions onto their berths by other individuals. The federal government ruled that companies could not prevent settlers with legal permits from cutting wood for buildings, fence rails, or firewood. Holders of timber limits also had reason to fear the construction demands of railways. In 1883, for example, Isaac Kerr received a letter informing him that the North American RY Contracting Company (holder of a C.P.R. construction contract) was cutting lumber on his berths. What made intrusions by these contractors particularly troublesome was that, in their rush to deadlines, they did not always follow sensible and efficient harvesting practices. Every kilometre of track required over 1,600 ties, which would reduce most timber berths to barren landscapes in very little time.

The C.P.R. also caused berth owners on the upper Bow another problem: forest fires. In the 1880s, steam locomotives were not equipped with screens on their smokestacks. So, when they whistled across the countryside belching smoke, they also spewed out hot cinders which immediately broke into flame when they hit dry grass and brush. Construction camps also contributed to the problem by careless minding of their own fires. Much of the Bow Valley was devastated in this way.

Kelly Buziak. Toiling in the Woods: Aspects of the Lumber Business in Alberta to 1930. n.p.: Friends of Reynolds-Alberta Museum Society and Alberta Culture and Multiculturalism, Historic Sites and Archives Service, 1992. With permission from
Friends of Reynolds-Alberta Museum


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