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.
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
of Reynolds-Alberta Museum.