Defend Alberta Forests: Fund a Future for the Highwood

Last winter, we put out a call for donations to help fund an independent environmental assessment of the Upper Highwood, including environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling of bull trout in Loomis Creek – a tributary of the Highwood River, legally designated as Critical Habitat for Alberta’s official fish under the Species at Risk Act (SARA).  

We were tremendously grateful that Bow River Trout Foundation’s board responded immediately, donating the entire $3,300 required.  

That assessment, the results of which can be found on our website, confirmed the presence of bull trout in Loomis Creek. While many weren’t surprised by this news, it served as a crucial reminder of the importance of the area not only for this SARA-listed species, but also for the preservation of regional biodiversity and hydrological function. 

Nevertheless, West Fraser Cochrane plans to proceed with the 1,200 hectares of clearcut in the Upper Highwood and has submitted the same Annual Operating Plan for the 2024-2025 season, making it clear that the company has not listened — let alone addressed — the concerns that thousands of Albertans have expressed about the profoundly irresponsible and unsustainable nature of this harvest. 

This is also in spite of the fact that a report commissioned by the Government of Alberta last year found that logging would result in a “high likelihood that planned forest harvest will lead to increased peak flows in Loomis Creek” and that “substantial changes in hydrologic indicators due to climate change are likely to be compounded by a high level of forest harvest in the watershed“. This finding corroborates our own technical watershed assessment which found very high risks of increased peak flows and surface erosion due to the planned harvest, which would have a major impact on trout populations. 

Given the immense value of this corner of Kananaskis — for wildlife, but also for recreation and tourism — and the crucial role it plays in flood mitigation for the region, particularly for at-risk downstream municipalities such as High River and the Îyârhe Nakoda community of Eden Valley, we remain committed to ensuring this clearcut does not come to pass.  

We are therefore mounting a comprehensive field-based assessment of forest hydrology, fish distribution and habitat use, and erosion and sedimentation monitoring for Loomis Creek and the adjacent Highwood River. Our firm belief is that this will build an indisputable case through rigorous scientific analysis that the Upper Highwood and Loomis Creek watersheds should not be harvested for timber, given the region’s importance for both at-risk native trout and headwaters integrity.  

We are fortunate to already have in place: 

  • An experienced team of fish biologists, geoscientists, and conservationists ready to conduct and support the project; 
  • A generous donation of $10,000 from an individual;
  • A matching donation campaign by Bow River Trout Foundation for Foundation members, up to $5,000; 
  • Equipment donation from Solinst, a private company keen to support the project. 

Donations will help cover the time, labour, and hard costs (e.g., equipment, sampling) of the contracted consultant, to further demonstrate the ecological value of protecting and preserving the Upper Highwood now and into the future.  

To learn more about what this study will entail, click here. If you have any questions about how your donation will be used, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Kat at

All Photo Credit: Amber Toner