Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Alberta Wilderness Association Companion Guide for Completion of Castle Management Plan

The Alberta Wilderness Association has prepared a guide to completion of the Alberta government's online survey regarding the draft management plan for the new Castle Parks.

We suggest you consult this guide before completing the survey questionnaire.

On January 28, 2017 the Calgary Herald published an insightful op-ed by long-time conservation advocate Stephan Legault.

Legault: Perseverance pays off with protection of wild places, January 28, 2017

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Expanded Castle parks boundaries, OHV & snowmobile ban announced

Good-bye to all that: Random vehicle camping, OHVs and snowmobiles to be banned from both Castle parks

The Alberta government revealed Jan. 20 expanded final boundaries of the Castle Provincial Park and its surrounding Castle Wildland Provincial Park. At the same time, it announced the immediate closure of unauthorized off-highway vehicle (OHV)  trails and the complete phase-out over 3-5 years of existing designated OHV trails as new motorized recreation areas are authorized outside of the parks boundaries.

Snowmobiles are included in the OHV ban.

Effectively immediately upon adoption of the management plan, all OHV use will be prohibited south of Highway 774 which runs from Beaver Mines to Castle Mountain Resort. This means no quads or snowmobiles in the critical drainage of the the south Fork of the Castle River where OHV users have habitually used the stream bed for water bogging.

"We congratulate and thank the government for legislating the Castle Parks with the Order in Council that was passed this week," said Gord Petersen, member of the Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition board.

"While this is an important step in the protection of the Castle, there is still work to be done to make sure the Management Plan safeguards the long-term health of the area’s watersheds, wildlife, and historical and cultural resources, and provides opportunities for quiet recreation and wilderness-based businesses. I strongly encourage everyone to provide their input to the Public Consultation process."

Many of the trails to be closed or converted to non-motorized use were recently rehabilitated to repair extensive flood damage. That work was ordered by the previous provincial government but carried on even after the current government announced its intention to protect the Castle River watershed. The management plan calls for conversion of OHV trails to non-motorized use, unless ecological factors indicate closure and rehabilitation.

Motorized camping will be confined to campgrounds or designated sites. Back country walk-in camping will be encouraged.

Vigorous engagement by friends of the Castle in the 60-day consultation is required to ensure the off-highway ban is not reversed by political blowback on the part of OHV users and industry interests. Now is a time for modest celebration, but not for quiet complacency.

Link to the draft Castle Parks Management Plan including maps

Link to online public consultation survey (please respond  before March 20)

The announcement was welcomed by the Alberta Wilderness Association:

"The Castle parks, with expanded Wildland Provincial Park boundaries, will provide important protection for headwaters and threatened species including westslope cutthroat trout and grizzly bears. Albertans will be happy to see that they have been listened to and that protection of our headwaters and species at risk is being taken seriously," said Joanna Skrajny, AWA Conservation Specialist.

"While we would have preferred to see all off highway motorized recreation banned from both parks immediately, we expect that OHVs will be phased out in an expedited manner that targets, minimizes and eliminates ongoing threats to westslope cutthroat trout and grizzly bears, allowing these populations to recover. The elimination of illegal trail use in the Castle will begin the important process of protecting vital landscapes," said Cliff Wallis, AWA Secretary Treasurer.

Media Reports:

CBC, January 20, 2016
Alberta expands Castle area parks, plans to phase out off-highway vehicles

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Happy Holidays from Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition

2016 has been a busy year for all of us as advocates of the Castle-Crown Wildland area!

On September 4, 2015 the Government of Alberta announced their commitment to protect this ecological gem in the SW corner of Alberta. From that point on, we have been keenly watching to make sure that the Ministry of Environment and Parks gets this protection right!

On March 23, 2016, CCWC met with Minister Phillips to present our Castle Management Principles. Minister Phillips assured us that decisions made regarding the Castle will be science based and opportunities for stakeholder input on the Plan for Parks would be forthcoming.

On July 28, 2016 CCWC and representatives from Alberta Wilderness Association, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, and Yellowstone to Yukon met with Minister Miranda, the Minister of Culture and Tourism. As referenced in his business plan, he is working towards implementing a Castle Region Tourism strategy.  Our key message was that maximizing opportunities to support tourism and recreation in SW Alberta requires prioritizing conservation of the natural assets. This includes prohibiting off-highway vehicles in the Castle Provincial and Wildland Provincial Parks.

On August 21, 2016 Premier Notley took an afternoon to hike to the Carbondale lookout. Wendy Ryan led the hike. Her expertise was valuable in pointing out valleys, ranges and mountain peaks and detailing the damage made from motorized use and random camping.

Starting in September 2016 CCWC has been part of either the Land Uses or Ecology Working groups that were initiated to provide expert advice about the recreation and conservation issues in the area. This work is informing the draft management plan that is to be released in January 2017. The draft plan, and instructions on how to comment will be online at . We hope you read and provide comments as this document will be the true ‘litmus test’ of whether the Government of Alberta is using science-based  decisions to manage and protect!

Thank you for your commitment to our environment and the Castle area.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

September is shaping up to be a busy month for conservation. Below are some links to information released this past week.

News Release September 6, 2016 - Still Waiting for the Castle Parks
News Release September 7, 2016 - Castle Forest in Peril; Restoration Required

Global Forest Watch - Castle News Release 
                                  - Castle Bulletin

Also, please consider joining us for the Great Canadian Shoreline Clean Up at Beaver Mines Lake on Monday, September 12th.  You can find more information here.This will be the last of our summer reclamation events for 2016. Thank you to the Alberta Conservation Association and the Oldman Watershed Council for helping to host all of our summer events.

Thank you to all that have come out to volunteer your time in the Castle. Your time and hard work is very much appreciated.

Friday, 22 July 2016

West Castle Wetlands Ecological Reserve 9th Annual Weed Pull

Monday, July 25, 2016
Sponsored by: The Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition and Alberta Environment and Parks.

Meet: 9:30 AM at Castle Mountain Resort Parking Lot

Bring: digging tool, drinking water, lunch, insect repellent and, cup, utensils and plate for BBQ!

If you are trained to use it, bring bear spray and holster.

Wear: sunscreen, a hat, and dress for the weather.

At 3:00 PM following the weed pull will be a BBQ, and presentation of prizes at the T-Bar Pub.

RSVP to: Wendy Ryan 403 627- 4106 or Heidi Eijgel 403 627-1152

Everyone welcome!!!

OHVs and the Castle Parks: Are They In or Out?

That’s the crucial conservation question left begging in a newly-released document on what Alberta Environment and Parks expects in a draft management plan for the Castle Parks. Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA) and the Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition (CCWC) would like the Minister to answer the question definitively and commit unequivocally to the management plan’s vision: “Conservation of nature will be the primary, overriding objective of both parks.”

"On the one hand, the proposal contains a number of encouraging statements,” says Joanna Skrajny, AWA Conservation Specialist. “For example, conservation and headwaters protection are intended to be the top two management priorities; they animate the stress placed in the document on protecting critical westslope cutthroat trout habitat.” Environmental leadership and evidence based decision-making are admirably placed at the top of the list of principles intended to guide the plan. “But, these positive elements,” she adds, “are fundamentally irreconcilable with the document’s later suggestion that off-highway vehicles should be allowed in both parks. You cannot seriously prioritize conservation and headwaters protection if you allow motorized recreation in the Castle.”

The CCWC, a local, grassroots organization that has been fighting for protection of the Castle Wilderness for decades, joins AWA in this call. "Eighty-six percent of Albertans prioritize non-motorized recreation and the majority of the public believes that OHVs have no place in provincial parks. It pushes out other users and harms wildlife," adds Peter Lee of the CCWC. "Considering that Waterton and all of our mountain parks are bursting at the seams with visitors, it seems like a no-brainer that Albertans are searching for and would be grateful for more of the national park type experience."

The Castle Provincial Park and Wildland Provincial Park were announced on September 4, 2015 by the Government of Alberta. Sadly, despite public outcry and substantial consultation, the recommended management intentions outlined in the document released today – allowing OHVs, recreational hunting, and cattle grazing in the parks – have barely changed compared to what the department proposed more than 10 months ago.

“While this is disappointing and frustrating,” says Dr. Ian Urquhart, editor of AWA’s magazine Wildlands Advocate, “there is promise where this document says the Minister still may decide to modify the recommended management intentions to prohibit OHVs and hunting in the parks. It’s time for the Minister to decide once and for all whether OHVs are in or out of the Castle parks. Conservation and a truly modern view of Alberta parks demand that she rejects the recommendation to allow OHVs in the Castle.”

Link to Castle Parks Management Plan Annotated Draft Table of Contents

For more information:

Joanna Skrajny, Alberta Wilderness Association, 403-283-2025
Peter Lee, Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition, 780-914-6241
Ian Urquhart, Alberta Wilderness Association, 780-937-4692

Link to PDF version of this news release