Don’t Worry, Be Happy!

February 13, 2014

How could we possibly have had any concerns about clear-cut logging in the Castle!? Everything is being taken care of…

ESRD letter

As you’ve probably already heard, the deadline to submit your comments on the draft South Saskatchewan Regional Plan has been extended until February 28, 2014. If you haven’t already submitted your comments, or if you have more to add, you still have time.

You can comment by filling out a workbook online at:

Or send an email to:

You can also fill out a hard copy workbook or write your comments in a letter and mail to:

SSRP Phase 3 Workbook
Land Use Secretariat
9th Floor, 10035 – 108 Street
Edmonton, Alberta
T5J 3E1

As a follow up, now would be a great time to call or request a meeting with your MLA and speak to him/her directly regarding your concerns about the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan, and about clear-cut logging in the Castle.

And why not call Premier Redford as well, and express your concerns. Dial 310-0000 and ask for the Premier’s office. The call is free from anywhere in Alberta.


Draft South Saskatchewan Regional Plan (SSRP), A Plan Only the Grinch Could Love

December 11, 2013


The draft SSRP is a major disappointment. Despite all the public opposition to logging in the Castle, the draft SSRP recommends that almost the entire forested area of the Castle be open to clearcut logging.

As disappointing and frustrating as this is, it’s still not too late to let the Premier and the government know what you think. Please make your voices heard.

Information, and opportunities for feedback on the plan can be found at

Additional information and analysis can be found at:

Alberta Wilderness Association:

Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society:

Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative:

Protect-the-Castle Hike to the Summit of Table Mountain a Great Success

September 19, 2013

Even though it was early on a Sunday morning, the energy level was high as some 50 hikers set out a little after 8:00 a.m. on September 15 for the summit of Table Mountain high above Beaver Mines Lake in the Castle Special Place, southwest of Pincher Creek, Alberta.

The hikers carried an 88-foot-long banner that read PROTECT THE CASTLE. They unfurled it once they reached the top of Table Mountain.

About noon a small aircraft appeared, and participants whooped and waved as the plane made multiple passes to record the scene.

Despite being declared a Special Place in 1998, the Castle remains the only one of 81 Special Places that has not received its final legal designation as a protected area. In the intervening 15 years, recreational and industrial pressures in the Castle have increased, and the ecological health of the Castle has declined.

Recently, there have been vigorous public protests over Spray Lake Sawmills’ clear-cut logging in the recreational heart of the Castle, and in what is considered core grizzly bear habitat under the grizzly bear recovery plan. Spray Lake Sawmills’ clear-cuts were clearly visible from the summit of Table Mountain.

This clear-cut logging, and the Castle’s declining ecological health, are of particular concern given the Castle’s status as a vital “water tower” for the Oldman River basin.

“It turned out to be a perfect fall day, and a great opportunity to make our point”, said David McNeill, one of the hike organizers. “We wanted to do something social and enjoyable that would reinforce our message that we want to see the Castle properly protected.”

“We trust and expect that the Government of Alberta’s soon-to-be-released draft South Saskatchewan Regional Plan (SSRP) will recommend that the Castle be protected as a combination Wildland and Provincial Park”, added Gordon Petersen of the Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition.

The Bert Riggall Environmental Foundation and the Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition co-sponsored this event.

Photos by Robin Pisko:

CastleHike1web500 CastleHike2web500 CastleHike3web500

Photos by Susan Guerra:

DSCN5707 DSCN5717 DSCN5729 DSCN5732 DSCN5734 DSCN5746 DSCN5751 DSCN5761 DSCN5772 DSCN5779 DSCN5790 DSCN5807

The Protect-the-Castle Hike is a Go! Starts tomorrow, Sunday, September 15, 8:00 am.

September 14, 2013

Protect-the-Castle Hike to Table Mountain, Sunday, Sept 15

Here is an event you might want to participate in:

Protect the Castle, Hike to Table Mountain

A simple gesture to show the world that we want the Castle Protected. I propose you join us on September 15, 2013, for a hike to the top of Table Mountain where we will post the banners ” Protect…the.. Castle” on the top. Bob Pisco or his son will fly over with Jim Cameron and take pictures of this moment in time. Gordon Petersen will share it with the media and spread it around.

We need a minimum of 12 hikers to hold the edges of the canvas banners, but having more would be so great.

Join us at the trail head parking lot at Beaver Mines Lake Recreation Area at 8:00 a.m. on September the 15th, with lots of water, a packed lunch and the hearts of lions. The hike will take about 3 hours up and less coming down. Looking forward to see you not only stand up for the Castle, but do it while standing on a mountain of the Castle.

For further information contact: David McNeill or Linde’ 403-627-3476 or

E mail:

This hike is being sponsored by the Bert Riggall Environmental Foundation and the Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition

Organizers will check the weather forecast on Saturday, Sept 14 at 6:00 pm to decide whether or not the hike is a “go”. Check back here shortly after 6:00 for the latest update.

Shameful legacy of Hidden Creek

September 8, 2013

See Lorne Fitch’s opinion piece in the Lethbridge Herald

Shameful legacy of Hidden Creek

By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on August 31, 2013.

Lorne Fitch


There is a special place called Hidden Creek in the headwaters of the Oldman River. Bull trout have migrated there to spawn for thousands of years. Native cutthroat trout, in precipitous decline elsewhere, also hang on in the stream by a fin. If there was a place where fish should have trumped logging, Hidden Creek is the place.

It seems there is no place in our Eastern Slopes inviolate from logging. Hidden Creek was logged last winter in a rush, possibly to counter any objections to the contrary. The footprint of a few months of activity now will persist for the foreseeable future and put bull trout and cutthroat trout, both “threatened” species, in peril. Today’s commercial logging is brutal, mechanized, large scale and probably economically marginal. To make economic sense, the usual rules about land use are consistently watered down by the Forest Service as a service, perhaps a subsidy, to the timber industry.

To accommodate logging of the steep, topographically challenging Hidden Creek valley, the Forest Service granted several significant deviations from accepted practice. The logging road was constructed well within the usual protective buffer, meaning sediment has a quicker, direct run into the stream. The valley seeps with water, like a sponge, and is the reason why bull trout home there to spawn. Many source water areas (tributary streams, springs and seeps) were logged over; where buffers were left, these were wafer thin and of questionable effectiveness. Roads and trails now channel both surface and groundwater flow in ways that enhance erosion.

Reclamation of the logging footprint, termed “state of the art” by the Forest Service, is best described as minimalist and perfunctory. The stabilization of steep slopes is problematic and slumping may introduce sediment into Hidden Creek in catastrophic amounts. Attempts to contain sediment from bare slopes and keep it out of the water can charitably only be called cosmetic.

The way industry logs, the way the Forest Service allows and directs industry to log, has soured the majority of southern Albertans on timber harvest. Numerous public opinion surveys corroborate this, including the responses of most participants in the South Saskatchewan Regional Planning process. A mad rush to log all the sensitive watersheds, the ones containing “threatened” native fish, is a cynical attempt to get the last tree before public opinion finally awakens and overwhelms the rapacious, short-term treatment of our headwater water towers.

Laurence Peter, famous also for the Peter Principle, said, “Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status.” So it is with the Forest Service that continues blindly to promote destructive logging practices long after the public has said other forest values are more important.

Whether in the guise of local economic development, fire protection, a prophylactic for insect damage or the latest – “water harvest” – the Forest Service sticks to the consistent theme of “the answer is logging, what was the question?” Certainly one of the silliest, if not the most disingenuous of initiatives, given recent flooding is the Forest Service plan to log one of the unlogged, unroaded watersheds in the Crowsnest Pass to increase water delivery. We need more forest canopy, not less, given the recurring themes of heavy June rain storms and subsequent flooding.

Fish do not immediately die from a logging operation but the legacy of poorly planned cutblocks, inappropriate roading and a lack of timely, effective restoration of the logging footprint creates a legacy of problems. These inevitably lead to population fragmentation, spawning failure, habitat loss and population declines. Once fish and wildlife populations dip below a critical mass, any of a number of factors, natural and/or human, are magnified and cause populations to disappear.

The cutblocks on Hidden Creek won’t be logged again for over 100 years based on slow, torturous growth rates in a circumstance where trees struggle. The ones cut were over 100 years old and barely eight inches in diameter at their bases. When those trees were seedlings, about 1900, far-sighted and wise bureaucrats were thinking about and instituting a landscape approach to watershed protection called the Forest Reserve. Sadly, that noble ideal has been exchanged for one of exploitation, a shift for areas originally set aside for their watershed virtues.

Maybe, just maybe, by the time the feller bunchers or their new kin come again to Hidden Creek there will be a more enlightened approach to forest and watershed management than that exhibited by recent logging. If bull trout and cutthroat trout (as well as grizzlies, elk, wolverine and lynx) survive this latest logging onslaught they might persist until the next one. The best we can hope for, those of us that appreciate clean water, native trout and watersheds with ecological integrity, is the Forest Service goes extinct before many of the indicators of enlightened, sustainable forest management do.

Lorne Fitch is a professional biologist, a retired Fish and Wildlife biologist and an adjunct professor with the University of Calgary.

Protect-the-Castle-Hike to Table Mountain, Sunday, Sept 15

September 8, 2013

Here is an event you might want to participate in:

Protect the Castle, Hike to Table Mountain

A simple gesture to show the world that we want the Castle Protected. I propose you join us on September 15, 2013, for a hike to the top of Table Mountain where we will post the banners ” Protect…the.. Castle” on the top. Bob Pisco or his son will fly over with Jim Cameron and take pictures of this moment in time. Gordon Petersen will share it with the media and spread it around.

We need a minimum of 12 hikers to hold the edges of the canvas banners, but having more would be so great.

Join us at the trail head parking lot at Beaver Mines Lake Recreation Area at 8:00 a.m. on September the 15th, with lots of water, a packed lunch and the hearts of lions. The hike will take about 3 hours up and less coming down. Looking forward to see you not only stand up for the Castle, but do it while standing on a mountain of the Castle.

For further information contact: David McNeill or Linde’ 403-627-3476 or

E mail:

This hike is being sponsored by the Bert Riggall Environmental Foundation and the Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition


Organizers will check the weather forecast on Saturday, Sept 14 at 6:00 pm to decide whether or not the hike is a “go”. Check back here shortly after 6:00 for the latest update.

Spray Lake Sawmills Open Houses. Wednesday, May 8 in Cochrane, and Thursday May 9 in Blairmore.

May 6, 2013

Spray Lake Sawmills is having open houses on Wednesday, May 8 in Cochrane, and Thursday May 9 in Blairmore.


On May 8th and 9th Spray Lake Sawmills will be hosting our annual open houses.  May 8th will be located  in Cochrane at the Cochrane Curling Club  and May 9th will be held in Blairmore at the Blairmore Legion, both will run from 3:00 to 7:00 PM.

The purpose of the open houses is to provide an opportunity for interested parties to view our harvest plans.  This includes the company’s General Development Plan as well as the area specific Forest Harvest Plans.

Spray Lake Sawmills’ Woodlands staff will be available to help answer any questions and hear any comments you may have to offer.  Everyone is welcome, even if it is just to meet the Woodlands staff and join us for a cup of coffee.

This is a good opportunity to see what the company has in mind for the next while, and to let them know what you think about industrial clear-cut logging in the Castle, Star Creek, Todd Creek, West Bragg Creek, and so on.

Very Successful Rally Held January 20

January 21, 2013
Photo: Barbara Amos

Photo: Barbara Amos

Despite the generally grey January skies, there was a festive feeling in the air as friends, neighbours, and defenders of wilderness and wildlife got together to rally against clear-cut logging in the Castle Special Place.

Photo: Gordon Petersen

Photo: Gordon Petersen

And even though the feeling was friendly, the participants remain resolute in their determination to have clear-cut logging stopped once and for all in the Castle.

Many of those carrying signs were veterans of similar rallies in the past, including the demonstrations that lasted for three bitterly-cold weeks last January.

Photo: Gordon Petersen

Photo: Gordon Petersen

Hats off to these determined folks, and to their continuing and spirited defence of the Castle, and of the wild things that live there!

Photo: Gordon Petersen

Photo: Gordon Petersen

Please join us at a Stop Castle Logging Rally on Sunday, January 20 in Beaver Mines.

January 16, 2013

As many of you will know, Spray Lake Sawmills (SLS) is currently clear-cut logging in the Castle. The provincial government gave SLS permission to complete the first year of logging that was delayed by last winter’s protests.

The Castle logging scheduled for years two and three has been put on hold pending the outcome of the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan (SSRP),  but it has not been cancelled. We still have work to do.

The January 20 Rally is meant to make three main points:

1. Even though it’s already started, we continue to oppose this year’s logging—we haven’t simply given up and gone away.

2. The logging scheduled for years two and three needs to be permanently cancelled.

3. There needs to be a review of all logging along the eastern slopes. Valley-by-valley protest and conflict is no way to manage our forest resources.

Rally Details

Location: Beaver Mines gazebo, in the park directly behind the Beaver Mines store. (Please park on 2nd Avenue so as not to fill the store’s parking lot.) The gazebo has heat, and we’ll have a fire going outside. The rally will proceed regardless of the weather.

Timing: Coffee and Hot Chocolate will be on at 11:00 am. Lunch will be provided from about 12:00 noon until 1:00. From about 1:00 to 2:00 pm, we’ll make the short walk to stand with our signs in public areas along the main road running through Beaver Mines (Hwy 774).

Entertainment: Sid Marty will be on hand to read some of his poetry, and perhaps play a few tunes. We may also have some other entertainment over lunch.

Other info:  Please bring your own sign. Be creative, we expect the press to be there.

Please respect private property, and stick to public areas.

Be respectful of the neighbours, and of the traffic.

There are limited toilet facilities, and no running water at the gazebo.

RSVP: So we can organize the food, please contact Carolyn at the CCWC office ASAP if you’re planning to have lunch, (403) 627-5059,

Please pass this message on to others who you think may be interested.

Hope to see you there!

News Release: Grinch Spotted Near Beaver Mines, Alberta. Forest Begins Disappearing.

December 20, 2012



Grinch Spotted Near Beaver Mines, Alberta. Forest Begins Disappearing.

For immediate release: Beaver Mines, AB, December 20, 2012

The Grinch has been spotted in several locations in the vicinity of Beaver Mines, AB, southwest of Pincher Creek.

“We knew that seeing the Grinch lurking about couldn’t be a good sign, but our worst fears have been realized”, says Gordon Petersen, a local resident. “Our forest has begun to disappear.”

Despite several years of massive public opposition, and protests that eventually led to the arrests of five people last February, Spray Lake Sawmills has begun clear-cutting some 1000 truckloads of logs from the heart of the Castle Special Place.

“I guess our Christmas present this year will be a depressing sea of stumps and debris in what used to be our forest”, continued Petersen. “We’re afraid the Grinch is bringing us silted-up waterways, homeless wildlife, broken-hearted recreationalists, and fuming businessmen.”

“Putting a hold on years 2 and 3 of this logging operation didn’t mean that year 1 wouldn’t be completed. It’s just too bad that next spring grizzly bears will wake up and find their trees gone, and cutthroat trout will swim in cloudy streams”, says Sarah Elmeligi of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. “And, unlike in Dr. Seuss’ story, they won’t simply be able to put the forest back. Not for another hundred years.”

For further comment:

Gordon Petersen, Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition, (403) 627-3732

Sarah Elmeligi, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (403) 609-9593

New Articles in the Wildlands Advocate

December 19, 2012
Wildlands Advocate, October 2012

Wildlands Advocate, October 2012

The October 2012 issues of the AWA’s Wildlands Advocate has several articles related to the Castle, and to Castle logging.

Castle coverages starts with the striking image on the cover titled The Guardians by Barbara Amos. The image is from a series of photos called Red Alert for the Castle Watershed that are intended to create metaphors about caring for our watersheds.

Inside, Peter Sherrington writes about Water in the Castle, while Nigel Douglas discusses the findings of the AWA’s FOIP on the Castle logging in Logging Trumps All Other Concerns in the Castle: Findings from a Freedom of Information Application.

The issue’s In Memoriam honours Rick Collier, a long-time friend of the Castle, and a staunch defender of things wild and free.

December 18, 2012


Media Advisory: Castle Logging Opponents take Alberta Government to Court

November 3, 2012

Media Advisory

Castle Logging Opponents take Alberta Government to Court

For Immediate Release: Beaver Mines, AB, October 30, 2012

Five individuals who were involved in last winter’s Castle logging protest, plus the Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition, are taking the Alberta Government to court over the continuing clear-cut logging in the Castle area, southwest of Pincher Creek, AB.

For a number of reasons, including the lack of effective consultation, and the fact that the Castle is considered core grizzly bear habitat, the Applicants are arguing that the logging licence is invalid.

The case will be heard in the Court of Queen’s Bench on Thursday, November 8, 2012, starting at 10:00 am. (Calgary Courts Centre, 601–5 Street SW, Calgary, AB).  The full day has been set aside.

Mr. Clint Docken, of Docken & Company, will represent the Applicants.

Spokespeople will be available on November 8 for comment.

Logging Judicial Review

November 3, 2012


As you may know, five individuals who were involved in last winter’s Castle logging protest, plus the Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition are taking the Alberta Government to court over the clear-cut logging in the Castle. For a number of reasons, including the lack of effective consultation, and the fact that the Castle is considered core grizzly bear habitat, it is our contention that the logging licence is invalid.

We will be arguing our case in the Court of Queen’s Bench on Thursday, November 8, 2012, starting at 10:00 am. (Calgary Courts Centre, 601–5 Street SW, Calgary, AB).  The full day has been set aside. Mr. Clint Docken, of Docken & Company, will be representing us.

There are several ways that you can help:

1. Join us in Court

Let others who may be interested know, and then join us in the courtroom on November 8. Carpooling can be coordinated through Carolyn at the CCWC office, (403) 627-5059,

2. Help us with the legal costs.

Cheques made out to the Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition can be sent to CCWC, Box 2621, Pincher Creek, AB, T0K 1W0. Mark the cheque “For Stop Castle Logging”.

Alternately, Donations can be made through Canada Helps Use the “Donate Now” button. On the next page choose “Stop Castle Logging” from the scroll-down menu.

3. Call or write Premier Redford, Minister McQueen, and your MLA, and let them know that you oppose any further logging in the Castle. See for contact information.

Thanks for your help!

Recent Press Coverage

October 23, 2012

Logging to be halted in Castle wilderness area,

Battle for the Castle,

Tensions linger over Castle wilderness logging,

Off-road users and campers causing damage in Castle area,

Castle logging stopped,

Province to halt logging in Castle after completion of Spray Lakes project,

Castle logging project halted,

Positive signs on environment front,

Red Alert for Castle Watershed,

Press Release, October 12

October 23, 2012

Note: While this is a positive development, and a step in the right direction, we’re “not out of the woods yet”! SLS plans to cut 3x as much timber this year than last, and the year 2 and 3 logging plans are only put on hold while the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan is being considered. We have a long way to go before we can be sure the logging has been stopped for good.

Castle Logging Halted 

Albertans applaud decision to stop logging in protected area 

October 12, 2012

Pincher Creek, AB – A decision this week by the Minister of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development to put a hold on logging in a protected area in Southern Alberta has community members and conservationists applauding. On Wednesday, October 10 the Pincher Creek Echo ran a story that has now been confirmed with calls the office of the Minister Dianna McQueen: years two and three of clear-cut logging in the Castle Special Place are being put on hold pending the outcome of the ongoing South Saskatchewan Regional Land Use Plan.

“This is a very positive turn of events,” says Peter Sherrington, a resident of nearby Beaver Mines, and a member of the Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition (CCWC). “The Minister has done the right thing by halting future logging in the Castle until the land-use plan has been finalized.”

Logging by Cochrane, AB based Spray Lake Sawmills in the Castle, designated a protected area under the Special Places 2000 in 1998, began last winter, and was met by the longest protests on an environmental issue in the province’s history. It culminated with four local citizens being arrested after they and dozens of others braved minus 30 temperatures to protest the clear-cutting.

Logging will take place in the Castle this fall, but will be limited to an area accessible by the existing roads built by Spray Lakes last winter. This logging will complete year one of the three-year logging plan. Spray Lake Sawmills will then decommission the access road.

The Castle Special Place is a 1000 square kilometer region located north of Waterton Lakes National Park and is part of the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem. The area is critical habitat for elk, grizzly bears and the endangered bull trout, and is the headwaters for 30% of the Oldman River drainage. “Logging is not the best way for the Castle Special Place to be managed. Permanent protection will result in far greater economic opportunities for places like Pincher Creek, Beaver Mines and the Crowsnest Pass,” said Sherrington. “People want to live and work in beautiful places, and the Castle is one of the most beautiful regions in our province, and in the Crown of the Continent.”

“The Minister has made a good decision, and we’re pleased to give credit when it’s due,” says Sarah Elmeligi from the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. “Our long term goal remains, however: we want the Castle permanently protected as a combination Wildland and Provincial park as was the intent in 1998.”

While the Minister has halted logging slated for years two and three of the current three year logging plane, cutting is still scheduled for this fall. The Castle Crown Wilderness Coalition will be in court on November 1, 2012 to challenge the permit granted to Spray Lake Sawmills and try and win a reprieve for the Castle from logging this autumn.

For comment:

Peter Sherrington, CCWC (403) 627-3522

Sarah Elmeligi, CPAWS Southern Alberta, 403-688-8641

News Release: Red Alert for the Castle Watershed

September 4, 2012

Red Alert for the Castle Watershed

For Immediate Release: Lundbreck, Alberta, September 4, 2012

All summer long, local artists have been exploring dramatic, yet playful, visual concepts designed to focus attention on the logging and other resource issues in the Castle headwaters, southwest of Pincher Creek, Alberta.

The concept, titled Red Alert for the Castle River Watershed, contrasts red and brightly-coloured forms with the natural landscape of the Castle River, and the Castle Special Place. “The idea is to make a striking statement about the relationships between the human and natural worlds, and to draw attention to some of the issues that have put the Castle River Watershed on Red Alert”, explains Barbara Amos, a spokesperson for the artists.

Of immediate and pressing concern is Spray Lake Sawmills’ clear-cut logging in the heart of the Castle Special Place. Designated a protected area, the Castle Special Place is considered core grizzly bear habitat and a vital “water tower” for the Oldman River Basin. Yet clear-cut logging began in February and is scheduled to continue over the next three years despite significant public opposition.

“We’re trying to make the point that although the situation is dire, it’s not too late to stop the logging and limit the damage”, says Amos. “It also reinforces the fact that, although some logging has started, the defenders of the Castle have not simply given up and gone away.”

The Red Alert artists invite everyone to come up with their own Red Alert images, to be uploaded to the Red Alert for the Castle River Watershed Facebook page

Hundreds of people from more than 17 countries have now viewed the Red Alert Facebook page, and more artistic contributions are coming in all the time.

The artists involved in Red Alert for the Castle River Watershed plan to continue to spread the word that the Castle headwaters are on Red Alert, while having some fun at the same time.

Artist’s Statement for Red Alert

by Barbara Amos, Amos Art Projects

Perception is the essence of making images. We all see the same physical world, yet we all perceive it through a personal filter. At what point do we depart from a literal recording of what we see? If we are going to create another view of something that has been done many times, how do we do it so that it adds a new idea to the conversation? If we are going to paint a landscape, do we understand the history behind previous landscape painting? Do we know the current debates? Can we add something that takes the conversation further and adds something new to the discourse? This is the edge that moves the creative endeavor into new territory and keeps it relevant to the next generation. It is not an issue of subject matter, or style, or materials. It is an issue of perception, that ability to absorb the milieu of the times, to be open, to perceive and, with that information, to create.

My artwork begins with a place in the real world, and a perception of a moment that seems “loaded”. From this point, the path is frequently a detour and always the process, the journey, is the place of creation. The end result, the painting, the photograph, the event, or the sculpture, is a recording of that process.

There are many places in our Canadian landscape that are worthy of thoughtful attention. The place that holds my attention is in Southern Alberta, along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains, and specifically, the watersheds that begin the river systems that flow across Canada, through Alberta and Saskatchewan, and on to Hudson Bay. These watersheds unite all of us along their path. At the Crown of the Continent, from where I do most of my work, these waters are at their most pristine, and of spectacular clarity and beauty.

All the people in the community that help me create these photographs are concerned about the threats to this watershed. We all work in various ways to communicate these concerns to the government. This is hard and tiring work, and we need an element of levity to sustain and restore us. We have fun making these images, and hope that they engage a new audience with these issues. I have set up a Facebook site so that participation is open to whoever might like to join us, in person, online, or in a sharing mode.

Metaphors are the basis of this work. Look at these images and think about celebrating the river; bringing a party to the river with the river as the guest of honour; water as a sacred right belonging to all; water, which needs our guardianship; mandalas which are a made in the spirit of uniting the cosmos; bringing the participants together in a common unity; water as a source of joy on a beautiful day; and water without which there is no life.

These photographs create metaphors about caring for our watersheds. They are part of the Canadian tradition of seeing the land as the focus for a work of art.

Red Alert For The Castle Headwaters is at:


Red Alert For The Castle Headwaters Images, Photos by Barbara Amos

The Guardians

The Guardians

Celebrate the River

Celebrate the River





Red Shore

Red Shore

In Memory of Rick Collier

August 20, 2012

When out in the Rockies, be it valley, ridge or peak, please raise your water bottle in memory and thanks to Rick Collier who died on a climb of Mount Geikie in Mount Robson Provincial Park last Wednesday when part of the mountain gave way.

Irrespective of which conservation group, if it was a call to action to protect the wilderness, Rick could be counted on to be there to help for as long as there was work to do.

There were numerous wilderness and parks campaigns he was an irreplaceable part of over the decades; be it keeping Willmore Wilderness Park as roadless wilderness back in the late 1970s, keeping the wilderness of the west Spray Lakes area intact in the 1990s (became Spray Lakes Provincial Park) or most recently keeping clear-cut logging out of the Castle Special Place / Special Management Area, Rick was a knowledgeable and dedicated volunteer for the wild.

He knew the places through his hiking boots and from the peaks.  And I could always count on him to get the call for help out to the climbers and mountaineers; most recently the Old Goats Climbing Club that he helped organize.

Can’t say it better than his son did for the media: “You don’t climb that many mountains or get behind that many things when you’re not fully committed … There’s people who are there for the movement when it’s the thing to be behind … He was the guy who was there way before that and hung around way after that. He was in for the long haul.”

Dianne Pachal
Calgary, AB

August 15, 2012

Release Date: August 14, 2012 

Castle Logging Decision Ignored Fish and Wildlife, and Alberta Public


Details Revealed in Newly-released Freedom of Information Documents


Newly-released documents reveal that the Alberta government’s decision to go ahead with deeply unpopular clearcut logging in the Castle Special Place, west of Pincher Creek, Alberta – despite widespread public opposition – was made by Forestry staff in a seeming vacuum. Fish and Wildlife staff were given minimal opportunity for input, and documents show that input was ignored. Extensive public opposition to the logging, which saw rallies, a protest camp and even arrests, was also discounted.These are some of the findings revealed in documents recently released under a Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) application by Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA).

“This doesn’t sound like the behaviour of a government that listens to Albertans. These documents point to an Alberta Forest Service that feels it can make its own decisions without listening to anybody else,” says AWA conservation specialist Nigel Douglas. “The decision has been made to clearcut log and nothing is going to stop that: never mind the impacts on water quality or grizzly habitat or sensitive fish habitat, and never mind the huge public opposition and even internal government concern.”

“It is shocking that the enormous outpouring of public opposition to the logging plans barely created a ripple in the Forest Division’s plans,” says Gord Petersen of the Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition. “The documents show no record of the Castle as a Special Place, nor any mention of massive public opposition to the logging.”

“Local residents and conservation organizations have said for many years that the values of the Castle Special Place reach beyond simple timber value,” says Sarah Elmeligi of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. “In 1998, the Castle was protected to provide healthy headwaters and clean drinking water, wildlife habitat and low impact recreation opportunities. Now in 2012 Albertans are showing their concern   that these values have not been adequately provided for. That’s why Alberta Fish and Wildlife had concerns about logging this protected area; concerns that were ignored by the Forestry Division of SRD.”

Environmental groups will be meeting with Diana McQueen, Minister of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development on August 23 to discuss the Castle. There is some optimism that a renewed government commitment to openness and transparency will also reflect a renewed commitment to respect the critical environmental values of the Castle.

The complete FOIP document can be seen at

For more Information:

Nigel Douglas, Alberta Wilderness Association: (403) 283-2025

Gord Petersen, Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition: (403) 627-3732

Sarah Elmeligi – Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society ‐ Southern Alberta: (403) 688‐8641

In the Bedrooms of the Bull Trout

August 15, 2012

In the Bedrooms of the Bull Trout

 Lorne Fitch, P. Biol.

The tug upstream seems inexorable, an urge not to be denied or ignored. Up bull trout swim, from the wide expanses of river, from the comparative security of deep pools and boulder-choked riffles. Upstream, against a rapidly increasing current, in a channel that narrows and gets shallower. Upstream, where water temperatures drop perceptibly and the medium becomes so clear fish appear to be suspended rather than immersed.

Streamlined, appearing much like a baseball bat with fins, bull trout move in a timeless migration. Their destinations are the spots where each emerged from the stream gravels some five to ten years earlier. Each survivor has bulked up substantially. Nothing escapes them; suckers, mountain whitefish, big stoneflies and the occasional mouse, vole and snake. To get big you have to eat big.

Bull trout are the ultimate aquatic predator, at the top of the watery food chain. Think of them as scaled grizzlies, with gills. Nowadays a big one might top out at four kg. In earlier days, remembered still by elderly anglers, a big one might stretch over a saddle and dangle nearly from stirrup to stirrup. In the waters of their spawning tributaries these giants would only be partially submerged.

Their movements upstream are anything but random. The magnet that pulls, attracts them, is the unique combination of cool ground water bubbling up from some subterranean reservoir through gravels shaped from the persistent grinding action of erosion. Context here is everything. It takes a watershed, not just a stream, to meet bull trout needs for the biological imperative of replacing themselves.

Forests, generally of the old growth variety, with thick underlays of absorbent mosses capture and store snowmelt and rainfall. This water, the unheralded treasure of forests, slowly is entrained below the surface. There it is then meted out just as slowly to add to streamflow. That these streams flow in the winter when all else seems frozen is the magic of this unseen supply of water. Bull trout appreciate it more than we seem to, for their eggs are deposited in the gravels in the fall and survival is dependent on this interplay between surface and ground water.

The seeps and springs are not often obvious to our eyes. What was obvious to early hunters, trappers and anglers was the autumn splashing of female trout absorbed in moving gravels. Around them, like teenagers at a high school dance, the males vied with each other for position. Often these fish were of a size that the shallow riffles couldn’t provide enough depth. Heads, fins and backs would protrude into the alien environment of air. To be successful in the dance of sex requires bull trout to comprehend the nuances of water movement, depth, velocity and changes during the time of egg incubation. The combination must be one of hydrological experience and clairvoyance.

From the memories of early outdoorsmen a faint picture of bull trout ecology and abundance emerged. More detailed biological investigations, done recently, have validated early observations of bull trout migration and favored destinations. Alarmingly, more comprehensive inventories have shown diminishment in bull trout populations generally and extirpation of some.

In the Oldman River watershed bull trout are missing from 70% of their former range. Historically trout populations (both bull trout and westslope cutthroat trout) were to be found as far downstream as present day Lethbridge. A combination of overfishing and dramatic habitat shifts pushed these populations into the far reaches of the Oldman watershed. Even there, in isolated spots there is no security from persistent land uses that continue to threaten their existence.

I get to play fisheries biologist again, for a few days, on one of the ongoing inventories of bull trout in the upper Oldman watershed. This work, done jointly by the Alberta Conservation Association and Fish and Wildlife, represents the systematic collection of good data to inform better land use decisions. On a late and crisp September day I pull on my chest waders and accompany Matthew Coombs, the only fisheries biologist for southwestern Alberta. On paper Matthew has a small area in which to ply his trade- just the entire headwaters of the Oldman watershed from the US border to the boundary with the Bow watershed. It reminds me, painfully, of the minimal priority placed on fish by the province of Alberta.

Matthew warns me the waters of Hidden Creek, a tiny and seemingly insignificant tributary to the upper Oldman River, are very cold. Fresh snow ices the peaks of the continental divide and frost coats the ground. None of this registers until my feet desert me on the slick boulders and I stick an arm in the water to steady myself. The water is numbingly cold. As I wring out my shirt sleeve I marvel at creatures that make this glacial medium their home.

Hidden Creek enters the Oldman River tumbling over bedrock and boulders. Not much wider than I am tall, it joins the larger river discretely, without fanfare. It seems to fit its name well. Before a logging bridge over the Oldman River provided easier access a watery moat kept the creek secure, free from all but the most persistent explorer. The headwaters of the stream wrap themselves around the base of Tornado Mountain, the highest peak of the southern High Rock range, part of the continental divide. Hidden Creek’s watershed is not untouched, but at most is only nibbled at with old seismic lines and small clearcuts in the shadow of Tornado Mountain. Compared with the logging footprint in drainages to the north and south, Hidden Creek looks relatively pristine.

Except, of course, for the mouth of the valley, where a large clearcut focuses the eye as Hidden Creek enters the Oldman. Walking from the marginal buffer of unlogged forest adjacent to the stream into the clearcut is like a trip from soft broadloom to a city sidewalk. One is soft, spongy and shaded; the other hard, unyielding and bright. The buffer seems like an administrative abstraction rather than a logical solution to protecting water quality. How can we think the answer is to parcel the landscape into discrete, unrelated bits when all work together in unity? Bull trout might see this industrial dismemberment of the landscape as reductionist and an anathema.

A fence of aluminum rods directs fish into a mesh trap. The materials of the trap are modern but the technology is of the Stone Age. One bull trout has been fooled by the labyrinth. We net it and anesthetize it with clove oil- a similar formulation has been used for generations to sooth the pain of toothache in humans.

The gills open and close, breathing in the aqueous tranquilizer until the fish no longer struggles and is quiescent. Scarred from life in a turbulent environment it is as long as my arm and likely heavier than it as well. Matthew gently squeezes along its sides and announces it is a spent male, probably returning from earlier action. Using the equivalent of a grocery store scanner Matthew determines it has an imbedded chip- an identity device- from an encounter with another fisheries biologist. Like a can of corn this bull trout has a number and few secrets. The world of electronics has taken much of the mystery out of the lives of wildlife. Conversely, the use of technology has sensitized us, with better data, to issues of species biology and survival, especially those critters hovering on the edge.

Measurements done the trout is placed in a tub of fresh water and gently rocked back and forth. The anesthetic wears off quickly. Holding him to recover, he seems like 100% muscle, arching and twisting in my grip, displaying a power disproportionate to size. On return to the stream, with a disdainful flip of his tail he disappears downstream amid the turbulence. I have touched and connected with a creature that represents the outcome of 10,000 years of trial, error, adaptation and evolution. It fits here perfectly.

One bull trout does not a story tell though. The number of bull trout that seek out Hidden Creek to spawn does. Extensive trapping over a two year period by the Alberta Conservation Association indicates that amid all of the tributary streams Hidden Creek is the hands down bedroom of choice for nearly 8 out of every 10 bull trout. Hidden Creek is the epicenter for about half of all bull trout reproduction in the upper Oldman River watershed. We may not understand all of the virtues of this one tiny stream, but bull trout do.

Yet, a population cannot afford to put all its eggs in one basket or, as is the case for bull trout, in one stream. Bull trout have hedged their bets, over time, by spawning in a number of streams in the upper Oldman. By spreading out, disaster in one stream is compensated for by success in another. The choices have narrowed however. In the upper Oldman the list of streams that attracted spawning bull trout has shrunk by at least three since the late 1950’s. The quality of many of the remainder is dubious.

Dutch Creek, the next downstream tributary to the Oldman is a river by comparison to Hidden Creek. Despite its size less than one out of 10 bull trout choose it as a spawning destination. In Dutch Creek the stories of big bull trout and many of them from the dusty archives stored in the memories of elderly anglers are hard to square with today’s reality. Dutch Creek (and its near twin, Racehorse Creek) are watersheds checker-boarded with clearcuts. A little cyber trip on Google Earth shows the footprint of logging in these watersheds to be extensive.

The history of large scale, commercial logging dates back 60 some odd years, following construction of the Forestry Trunk Road. In many respects, this trail, with an initial rationale for forest protection from fire lit a fire storm of resource exploitation that hasn’t cooled yet. Extracting the wealth of our forests is a largely one way affair; resources go out and the legacy of their removal lingers to haunt subsequent generations. Past generations of bull trout had to contend with poachers using a variety of contrivances. Angling isn’t the issue of today. What is troubling today is the change in landscape integrity and stream quality from decades of industrial (and recreational) use.

We slip on our chest waders again to count bull trout redds in a reach of Dutch Creek. Redds are the “nests” bull trout mothers excavate in the gravels. First on their minds is the selection of an appropriate spot, an inscrutable science to we who live in air, not water. What seems evident is the female must sense the presence of an intergravular flow of water. That flow is crucial to provide oxygenated water to the incubating eggs and to flush away metabolic wastes. Additionally, that flow must persist throughout the overwinter incubation period until the eggs hatch in the spring. This explains why ground water is so key to bull trout.

If the water-witching is successful the female then turns on her side and with a vigorous wave-like undulation of her body and tail uses a hydraulic shock wave of water to dislodge stream bed gravels and cobbles. This blast of water flushes away sediment and creates a depression. Into this depression she lays some of her eggs, attended to by a randy male who completes the conjugal unit. The process is repeated, moving upstream, covering the previous excavation and creating a new one for more eggs. Over the course of this the female will move several times her own weight of gravels and cobbles. Counting these redds provides an indication of population size; monitoring year to year helps gauge population trends.

This is one of those clear, bright blue days of Indian summer. Snow capped peaks give evidence the summer season is ending but the day tells the lie it will persist. Dutch Creek is clearing; a rainstorm the previous day clouded the water with sediment. What happens in the uplands of a watershed inevitably follows the fundamentals of gravity. The footprint of disturbed land, the clearcuts, roads and trails, continues to bleed sediment and even a slight rainstorm mobilizes that sediment.

We walk upstream, in the channel, looking for the telltale signs of redds- oval signatures of stream gravels cleaned of their patina of algae and silt. On reach after reach I mentally challenge myself to discern the signs that would indicate a bull trout would find the place pleasing. So many of the reaches seem to have the right stuff; suitable water depth, sufficient velocity, appropriately sized substrate and overhead cover. But we find few redds.

Stymied, we consider the reasons for trout rejection. The gravel holds a clue. It is solid under our feet and when we probe it with our measuring sticks it yields only to excessive force. Despite the appearance of being clean it takes a human scaled effort to excavate a depression. This is not the usual loose, friable substrate where a step leaves a footprint behind. Alarmingly, this is pavement, aggregate cemented together with an outward appearance of a roughed surface. Without pickax or jack hammer no trout could penetrate this stuff.

The count for a six km wade is a disappointing 10 redds. In Hidden Creek nearly 10 times as many redds were counted in a four km stretch in 2008. None of this is surprising when one connects the dots between land use and fish populations. Logging, the predominant land use has a greater impact on streams than on forests because of the long term nature of effects in and on streams. A subtle and less evident change is in runoff- both the amount and the speed of delivery. For a species like bull trout that are reliant on ground water, subtle shifts in hydrologic response from forest harvest is a problem.

The connection between logging and streams is less subtle when roads are considered. The scientific literature abounds with information on the effects of logging and associated roading on trout populations. Roads funnel, streamline and contribute to sediment delivery.  It is evident that wherever studied the impacts are real, measurable and negative.

A clear conclusion, across the research is that as road densities (and the number of stream crossings) increase, the proportion of streams that support strong, healthy populations of trout diminish. All aquatic species have adapted to periodic disturbance but roading increases sediment delivery sometimes by an order of magnitude greater than the natural background levels. But, sediment delivery is just the tip of the problem.

Decades of research in experimental watersheds shows only a fraction of the sediment eroded will work its way downstream, out of the stream system. Measurement in the usual short monitoring period consistently underestimates sediment yield from land use.  Much, especially the bedload sediment is stored in the streambed and within the substrate. Researchers term the residence time for that sediment as “centennial” time. There it lingers, migrating downstream as little as a few meters a year to perhaps a kilometer a year in larger rivers. Mike Miles, a fluvial geomorphologist, calls it “a slow moving train of sediment”.

The impacts are neither fleeting nor transitory. As the sediment settles in for the long haul it reduces the depth and quality of pools. Less evident is the infilling of the interstitial spaces between the gravels, where trout eggs incubate and insects (the building block of fish flesh) live. As it infiltrates the gaps some of the sediment bonds, effectively cementing together the substrate materials. This cemented layer, which may extend down some distance into the substrate, becomes resistant to periodic flushing flows. Reduced permeability of the substrate, the ability of water to percolate up or down, becomes another impact on bull trout. Like tar in a smoker’s lungs the accumulated sediment squeezes the life out of streams.  So the forest may regrow quickly but the legacy of logging will persist as an influence on streams and all the aquatic creatures over centennial time.

Work done by biological consultants on the cumulative effects of access roads in the upper Oldman watershed indicates the problem faced by bull trout (and westslope cutthroat trout). In 1950 there were 177 stream crossings in the entire upper watershed. By 2001 this had ballooned to 2803 crossings. Most of the upper Oldman watershed had, in 1950, a very low density of crossings- from 0 to 0.5/km². By 2001 only a tiny fraction of the watershed (notably Hidden Creek) had such a low density of crossings. Dutch and Racehorse creeks have stream crossing densities that range from two to more than 4/km². The road densities for Dutch and Racehorse creeks exceed any threshold recommended for the continued survival and viability of bull trout by a wide margin.

We may have inadvertently doomed trout populations in logged watersheds to a slow, drawn-out and anticlimactic end, like a candle finally burning out. The overwhelming and unfortunate legacy of landuse decisions and their cumulative effects will haunt these watersheds until the last native fish slips away and all that remain are ghosts. Without an ecosystem approach and more balance in decisions about land use soon we might be arguing over the last bull trout. By then it will be too late. Watersheds with an extensive logging footprint need quick remedial actions and mitigation involving road closures and rehabilitation if native fish are to be saved.

We should be using bull trout as an indicator, an icon of the health and integrity of our headwaters. Their continued presence and increasing abundance would provide a strong signal we know how to manage these vital watersheds. And, to many of us who see bull trout (and all native species) in that context it is about sense of place, centuries old. Bull trout know place, know how to return home and they know where they came from. All they require of us is to acknowledge their presence and needs as well as share the watershed with them in ways that don’t contribute to them winking out of existence.

Sadly, our industrial focus for the Forest Reserve is not far removed from the pursuit of buffalo hides and tongues; the resource economy of logging is equally simplistic, rapacious and blind. It would appear the decline of bull trout provincially and in the Oldman watershed has slipped beneath the consciousness and conscience of the land manager, the Forest Service. In the words of David Brower, founder of the Sierra Club, it is as if “the relationship of everything to everything else and how it is not working is so comprehensive no one can comprehend it”.

Splashing up Dutch Creek puts into sharp focus the treasure that Hidden Creek represents. To log the Hidden Creek watershed, to liberate sediment for decades to come, to turn the stream into a small facsimile of Dutch Creek (and others) seems retrogressive. Neither the Forest Service nor the timber industry have yet demonstrated the soft, sensitive, careful touch required to maintain bull trout habitat and to keep sediment from streams.

In the case of Hidden Creek the cost of repeated mistakes in timber harvest is too high to let them keep trying. Pierre Trudeau, the bogeyman for Alberta, once famously said, “The state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation”. To paraphrase that, logging has no business in the bedrooms of the bull trout.

July, 2012

Lorne Fitch is a Professional Biologist, a retired Fish and Wildlife Biologist and an Adjunct Professor with the University of Calgary.

News Release: Protest Continues over Castle Special Place Clear-cut Logging

May 12, 2012

For Immediate Release: Beaver Mines, AB, May 11, 2012

May 10 Protest. Photo: Robin Pisko

May 10 Protest. Photo: Robin Pisko

Braving a bitter north wind and snow flurries, some twenty protestors rallied outside the Spray Lake Sawmills’ open house in Blairmore, Alberta on Thursday, May 10.

“We wanted to let Spray Lake Sawmills, the Forest Service, and the public know that even though some clear-cut logging has already occurred in the Castle Special Place we haven’t given up or gone away,” explained Nancy Tripp, one of the protestors. “We want the logging to stop, and for the Castle to be protected as a Wildland Park.”

The Castle area, southwest of Pincher Creek, Alberta, was declared a Special Place in 1998, but remains the only one of 81 Special Places that has not yet received its final protective status.

Public opinion polls conducted in early 2011 show that more than three-quarters of the residents from the Crowsnest Pass to Lethbridge oppose clear-cut logging in the Castle Special Place, and that a similar number would like to see the Castle protected as a Wildland Park. A Community Values Assessment done by the Southwest Alberta Sustainable Community Initiative (SASCI), released in March 2012, had similar findings: “…the strongest opposition among residents was for increasing opportunities for motorized recreation (OHVs, dirt bikes, etc.), allowing clear cutting of the Castle Special Management Area, and subdividing land currently used for agriculture.” [Emphasis ours.]

Individuals, groups, and business owners worked for over two years to try to prevent the logging. This culminated in a three-week protest in January at the site where logging was set to begin. Several protestors were arrested and/or banned from accessing public land in the province. (Proceedings have since been dropped.) Logging started after a Court Order compelled the protestors to leave.

Once the logging started, and having little other choice, a group of individuals plus the Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition initiated a Judicial Review of the logging license, and the logging itself, in the Court of Queen’s Bench in Calgary. At court date has not yet been set.

“Many of the folks who were out today were also out in January when it was down to  –35°C”, said Gordon Petersen. “It’s a testament to their tenacity and their passion for the Castle that they haven’t given up the fight.”

“Having said that, we have better things to do than protesting, and taking the government to court. We’d be delighted to work with the new government to stop the logging and to get the Castle properly protected.”

Spray Lake Sawmills Open Houses

May 4, 2012

Spray Lake Sawmills is holding two Open Houses next week. These are good opportunities to let SLS know what you think of its logging plans. See you there.

Cochrane, Wednesday, May 9:
“The purpose of the open house is to provide an opportunity for interested parties to view this year’s proposed harvest plans that include Jumping Pound Creek, McLean Creek, Coal Camp, Atkinson Creek and West Bragg Creek. Future preliminary harvest plans will also be available to view which includes areas such as Atkinson Creek, Highwood River and Coal Camp.”

Blairmore, Thursday, May 10:
“The purpose of the open house is to provide an opportunity for interested parties to view our proposed harvest plans that include Allison Creek, Hidden Creek, Beaver Mines and Racehorse Creek. Future preliminary harvest plans will also be available to view which will include areas such as Dutch Creek, Savanna Creek, Todd Creek, Porcupine Hills, East Livingston, West Chain Lakes and East Beaver Mines.”

Group Sues Government over Castle Logging

April 18, 2012

For Immediate Release: Beaver Mines, Alberta, April 18, 2012

Arguing that there was a reasonable expectation that the Castle Special Place would be protected, and that no proper consultation was carried out when the Alberta government decided to allow logging in that sensitive watershed, the Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition and a group of local citizens announced today that they are initiating a judicial review of the government’s decision to allow clear cut logging. “In 1993, the Natural Resources Conservation Board recommended that the Castle be protected,” said Gord Petersen, speaking on behalf of the applicants. “In 1998, the province declared the Castle a Special Place. The priorities of this designation were to protect watershed and recreation values in the Castle. Now, some 14 years later, it remains the only one of 81 Special Places that has not received its final protective designation. The logging that the Government allowed to start this winter in the Castle isn’t consistent with a protected area or the expectations that people had for the Castle’s protection. Instead of completing the job, the government is allowing clear-cut logging in what is supposed to be a protected area.”

The application to the court states that; 1) there was a reasonable expectation given these decisions that the Castle was already protected; 2) that if the government was going to allow new logging in the Castle then people should have been properly consulted; and 3) that the mandate of the government to protect other values such as water, wildlife, recreation, and the local tourism economy isn’t being considered in allowing logging to proceed.

Logging in the Castle by Cochrane-based Spray Lake Sawmills started in February. This is the first year of three that logging is scheduled to take place west of Beaver Mines, Alberta. Groups and many regional residents have been asking the logging be halted and a Wildland Park be created to provide better protection for the Castle.

Petersen and others have been advocating for the protection of the Castle for more than 20 years, and have been fighting the logging plans since they were announced two years ago. Recently, local residents and business owners maintained a protest camp in temperatures as low as –35° C to raise awareness of logging in the Castle. Several members of that group were arrested and banned from accessing public land in the province. Proceedings have since been dropped.

A survey conducted in early 2011 by Praxis showed that 79% of local residents oppose the logging. In March 2012, the Southwest Alberta Sustainable Community Initiative (SASCI) released a Community Values Assessment that had been requested by the MD of Pincher Creek Council. From a telephone survey of area residents, it showed that “…the strongest opposition among residents was for increasing opportunities for motorized recreation (OHVs, dirt bikes, etc.), allowing clear cutting of the Castle Special Management Area, and subdividing land currently used for agriculture.”

“For years we’ve been telling the government that people in this area want the Castle protected, not logged. They haven’t listened. It’s unfortunate, but necessary, that we turn to the courts to protect this extraordinary landscape.”

The application was filed with the Court of Queen’s Bench on April 18, 2012.

Media Release

February 23, 2012

Castle Special Place Logging Protestors and Crown Reach Agreement on February 24 Court Proceedings

February 23, 2012. For Immediate Release

Provincial officials have decided not to charge anti-logging protestors who were arrested on February 1 in the Castle Special Place. In addition, protestors who were named in the related Court Order will not be appealing that Order in court.

Lawyers for the protestors, and the Crown’s lawyer, reached an out-of-court understanding where no further action will be taken against those arrested, and where the Court Order will be allowed to expire.

“We’re pleased to have come to an agreement that will resolve the outstanding issues surrounding the logging arrests and the Court Order”, said Gordon Petersen, one of those named in the Court Order. “Now we can get on with the business of challenging the substantive legal issues surrounding the granting of the logging licence, and challenging the logging itself.”

For more than three weeks, and braving a cold snap where temperatures plunged to –35°, dozens of local residents, business leaders, and activists protested logging in the Castle Special Place. The area, designated a protected area by Cabinet in 1998, is critical for the protection of Southern Alberta’s watershed, as well as part of an international conservation area for the endangered grizzly bear.

Logging began shortly after four people were arrested on February 1.

“It’s shocking and shameful that citizens were forced to face incarceration to try to stop logging in the Castle”, says Petersen. “We had hoped that the overwhelming public opposition to the clear cut logging would have been enough, but the government appears to be deaf to the public’s concerns.”

Local activists are planning to continue with court action of their own. In addition, they continue to call on citizens across Alberta to make their voices heard by calling the Premier and their MLA’s at 310-0000.

Castle “Yarn Bombing”

February 17, 2012

How cool is this?!

Yarn Bomb

Courtesy of Art Works for Wild Spaces

An anonymous group of a dozen artists spent several hours producing a visual statement about caring for our environment by “Yarn Bombing” a group of trees in the Castle Special Place, near Pincher Creek, Alberta. Each handmade afghan becomes a metaphor for nurturing and warmth. Art Works For Wild Spaces created this spontaneous event to direct attention to the need to protect the Castle. 

Yarn Bomb

Courtesy of Art Works for Wild Spaces


The yarn-bombing site is along Highway 774, 4 km south of the area that is presently being logged, and just north of the turnoff for Beaver Mines Lake. 


“There is a silly element to the end result of a yarn bomb, one that brings a smile to the viewers face,” explained Barbara Amos, as spokesperson for the group.  “However it wise to remember that this art event was born from the exhausting effort and hard work behind creating a voice for wild spaces.”


This is a temporary public art project. After a period of time, the trees will be unwrapped. In the meantime, the group hopes that many will enjoy the installation, and that many will pause to reflect on the “knitting together” of people, their communities, and the beauty in the space that surrounds them.
Yarn Bomb

Courtesy of Art Works for Wild Spaces

Yarn Bomb

Courtesy of Art Works for Wild Spaces


February 16, 2012



At a Valentines day rally against the clear-cut logging in the Castle Mountains of Alberta, I asked the crowd of 150, assembled at the premier’s Calgary office,  “Do you realize it’s against the law for me to stand on this publicly owned land and speak to you today?” I explained how, as a reward for trying to stop the destruction of the Castle Special Place, an executive director with Alberta’s oxymoronic Sustainable Resource Development ministry had issued a bunch of us, mostly old-timers, with an order to stay off all public land in this province. In 1600 B.C., Emperor Wu of China said “To protect your rivers, protect your mountains” but that maxim is too avant-garde for the government of Alberta. “ If you try to protect Alberta’s mountains,” I continued, “ they will arrest you and forbid you from setting foot upon them. Well, I’m standing on public land. So if you are a law-abiding citizen, do your duty.  Call the cops and have me arrested.”

Although three of Calgary’s finest were standing near, they declined to take us up on the offer.

On January 24, four “obstructors” as SRD styles us—Tim Grier, Dianne Calder, Gordon Petersen and yours truly faced off with an idling bulldozer and fellerbuncher in the forest reserve near Beaver Mines, for a moment of protest Zen. We stared back at the operators, thinking about the events that had brought us to this point, after three weeks of picketing the site. The dude in the tracked fellerbuncher exercised the machine’s giant metal jaws, clacking them open and shut with a noise like a sprung bear trap.

We knew the area had been identified as a special place by the Alberta Government in l998. as part of a “network of protected areas” as “a major milestone in the preservation of Alberta’s natural heritage for future generations.”  We knew the area is designated “critical wildlife” habitat, yet is part of a mortality sink for grizzly bears traveling up from Montana, where they are classified as an endangered species. In Alberta,  grizzlies are listed as “threatened” but Alberta is where Montana bears come to die. We knew there had been no survey to identify bear dens in the cut block, contrary to SRD’s own mandate.  We knew that 80 percent of the local population opposed the logging, and we knew that a group of citizens were talking to the Premier that very day in a last ditch effort to get a reprieve for the Castle headwaters. In fact, a group of local people, ourselves included, had been working for years to get the area protected as a wild land park.  They had the blessing of a minister of tourism for the project.   Eighty thousand people (and counting) had called the premier’s office to try and stop the clear cut logging of the Castle, which provides a third of the water input to the Oldman River drainage and the cities of the plains.  Surely the government would not allow SRD to clear cut this vital watershed, when it was so obviously at odds with the PC cabinet’s  stated position on the Castle? But we also knew that SRD cared little about any of this.  We knew that SRD was determined to log half of the 52 square kilometer license including old growth in these woods and turn whatever was not useable as lumber—40 percent– into garden mulch and fence posts.  You see, the more you damage an area, the less likely it is going to be set aside for a park, and the more likely SRD will maintain control of this piece of its turf.

All the above citizens, of course, were not there at that moment. We were the point of the spear. I asked the folks at the rally “What would you have done? Would you have stepped aside, let all those folks down and let the destruction begin? Or would you have fought for what is right, for what is sustainable, for what is best for the people of Alberta, for the wildlife and the watershed?” The shouts of approval sounded a bit tentative, I must admit. Nobody wants to tangle with the legal system.

SRD may have a legal right to clear-cut, but I would argue they no longer enjoy the social license that goes with it. It’s 2012, not l912 and we cannot support a forestry department that will not give equal weight to all that the forest offers us, in terms of recreation, watershed protection and wildlife habitat.  Do we really have to quantify water production in the forest, while water levels shrink in our major rivers? High quality raw water is beyond price, of course. But what about its value in industrial applications and agriculture?  If the trees are worth one dollar each to the government in stumpage, (say a quarter-million dollars), I want to know what the forest is worth in terms of enhanced water retention, oxygen production, sequestration of carbon and generation of tourism dollars. Is it worth millions to our economy for these and other services it provides, or more likely, is that measured in billions?  You would think that the free market geniuses that run this province would at least figure out that trees are worth more to us alive than they are as garden mulch.  These are questions we, as activists, will have to answer with hard facts and figures, since SRD is not going to do the studies for us.

And there is another thing we have to do in the future. The people of this province, if they need air to breathe and water to drink, are going to have to recognize that a handful of people, many of them grandmas and grandpas, cannot do at their own expense and at their legal peril what battalions of politicians and bureaucrats are paid very well to do every day, which is protect the environment of Alberta and ensure that projects on our public lands are truly sustainable.  We have to turn out at these types of protest actions not by the dozens, but by the thousands, until the current Nexus of Nitwits finally gets the message that talk-talk-talk while you continue to drill, blast and clear-cut will no longer fool the majority.  Alberta is a spacious and lofty land that deserves the very best from us.  It’s about time we matched its natural grandeur with some newer and grander ideas.






Poet and author Sid Marty, is a fourth generation Albertan. In 2008, he won the Grant MacEwan Literary Arts Award for his career contributions to the literature of Alberta.

Valentine’s Day Rallies in Calgary and Edmonton

February 15, 2012

Good Afternoon,

On behalf of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, the Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition, the Alberta Wilderness Association, and the Bragg Creek Environmental Association, please find the inserted and attached media release. Interview contacts are at the end of this email for further information.

MEDIA RELEASE – For Immediate Release

Over a hundred attend Valentine’s Day Rallies in Support of Forests

February 14th, 2012

Calgary, Edmonton, AB: More than 170 people attended rallies today in Calgary and Edmonton to send a strong message to the Government of Alberta: Albertans love their forests and don’t want the heart of protected areas like the Castle Special Place or poplar trail systems in Bragg Creek to be logged.

The message for the Valentine’s Day rally the Government of Alberta was clear: there is significant support for the protection of the places Albertan’s love. About 130 people attended a rally at the McDougall Centre in Calgary, the Office of the Premier in Southern Alberta while over 40 people rallied on the steps of the Legislature in Edmonton.

“Albertans love their forests, their Wildlands, their parks and recreation areas,” said Sarah Elmeligi of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

“While logging has a place in the economy in Alberta, ensuring places like West Bragg Creek are prioritized for the use and enjoyment of visitors and residents to Kananaskis, and the Castle Special Place is protected for Southern Alberta’s water supply is important.”

“The government protected The Castle Special Place in 1998. Visitors and residents love the Castle,” said Gordon Petersen, a resident of Beaver Mines, Alberta who traveled to Calgary for the rally. “75% of local residents want to see that protection made permanent as a Wildland Park.”

“Local residents with the Greater Bragg Creek Trail Association, in partnership with Tourism, Parks and Recreation Alberta have invested more than two thousand, five hundred hours and $300,000 constructing a trail system in West Bragg Creek so that locals and visitors can enjoy nature and support the local economy,” said Ralph Cartar of The Bragg Creek Environmental Coalition. “Now we’re going to log over 19 of the 21 trails we’ve built in partnership with the Government of Alberta. This makes no sense ecologically or economically. Local businesses depend on those trails to attract visitors.”

“We’re calling on the Premier to halt logging projects in the Castle and to meaningfully engage the public in logging plans for the Bragg Creek area until we can assess the best way to manage our forests in the Southern Eastern Slopes,” said Nigel Douglas of the Alberta Wilderness Association. “Before we even have that conversation, the Castle Special Place must receive permanent protection as a Wildland Park. It’s had protection on paper since 1998; it’s time to show some love for Alberta’s forests and make that protection permanent.”

More than 100 Valentines were sent to the Premier by attendees at the rallies. Groups are encouraging Albertans who could not attend a rally to send a valentine message to the Premier asking that logging in the Castle and West Bragg Creek be halted, and that the Castle receive permanent protection as a Wildland Park. The Premier can be reached at 310-0000 or at

Raging Grannies in Calgary. Photo: Stephen Legault

Calgary Rally. Photo: Stephen Legault

Calgary Rally. Photo: Stephen Legault

Media Advisory—Valentine’s Day Rallies in Edmonton and Calgary to demonstrate public love for Alberta’s Forests and ask for improved forest management

February 13, 2012

February 13, 2012


Media Contact

Sarah Elmeligi, Senior Conservation Planner, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Southern Alberta Chapter: 403-688-8641

Nigel Douglas, Conservation Specialist, Alberta Wilderness Association, 403-283-2025

Media advisory – photo and interview opportunities

Concerned Albertans and local conservation groups will be hosting concurrent rallies in Edmonton and Calgary on Valentine’s Day to oppose some logging operations on the Eastern Slopes. Specifically, people are opposed to the current logging operation in the Castle Special Place (a designated protected area), and are concerned with the lack of public consultation regarding the proposed logging operation near Bragg Creek (a popular recreation destination). The processes by which these logging operations have been planned and approved is concerning to people across the province.

CPAWS Southern Alberta, Sierra Club Canada, Alberta Wilderness Association, Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition, and Sustain Kananaskis have organized two rallies to demonstrate Albertans love for their forests. During and after the rallies there will be photo opportunities and representatives from the environmental organizations will be available for one on one interviews.

Where and when:

Both rallies will occur from 12pm-1pm on February 14, 2012

Edmonton – Front steps of the Legislature – 10800-97 ave.

Calgary – McDougall Centre – 455-6 st. SW

Valentine’s Day Rallies in Calgary and Edmonton

February 13, 2012

Please join us for Forestry rallies in Calgary and Edmonton on February 14, at 12:00 noon.

The rallies will highlight public concern over the current logging operation in the Castle Special Place, and the proposed logging in Bragg Creek.

Please come out and send your MLA and the Premier a Valentine’s message, “Please have a heart, and protect the Castle”.

The Calgary rally is at the McDougall Centre, 455 – 6 Street S.W.

Edmonton’s rally is at the Legislature.


February 9, 2012


Dear Premier Redford;

Around the World people have been fined and imprisoned for rejecting industrial clear-cut logging and the ecological devastation that it eventually brings to a nation. Here are a few examples: 1200 arrested at Reedy Creek, Australia; 800 at Clayaquot in B.C.; over 100 in Chital, Pakistan; 22 women at Grant’s Pass in Oregon; and over 60 First Nations People in the Great Bear Forest in B.C.; and today, four in Pincher Creek, Alberta.

In his book Collapse, Jerad Diamond delineates how deforestation is one of the major factors that lead to the disappearance of many past civilizations, and Global Forest Watch reports that 13,000,000 hectares of forest disappear annually around the World. Do you need to add this thin belt along the Eastern Slopes of Alberta to that statistic?

We’ve already seen over four decades of industrial logging in the Oldman Watershed and particularly in the headwaters of the Castle-Carbondale part of that drainage. We’ve seen the miles of stumps, windrows of waste wood, eroded skid roads, collapsing stream banks, weeds, escalating off-road vehicle abuse, and of course the 22,000 hectare fire that took place in all of that.

Now you’ve sanctioned removing most of the last small piece of intact forest left in this corner of the province. The place where the Grizzly, the Westslope Cutthroat Trout, Limber Pine and so many unique plants are listed by law, federally and provincially, as endangered. This area is also the study area for Grizzly Bear DNA research to establish how many or how few are left. It is classified as “critical winter ungulate range” where industrial activity is not allowed, by regulation. How have you justified removing those rules?

As you know, 75% of Southern Albertans do not want the Castle logged anymore. You have heard from many thousands via email and telephone messages to your office. Your response to date is to maintain the status quo, which is business as usual. Where is the change in that?

So here we sit today, four old men who have joined the thousands of voices in Alberta and around the World, the voices for wilderness, wildlife, water conservation, forest integrity, sustainability, healthy recreation, and everything that is good and beautiful in the Southern Alberta Eastern Slopes.

Why don’t you make the real change you promised, and that you have the authority to make, and stop this betrayal of the public trust?

Mike Judd

Jim Palmer

Reynold Reimer

Richard Collier

Calgary Herald Editorial Cartoon, Bears and Loggers

February 9, 2012

“Make a Call for the Castle Day” Today. Rallies in Calgary and Edmonton Feb 14

February 7, 2012

Tuesday Feb 7 is ‘Make a Call for the Castle Day’.  

We need you to pick up the phone today, and dial.

Opposition to clear-cut logging in southern Alberta’s castle watershed and support for its permanent protection is unprecedented.

Alberta Premier Alison Redford and former Premier Ed Stelmach have received 80,000 letters and emails, and hundreds of phone calls from Albertans as well as people from around the world.

Despite this and a 3-week long protest at the logging site, road building has begun and logging will commence any day.

Now it’s time for Alberta’s legislators (called MLAs) to hear from people who want to see change.

On Tuesday February 7, we are asking people across Alberta and all around North America to make phone calls to ask for change.

Albertans Click here to find the contact information for your MLA. If you live elsewhere, call the Premier at the number below.

What should you say? Tell your MLA or the Premier’s Office that:

  • You are opposed to logging in the Castle watershed.
  • You support its permanent protection as a Wildland Provincial Park.

If you live in Alberta, please call your MLA first, and then the Premier.  You can reach them both through Alberta’s toll-free line at 310-0000. If you live outside of Alberta, call the Premier at 780-427-2251.

People have been working to protect the Castle Special Place for more than 30 years. Let your voice be heard!

Together we can save this special place.

What’s Next?

Rally to support Alberta’s forests

Rallies in support of stopping clear-cut logging in Alberta’s designated protected areas and popular recreation areas, including the Castle and Bragg Creek, will take place at 12:00pm to 1:00pm on Tuesday, February 14.

The rallies will be in Calgary at the McDougall Centre (455-6 St. SW), and in Edmonton, at the Provincial Legislature building (10800-97 Ave.). Bring a sign and your passion for protecting Alberta’s wilderness.

You can keep informed and updated on the campaign by “liking” the Castle Facebook Page:

Protestors Get Their (First) Day in Court

February 5, 2012

On Friday, Feb 3, we began our challenge of the Court Order banning us from the logging area in the Court of Queen’s Bench in Calgary. Noting the full court room, the presiding judge observed that this was obviously a contentious issue.

Our lawyer, Mr. Clint Docken, and the Crown’s lawyer asked that the matter be adjourned until Feb 24 to allow time for each side to prepare their cases so the substantive issues could be discussed. The Chief Justice was consulted, and matters were held over until the 24th at 2:00 pm.

Our appeal of the Enforcement Order, which the Court Order is partly based on, began about 10 days ago.

There has been a lot of media interest in the Castle logging issue. Rather than put a slew of links here, I would suggest Googling “castle alberta logging”. Numerous links to stories will appear.

The source with the best overall coverage is the Pincher Creek Voice.

We plan to continue protesting near the cattle guard at the entrance to the Castle Special Management Area. If you have some time, please come out and show your support.

In addition, rallies are planned for Calgary and Edmonton on Wednesday. Further information will be posted as it becomes available.

Honk for Water, Wilderness and Reason

February 5, 2012

Here is Lorne Fitch’s Op Ed that was printed in the Lethbridge Herald.

Honk for Water, Wilderness and Reason

 Lorne Fitch, P. Biol.

A picket line has formed in a peaceful demonstration over logging in the Castle watershed. The Alberta Forest Service (AFS) has selected the beach-head, to begin this assault on the forests of the Castle, on secondary highway 774, just inside the forest reserve boundary, west of Pincher Creek. It is a route thousands take to access the Castle Mountain ski hill, to Beaver Mines Lake and to other recreational sites in the Castle. It is the route to easily the highest visitor use area of any part of the watershed. What seems evident is AFS purposefully selected this most visible site, as a “stick in the eye” to opponents of logging. The message is blunt and unambiguous- the area will be logged despite the concerns of Alberta citizens.

This protest has been building; several things help frame the actions of people on the picket line and elsewhere in Alberta. Among the things that puzzle people is the blatant disregard for existing policy, planning and process. In addition, neither the science, economics or public opinion support industrial scale, clearcut logging.

The overarching intent for the Castle is entrenched in Eastern Slopes Policy. Not surprisingly, to the many downstream communities dependant on water, the prime directive is watershed protection. Alberta Environment has questioned whether AFS has the necessary data, requisite skills and confidence in water quantity modeling to ensure logging doesn’t impact water supply. AFS response is along the lines of “don’t worry”. Many do worry since there is no evidence from any actual monitoring to substantiate this claim.

AFS pushed through the “C5 Forest Management Plan” in 2010. It is not, as the name implies, a plan to manage the forest, but rather a timber harvest plan. The “plan” continues to hew to a dangerous orthodoxy that the only way to manage a forest is to cut it down. Public consultation consisted of a handpicked committee who were led through the motions of participation on the way to a preconceived plan. AFS doesn’t “consult” with the public, it organizes information sessions to tell the public what decisions have been made.

Independent cumulative effects analysis of the Castle shows it to be an extremely busy place with a human footprint already too large to protect several imperiled species like grizzlies, bull trout and westslope cutthroat trout. Logging adds to the existing footprint. Based on Freedom of Information materials AFS stifled the professional input and recommendations received from biologists in the Fish and Wildlife Division for the C5 plan. Any opinions that deviated from the AFS position were dealt with terse direction to “get into line”. Current logging plans have not been designed in the best interests of protecting fish and wildlife populations. Biodiversity protection instead has to rely on the much touted, but rarely tested, timber harvest operating ground rules.

The antithesis of AFS style planning was the Castle Special Place Working group, a true multi-stakeholder group of 34 organizations and individuals committed to protected area status for the Castle. Despite the degree of consensus and agreement achieved by this non-government initiative the desire of AFS to log trumped the efforts of citizens.

What AFS has derailed, with ill advised logging plans, is the reasonable expectation of many Albertans (and majority of local residents) for the Castle to finally achieve a level of protected status. Polls done in 2011 first in Lethbridge and Coaldale, then later in Pincher Creek, Fort Macleod and the Crowsnest Pass, found 80% and 77% of residents opposed to logging in the Castle, respectively. The C5 plan makes a commitment “to be responsive to changing social values concerning sustainable forest management”. The response on the part of AFS to overwhelming public opinion is to ram through the logging of the Castle.

Given this weight of evidence it is not unexpected that people will pick up signs and walk a picket line. It hardly makes them “radicals”. What seems more evident is they are radically representative of the concerns and interests of severely normal Albertans. They do not buy the propaganda the Castle has to be logged for fire protection, beetle control or that logging meets some mythical “international” standard. AFS is clutching at straws (or lodgepole pines) to rationalize logging.  Compared to this the demonstrators seem radically reasonable. Now is the time for the Alberta government to reciprocate their reasoned approach and suspend plans to log the Castle.

January, 2012

Lorne Fitch is a Professional Biologist, a retired Fish and Wildlife Biologist and an Adjunct Professor with the University of Calgary.

Arrests Made at Protest Site, Feb 1

February 1, 2012

About 30 people and a number of news organizations showed up at the protest site before 8 am this morning. RCMP Inspector McGeough and Corporal Gopp arrived with coffee and muffins. SRD was late.

We told Inspector McGeough that we were appealing both the Enforcement Order and the Court Order that told us to leave the protest site. The Inspector indicated that, regardless, he would be enforcing the Court Order.

Shortly after 8:00 we communicated this to all those assembled at the site. Most people left to reassemble down the road by the Castle Special Management Area boundary to continue protesting there.

Three people decided not to leave and were arrested. They were held in cells for at least a couple of hours before being released by Pincher Creek RCMP.

A fourth person returned to the site some time later and laid down in front of the logging equipment. He was also arrested, and later released.

Given the uncertainty surrounding the appeal of both the Enforcement Order and the Court Order, we asked SRD to instruct SLS to stand down and not to begin any logging until the appeals are heard. Unfortunately, Spray Lake Sawmills began cutting trees and presumably building an access road.

Our appeal of the Court Order will be heard on Friday at about 10 am at Chambers in the Calgary Court Centre.

We will continue to fight this logging in the courts.

Protestors to Appeal Court Order

January 31, 2012

Several of the parties named in Enforcement Order 01/2012 are appealing that order. We have a number of issues with the Enforcement Order including the draconian and undemocratic order that, “The Parties shall not occupy or use any other public lands in the Province of Alberta unless otherwise authorized to do so.”

Counsel for the parties named in Court Order 1201-00816 (January 27, 2012) will appear in Chambers at the Calgary Court Centre on Friday, February 3, 2012 to appeal the Court Order. Our counsel feels there are numerous issues relating to both the substance and the process of the Court Order.

We are asking SRD to instruct SLS to stand down and not to begin any logging until the appeals are heard. If the logging were to begin, and if we were successful on appeal, we would also seek penalties for any damage the logging caused.

Court Order Served, Monday Jan 30

January 30, 2012

Around 3:30 pm today, SRD officers arrived with a Court Order directing us to cease and desist our actions.

RCMP Inspector McGeough was also on site and, using his discretion, gave us until Wednesday morning at 8 am to discuss the matter with our lawyer. After that time, the RCMP will begin enforcing the order.

We have contacted our lawyer, and will consult with him tomorrow.

The logging operation is not to be started tomorrow, but some protestors do plan to be there to continue to  make passersby aware of the situation.

There is some video of today’s events at

Update, Sunday Jan 29

January 29, 2012

Not too much new over the weekend. We had plenty of protestors today (Sunday), and lots of people waving, giving a thumbs up, and honking their horns.

Protestors will be out at the site again tomorrow. We’ll see what the morrow brings.

Please join us at the protest site if you can.

Update, Saturday, January 28

January 28, 2012

Day 18 and counting.

Protestors were out again today. People stopped to chat, to take photos, and to leave some goodies behind.

We’re hoping for a good turnout at the protest site tomorrow (Sunday, January 29). Please come and show your opposition to clear cutting in the Castle. Bring a sign.

The protest site is at the Corrals, approximately 1.7 km past the Castle Special Management Area (Forest Reserve) Gate, on Hwy 774 driving towards the Castle Mountain Ski Area. (49.418126 N, 114.289171 W)

Please note there are no facilities of any kind.

Ground Rules for the Protest Site:

1. All actions are to be strictly non-violent

2. All are to be treated with respect

3. No weapons of any kind are permitted

4. No alcohol or drugs are permitted

Update for Friday, Jan 27

January 27, 2012

We had expected a visit from SRD and the RCMP, but things were quiet at the protest site today except for the visit from RCMP Inspector McGeough from Lethbridge. Not sure what that means.

We’ll be out at the protest site again tomorrow (Saturday) and Sunday.

The protest site is at the Corrals, approximately 1.7 km past the Castle Special Management Area (Forest Reserve) Gate, on Hwy 774 driving towards the Castle Mountain Ski Area. (49.418126 N, 114.289171 W)

Come and join us if you can. Bring a sign.

Thursday, January 26 Update

January 26, 2012

It was quiet at the protest site today. Neither the RCMP nor SRD visited.

We did however, have a visit from a CTV news crew, and from “Protests r Us” catering service.

The camp is still up, and protestors spent the day holding signs and waving at the passing vehicles. As usual, the number of waves, honks, and thumbs up vastly outnumbered any negative reactions.

We’ll be back at the site tomorrow.

Given how eerily quiet it was today, we’re wondering if something might be up for tomorrow. Tomorrow’s weather looks pretty good. Please come out and join us if you can.

Protest Update, January 25, Late Edition

January 25, 2012

Late this afternoon, a large number of SRD officials, Spray Lake Sawmills personnel and contractors, and two RCMP officers along with the regional staff sergeant showed up at the site. A number of our  supporters also arrived.

The feller-buncher was started up, and we were asked to leave. Five or six people stood in front of the machine and said they won’t move. We were all given an Enforcement Order, and all the officials and the loggers left.

We’ve sent the document to our lawyers for an opinion and legal advice.

We’ll be back at the site tomorrow.

Protest Update January 25, 2012

January 25, 2012

Contrary to what you may have heard, the Protest Camp is still up, and the Protest Continues.

Here’s a photo from this morning:

Protest Jan 25

Protest, Jan 25

Yesterday, a big contingent of SRD officials, Spray Lake Sawmills and contractor personnel, along with a couple of RCMP officers came to the site. The logging equipment was fired up.

We called out for help, and a goodly number of our supporters showed up, as did the Pincher Creek Voice, and Global and CTV. Telephone interviews were done with CBC English and French.

Three protestors stood in the way of the machine, and said they wouldn’t leave. The SRD officers conferred, and then, just around noon, SRD, Spray Lakes, and the RCMP all left. One RCMP officer stopped this morning to see how things were going but, other than that, we haven’t seen any other officials.

More soon… Gotta get back to the site.

SRD Officers Expected to Show Up in Force Tuesday

January 24, 2012

We’re expecting SRD officials to show up in force tomorrow to try to evict the protesters.

Please call Premier Redford’s office, and let her know that you are opposed to both this action and to clear-cut logging in the Castle.

And, if you can get to the protest site tomorrow, we could use some help.

See for a story about today’s events.

Also, the following media advisory:


Castle Logging Protesters Expect Alberta Sustainable Resource Development Officers to Show up in Force on Tuesday Morning, January 24

For 13 days citizens have braved the cold to protest against plans by Spray Lake Sawmills (SLS) to clear-cut log in the Castle area, southwest of Beaver Mines, Alberta.
Today, Monday January 23, a large number of Sustainable Resource Development (SRD) Officers and SLS employees and contractors were seen meeting on a side road in Beaver Mines.
Late in the day, SRD officers arrived at the protest site to serve a “Trespasser Declaration” which says that the tents that have been part of the protest are now “property of the Crown”.

Given the Trespasser Declaration and the large number of SRD and SLS staff and contractors in the area, the protesters expect to be visited by SRD officers in the morning of Tuesday, January 24. Officers may try to evict the protesters. It’s not known what time the officers might arrive, but it’s likely to be between 8:30 and 10:00 am.

The protest site is at the Corrals, approximately 1.7 km past the Castle Special Management Area (Forest Reserve) Gate, on Hwy 774 driving towards the Castle Mountain Ski Area. (49.418126 N, 114.289171 W)

Despite public opinion polls showing that more than three quarters of regional residents are opposed, clear cut logging in the Castle Special Management area near Beaver Mines is about to begin. The proposed logging will not only be detrimental to the watershed, wildlife, recreational opportunities, and area wilderness-based businesses, but will be an eyesore to everyone that drives to the Castle Mountain Ski area.

Experts on grizzly bears and watershed health have spoken out against the logging, citing irreversible effects on ecosystem function and wildlife habitat quality.

Local wilderness-based businesses are concerned that the proposed logging will damage their business opportunities.

Citizens are having a hard time understanding why, after thousands of opposition e-mails, five rallies and protests across Southern Alberta, hundreds of letters and phone calls, and numerous meetings with government officials, the government insists on proceeding with this unwanted and ill-advised logging.

Citizens are not convinced by SRD’s economic or scientific justifications for the logging. Rather, it’s commonly believed that the real reasons for the clear cutting are 1. welfare logging, and 2. turf protection on the part of SRD.
Local residents feel that SLS and Alberta Sustainable Resource Development have chosen a place to begin logging that will act as a “poke in the eye” to the public.
For more information:
Stop Castle Logging Group— Peter Sherrington, 403 627 3522
Satellite Phone at the Protest Site– 011 then 8816 314 66612 (International Call)

Jan 22 Rally a Big Success

January 22, 2012

About 150–200 folks from as far away as Canmore, Calgary, and Lethbridge turned out for Sunday’s rally. One after another, speakers got up on the makeshift stage to recite some poetry or read some prose, to sing, or to say a few words.

The messages were universally uplifting, but the overall theme was that the government, and particularly the Forest Service, is completely out of touch with the public and that something has to be done to rein them in. This is our forest, and we want a say in how it’s managed. And we want this unwanted and ill-advised logging stopped.

I think it’s also fair to say that the general feeling was that the Forest Service has all but lost its social licence to operate. The Service is seen as a dinosaur from another era that needs to either adapt or perish.

The event was also a perfect time to visit with friends and neighbours, and to reinforce the fact that we’re all in this together whether in Beaver Mines or farther afield.

Here are a few photos from the rally.

The youngest speaker.

Rally Image 1

Rally Image 2

Rally, Sunday Jan 22, 2–4 pm, Update

January 21, 2012

The rally will go ahead as planned. It might be a bit windy, but it should be fairly mild.

Please bring a friend and a sign.

The rally will take place just inside the Castle Special Management Area, approx 9 km southwest of Beaver Mines on Hwy 774 (49.414973 N, 114.269839 W). Off-highway parking will be available along Range Road 30A, just outside the Castle gate. (This location is outside the area closed by SRD, and has safe, off-highway parking.)

A few details:

1. To keep parking issues to a minimum, please car pool if possible.

2. Please obey the 50 km/h speed limit through Beaver Mines. There is likely to be a speed trap set up.

3. There are no facilities of any kind. The nearest washrooms are at the Beaver Mines store.

Rally, Sunday January 22, 2–4 pm

January 20, 2012

Here is the notice about the rally that the AWA sent to its members.

Dear Members and Supporters in Southern Alberta:

The Castle Wilderness Area is at risk. These past 8 days, our colleagues with the Castle Crown Wilderness Coalition and the folks of Beaver Mines who have formed the group Stop Castle Logging, have held a media conference and have been taking turns manning a camp at the site where Alberta SRD and Crowsnest Forest Products Ltd, a subsidiary of Spray Lakes Sawmills Ltd, plan to begin logging.

Their tenacity and strength as they were served with a Notice of Development by Alberta SRD yesterday is something they do for the greater good – for the protection of our forests, for the reasonable demand that we consider years old forest logging plans out of date; to show that as Albertans we want new and better science about managing forests implemented.  We want our forests managed not primarily for timber but for their vital ecological values, including the water security of downstream communities.

There has been significant work by all Alberta conservation groups on this issue from Waterton to Kakwa, and we all share in the message from the folks on the front line of the Castle. This is not just a local issue. We know the way our Alberta forests are managed must change.  Clean, abundant drinking water, habitat for wildlife, and sustainable recreation opportunities depend on that change.

Despite significant evidence from public opinion polls that Albertans want the Castle area protected, likely thousands of calls and letters since September 2011 to our Premier opposing the way forests are managed and seeking protection for the Castle Wilderness, and the science that shows us we need to update our forest management practices, the response from our government has been a “Notice of Development ” order served yesterday by Blairmore Alberta SRD officer Cory Wojtowicz, warning our colleagues they are trespassing.

On Sunday January, 22nd at 2pm, there will be a rally just inside the Castle Special Management Gate, approximately 9 km southwest of Beaver Mines on Hwy 774 (49.414973 N, 114.269839 W). Off-highway parking will be available along Range Road 30A, just outside the Castle gate. (This location is outside the area closed by SRD, and has safe, off-highway parking.) I am writing today to invite you to attend the rally, and if you cannot be there, to consider inviting someone you know to go. More details can be found at

If you would like to read more about our recommendations for sustainable forest management please follow this link:

This is one of those times when we must not doubt the power of the people, as Margaret Mead wrote so poignantly Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Yours in conservation,


Christyann Olson

Executive Director

Alberta Wilderness Association

“Defending Wild Alberta through Awareness and Action”

Mail:      Box 6398 Station D, Calgary AB T2P 2E1

Street:   455-12 St NW Calgary, AB T2N 1Y9


SRD Notice of Development

January 20, 2012

Here is the Notice of Development that is posted at the protest site, plus the associated map with some editorial comment by

Protest Update, Jan 20, SRD Officers Post “Notice of Development”

January 20, 2012

The expected visit occurred yesterday, January 19, at about 1:30 pm. Five SRD Officers showed up and posted a “Notice of Development” at the protest site, and gave copies of the notice to the protesters that were there.

Mike Judd with SRD Officer

The notice says that the entire Spray Lake Sawmills logging area going up towards Beaver Mines Lake, plus a 100 m boundary around the logging area is “not vacant land” and that, “Access to and occupation of the Development Area by individuals that are not specifically authorized under the Public Lands Act is prohibited.”

In effect, the notice closes a very large area of public land for an undetermined length of time. The closure area on the map even crosses Hwy 774 in a couple of places. It appears that skiers driving to Castle Mountain Resort will be trespassing on public land!

The notice seems simultaneously draconian and toothless at the same time. On one hand, a large area of public land is closed to everyone but SLS by the signature of a single SRD enforcement officer. On the other hand, the document doesn’t even indicate what government department is involved, doesn’t indicate the official capacity of the officer signing the document, and says that “…failure to immediately comply with this public notice may, without further notice, result in enforcement action under the Public Lands Act.”  In other words, it appears protesters have been warned but not yet legally told to vacate the area.

It also appears that SRD is suggesting that the random campsites, that were set up legally set up before the site was posted, are now considered in trespass even though the camps are still within the time limits allowed.

The Pincher Creek Voice has coverage of yesterday’s events.

We are consulting with our lawyers to decide on our next moves. In the meantime, as no one has been legally been told to leave, protesters will remain at the site. Your presence would be much appreciated!

On Sunday, Jan 22, from 2–4 pm we’re having a rally to oppose the proposed logging. We’re contacting people now to come out to do some reading, recite some poetry, etc. We’ll have an open mike so we can hear from you. This may be our last best chance to keep the trees from falling by telling the government how much we’re opposed to this ill-advised logging plan. Please bring your family, friends, and signs with your messages for the government.

The rally will take place just inside the Castle Special Management Gate, approx 9 km southwest of Beaver Mines on Hwy 774 (49.414973 N, 114.269839 W). Off-highway parking will be available along Range Road 30A, just outside the Castle gate. (This location is outside the area closed by SRD, and has safe, off-highway parking.)

Protest to Continue Tuesday, Jan 17

January 16, 2012

The protest will continue on Tuesday, Jan 17. For directions etc see the Jan 13 entry Help Residents’ Camp & Picket-Line Hold Back Clear-Cutting Protected Area.

It was frosty today, and will be colder tomorrow. Please be prepared!

Protest to Continue Monday Jan 16

January 15, 2012

It’s been five days and counting that Spray Lake Sawmills has been unable to start any logging operations.

There were a good number of folks out today to walk the picket line, including a good contingent from Calgary.

Our unofficial poll of vehicles shows that the honks, waves, and “thumbs up” vastly outnumber the negative reactions. Thanks to everyone that gave us a friendly wave and smile today!

We’ll be out again tomorrow, Monday, Jan 16. Please come and join us if you can. It’ll be cold. Dress twice as warmly as you think you need to.

Protest to Continue Sunday, Jan 15

January 14, 2012

The protest is scheduled to continue on Sunday, Jan 15. Please join us if you can.

Note that the weather is forecast to become very cold, and the roads are likely to be poor. Plan accordingly.

Details are per the Jan 13 blog entry: Help Residents’ Camp & Picket-Line Hold Back Clear-Cutting Protected Area

Hope to see you there.

Help Residents’ Camp & Picket-Line Hold Back Clear-Cutting Protected Area

January 13, 2012

Help Residents’ Camp & Picket-Line Hold Back Clear-Cutting Protected Area

Three days and counting, holding back the clear-cut logging in the Castle Special Place protected area. For more info: Facebook “like” Stop Castle Logging, and blog at


Follow signs to Castle Mountain Resort, Alberta. West of Beaver Mines on #774, drive 1.7 kms past the Castle Special Management Area / Forestry entrance. On left hand side. (Coordinates 49.418126 N, 114.289171 W).

Important: Please obey the speed limit through the Hamlet of Beaver Mines!


Come anytime during daylight, Saturday, Jan 14.  For days after:

Phone Peter Sherrington 403 627-3522 psherrin@telusplanet.netor Carolyn Aspeslet at Castle Crown Wilderness Coalition office 9:30 am to 2:30 pm 403 627-5059 or evenings 403 628-3528, or Mike Judd 403 627-2949.


Phoning & emailing Premier Alison Redford 310-0000,   And if resident in Alberta, also phone & email your MLA, find at


Dress warm. Come self contained (snacks, lunch, water, etc).  Please remember that there are no facilities of any kind.  Outhouses are further along the road at the Syncline x-country parking lot, or store with food & washrooms in Beaver Mines.


To keep the camp a peaceful, lawful and respectful site.  Saving the Castle protected area & all there deserve that respect.

News Release: Failure of government to listen results in residents out in force to protest logging

January 12, 2012

Failure of government to listen results in residents out in force to protest logging

January 12, 2012

Beaver Mines:  Yesterday morning, more than thirty local residents braved the cold to tell the government that they oppose clear-cut log in the Castle Special Management Area west of Pincher Creek, Alberta. The residents have a multitude of concerns, starting with logging should not be occurring in what the province designated as a Special Place protected area to “preserve Alberta’s natural heritage.”  Other concerns include the damage the logging will do to this popular recreation area, outdoor recreation-based businesses, the main water source for southern Alberta, and what the province zoned as Critical Wildlife and defined as crucial for maintenance of specific fish and wildlife populations. They are frustrated that the government is ignoring its own protected area decisions and citizen’s concerns.  They called on all other voters to phone and email Premier Redford and their local MLA to save their recreation area.

“I think it was clear yesterday morning that Spray Lake’s and SRD’s “social contract” for logging in the Castle has expired”, says Gordon Petersen, Beaver Mines Resident & President of the local Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition. The heavy machinery is waiting on site until SLS and SRD figure out what to do with protesters that remain at the site.  “Unless enough voters speak out, their favourite recreation area is going to largely wind up in wood chips and fence posts,” says Petersen.

Half of the mature forest in the popular recreation core of the Castle is slated for logging over the next three winters, with some clear-cut blocks stretching upwards of two miles long.  Spray Lake Sawmills plans on removing 4,737 trucks of logs; pending the low lumber market.  About 40% of the volume of logs will wind up as wood chips and fence posts.

In 1998 the Alberta government protected the Castle as one of 81 areas across the province under its Special Places 2000 policy. But the Castle, unlike the other 80, has yet to be legislated because SRD claimed they could use other tools to achieve the preservation and outdoor recreation goals stipulated in the Ministers’ decision.  In 2001, Alberta Environment and SRD issued a public document saying they couldn’t proceed with the final step in implementing the protected area decision until the province’s Ministers (Cabinet) decided what kind of park they were going to legislate it as.

“Since when does one government department, SRD, get to override a decision of Cabinet; one that was the result of years of public consultation?” asks Dianne Pachal of Sierra Club of Canada’s, Alberta Wild Program.

At the general invitation of the Tourism, Recreation and Parks Minister, a local, consensus-based process of businesses, Shell Canada, ranchers, recreational groups and conservation groups solved the 2001 log-jam of what kind of legislation for the Castle; recommending in 2009 that it be legislated as a Wildland Park.

In 2010, without public consultation on the location of the logging licence, Alberta Sustainable Resource Development (SRD) gave Spray Lake Sawmills (SLS) permission to clear-cut in the core of the Castle where all the campgrounds (Beavers Mines Lake, Castle Falls, Castle River Bridge and Lynx Creek) and Scouts Canada’s Camp Impeesa are located, and on the way to the Castle Mountain Resort. They expanded the logging license last year, again without public consultation, and signed off on the company’s detailed logging plan this past fall.

Recent surveys show a large majority are against the logging and for a Wildland Park, irrespective of voting preference. Seventy-seven percent of residents adjacent the Castle, and 85% of Lethbridge residents oppose clear-cut logging in the Castle, while 74% and 87% respectively want to see it as a Wildland Park.

“The government is ignoring the interests and concerns of the local communities in favour of the interests of a private company not even located in the region. This is an opportunity for the new Premier to show real leadership by halting this unwanted and ill-advised logging, and then providing permanent protection for the Castle by making it a Wildland Park,” says Petersen.

Petersen says that residents and business owners feel so strongly about the logging that they are vowing to continue the fight even if the first trees start to fall.

For further comment:

Gordon Petersen, Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition: (403) 627-3732

Dianne Pachal, Sierra Club of Canada, Alberta Wild Program: (403) 234-7368

Protest and Press Conference, Jan 11

January 11, 2012

Logging Protesters

This morning some 30+ residents, friends, and neighbours gathered to Protest clear cut logging in the Castle, and to attend a Press Conference at the site where Spray Lake Sawmills is planning to start clear cut logging

SLS personnel and contractors arrived at the site to find the Cat and Feller-Buncher they’d parked the night before surrounded by people, cars, and signs.

After a cordial and respectful discussion with those present, the SLS folks decided to retire for the day to consider their next move.

The Press Conference went well. A number of TV networks sent crews that kept busy interviewing the protesters and filming the action. Print and Internet media were also in attendance.

Protesters plan to be at the site again tomorrow (Thursday, Jan 12).

Castle—Sold Out

A frosty morning

Stop Castle Logging

News Release: Alberta Government Deaf to Citizen’s Logging Concerns

January 6, 2012

Here’s a News Release from the Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition

Alberta Government Deaf to Citizen’s Logging Concerns

For Immediate Release

January 6, 2012

Beaver Mines, Alberta – Despite near unanimous opposition to logging in the Castle Special Management Area in southwestern Alberta, the Department of Sustainable Resource Development (SRD) continues to push through with its ill-advised clear cut logging plans.

Yesterday morning, local residents went to the area where the logging is about to begin. They found the parking area cleared to accommodate Spray Lake Sawmills’ logging equipment, and flagging tape marking the cut block boundaries. (Please see attached photographs.)

“It’s unbelievable,” says Gordon Petersen, President of the Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition, “that SRD still insists on this uneconomical logging in a matchstick forest despite public opinion polls that show that more than three quarters of regional residents are opposed to the logging, and despite the thousands of opposition e-mails, five rallies and protests across Southern Alberta, and the hundreds of letters and phone calls the government has received. Is there simply no way to influence government decisions?”

Experts on grizzly bears and watershed health have also spoken out against the logging, citing irreversible effects on ecosystem function and wildlife habitat quality. The logging will not only be detrimental to the watershed, wildlife, recreational opportunities, and area wilderness-based businesses, but will be an eyesore to everyone that drives to the Castle Mountain Ski area.

“They couldn’t have picked a more obvious or unfortunate place to begin the logging”, says Peter Sherrington, a local resident. “It’s like SRD wants to hit the public hard and fast to take the wind out of any opposition.”

“We’re really talking about democracy here, or lack thereof”, added Petersen. “SRD is putting the interests of a private company, as well as its own institutional interests, ahead of the public good. Clearly the majority of the public is against logging in the Castle, but SRD has been completely deaf to these concerns.”

“We are appealing to the Premier to step in and stop the logging. Premier Redford has said that politics is changing in Alberta. Now she has an opportunity to demonstrate that the Conservative government is really listening to Albertans and what they want for their public lands”, continued Mr. Petersen.  “It’s time to put an end to this folly. Stop the logging in the Castle, and permanently protect this Special Place once and for all.”

For more information contact:

Gordon Petersen, Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition, President 403-627-3732

Peter Sherrington, Local Resident, 403-627-3522

Carolyn Aspeslet, Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition, Executive Director 402-627-5059

Matchstick Forest


Matchstick Forest

Matchstick Forest

Alberta logging could hamper USA grizzly bear recovery

January 2, 2012
Sierra Club Canada, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defence Council, Castle Crown Wilderness Coalition, Valhalla Wilderness Society

Alberta logging could hamper USA grizzly bear recovery
Calgary & Livingstone: While most were making merry during the holidays, the Grinch positioned himself in southwest Alberta’s Castle Special Management Area, located 12 miles north of Glacier National Park; ready to clear-cut log critical habitat for grizzly bears, including those with dual USA and Canadian citizenship.  Despite having designated this Rocky Mountain wildland as a Special Place protected area in 1998 “for the preservation of Alberta’s natural heritage,” the Alberta Government says Spray Lake Sawmills can start any time now inside it with clear-cut logging. Just before Christmas, the company told area residents they would start in two to three weeks.  The logging includes that zoned by the province since 1985 as Critical Wildlife and defined as “crucial to the maintenance of specific fish and wildlife populations.” The Castle is within National Geographic’s Crown of the Continent geotourism area and includes the Castle Mountain Resort, as well as habitat for 223 species listed as rare or at risk of extirpation (extinction within Alberta).
The southwest corner of Alberta is part of the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem in the USA’s grizzly bear recovery efforts; an area in northwest Montana that extends partway into Canada.  The Alberta portion is known to scientists as a mortality sink for grizzly bears – a place where grizzlies die pre-maturely or are removed, draining the population.  There are an estimated 51 grizzlies there, including those that live both sides of the border.  Known human caused deaths there averaged 2.5 grizzly bears per year over the three years of 2008 through 2010, plus the unreported deaths.  That is well above the threshold of 1.4 deaths per year that scientists estimate the population can sustain in that habitat. 
“Adding logging roads and clear-cutting on top of that will only make the drain in the sink that much bigger,” says Dianne Pachal, Sierra Club Canada’s Alberta Wild Director.
Certain logging practices may simulate fire by stimulating production of bear foods.  However, Alberta’s updated grizzly bear status report concluded the increased motorized access connected with logging in Alberta diminishes any potential positive effects of forest regrowth after logging.
Last spring, Global Forest Watch Canada’s report on old resource roads and trails left open to motorized use in the Castle, despite government access plans saying otherwise, was front-page news in Alberta.  The report, which made use of satellite imagery, concluded there was no longer any secure habitat left there for grizzlies.
“I, together with other grizzly bear scientists have twice previously written Alberta’s Premier emphasizing the need for laws protecting the Castle within its parks system,” says bear biologist Wayne McCrory. “More than a decade of special management in the absence of those laws hasn’t worked to turn around the mortality sink.”
Alberta lists grizzly bears as a threatened species, but the province has no laws requiring habitat protection for threatened and endangered species.   The federal laws only apply directly to lands under federal jurisdiction.  Nor is there any binding requirement that the government agencies work together to accomplish grizzly bear recovery, as there is with the USA’s Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee.
Conservation organizations in Alberta note that while residents of the private lands are to be commended for wanting to keep grizzly bears a part of southwest Alberta, the province is expediting habitat loss in the Castle, which is 400 square miles of public land all under Alberta’s jurisdiction. 
The logging plans were developed by the province, even though the logging company has stated it won’t make any money doing the logging.  Alberta rates the Castle as low risk for a pine beetle epidemic and adjacent Waterton Lakes National Park has been successful at managing the risk of wild fire without the use of clear-cut logging. 
Independent surveys found that three-quarters or more of area residents oppose the logging and want to see Wildland Park laws used to secure better protection for the Castle.
For More Information Contact:
Dianne Pachal, Sierra Club Canada, Alberta Wild Director, 403 234-7368
Wayne McCrory, McCrory Wildlife Services Ltd., 250-358-7796
Louisa Wilcox, Natural Resources Defense Council, Senior Wildlife Advocate, 406 222-9561 (ex 3)
Gordon Petersen, Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition, President, 403 627-3732

Maps & Background Attached

Will the Grinch Steal your Park this Christmas? Logging may begin over holidays in Alberta protected area

January 2, 2012

See the story in The Nanton News

Head-off clear-cutting the Castle Special Place. Write Alberta’s new premier today!

October 25, 2011

Unless we act now, as early as next week, bulldozers will be building logging roads in former national park lands to clear-cut what today is the Castle Special Place protected area. (Box to write & click-to-email letter at )

There’s hope for this southwest Alberta “Special Place” in this UN International Year of Forests. In the leadership race, Premier Alison Redford used this issue as an example of how the government hadn’t been listening. 

Local businesses oppose clear-cutting this vital part of the international Crown of the Continent ecosystem and National Geographic geotourism area.  Surveys found the majority of area residents not only oppose the logging, but also want the Castle’s “protected area” status backed up by laws as a Wildland Park. Join them in opposing the logging and supporting a Wildland Park. (Box to write & click-to-email letter at )

For More Information on the issue

Castle Logging Gets Final Approval to Start Any Time Now

October 7, 2011

Here is an important e-mail from Dianne Pachal:

SRD has given Spray Lake Sawmills final approval (i.e. has approved detailed Annual Operating Plan for Castle) to start logging at any time now through April 30 2012 (retroactive approval for period May 1st 2010 through April 30 2011 as per volumes in SLS’ 2011 version of their 5-year  General Development Plan.)

SRD also confirmed that they did approve and issue a larger logging license in terms of land area, so it does now include Whitney, Mill and Gladstone Valleys inside the Castle / Forest Reserve boundary and that means three-years of logging approved in principle, with the detailed plans (Annual Operating Plan) to be approved each year of logging.  Again issuing a logging license in the Castle or expansion of a license there without public consultation on whether or not the license should be there prior to the decision to issue the license.  Castle logging would account for 7% of the logs SLS cuts during their five-year logging plan.

So, SRD is pre-empting:
    • The AB Government completing the work it started with designating the Castle a Special Place protected area, as has been completed for the other 80 Special Place protected areas (i.e. legislating the protection under Alberta’s Wilderness Areas, Ecological Reserves, Natural Areas & Heritage Rangelands Act or Provincial Parks Act, which includes Wildland Parks).
    • Outcome of regional land-use planning.  Public input so far is that the public wants to see clear-cut logging phased out throughout the South Saskatchewan Region (SSRP) and that tourism & recreation is more important for future economic growth than logging.   Independent surveys on the Castle found majority of are residents are opposed to logging the Castle and want a Wildland Park there.  Gov’t did not ask for input on new parks & other such protected areas in the public consultation so far on the SSRP, just about the broader concept of “conservation areas,” which includes managed resource development.  They did ask about new parks in the consultation on the Land Use Framework for the regional plans.  The majority (68%) are “willing to accept limits to forestry development to provide more protected areas.”  (Table 2, pg 15, Land-Use Framework Workbook Summary Report, October 2007”
SLS logging for this winter season is double the Annual Allowable Cut in their Crown Timber Quota agreement with the province for the Crowsnest Forest (C5) in which the Castle Special Place protected area is located. Over their five-year General Development Plan (approved this year by SRD) it is 48% or about 6,799 truck loads (292,357 cubic meters) of logs over.  (Castle is a total of 4737 truck loads of logs.) That 48% over ACC is a volume that was not logged in the prior 5 years, that can be applied for approval to be “carried over” to be logged in the current five-year General Development Plan.  The approval for that carry over has NOT been given yet and what ever final amount is approved can be accounted any year in the five-years (e.g. 4th or 5th year).  SRD replied: Provincially, SRD is considering a new directive for the implementation of Carryover. As such, no Carryover has been currently approved. GDP [General Development Plan] approval does not constitute blanket approvals for Annual Operating Plans or exceptions to future policy directives and existing AACs.  So, we could have a situation, where like the previous 5 years, lumber markets remain low (e.g. low new housing starts in US & Cnd), Castle is logged now, but ample approved volume of logs elsewhere in the Crowsnest & Bow Forests in less contentious areas, that remain unlogged.  Or a smaller Carryover is approved, but Castle is still logged out and other less contentious areas (those not mapped as protected areas or environmentally significant areas) also approved for logging remain unlogged.

Tim Juhlin, District Forester left message returning my phone message of a week or so ago, confirming approval of the Annual Operating Plan for the Castle, that SLS can start any time now, and that the carryover has not been approved as per explanation about.
Tim Juhlin, District Forester left message returning my phone message of a week or so ago, confirming approval of the Annual Operating Plan for the Castle, that SLS can start any time now, and that the carryover has not been approved as per explanation about.


Dianne Pachal, Alberta WILD Director
Sierra Club Canada #210, 223 – 12th Ave., S.W.
Calgary, AB  T2R 0G9
Phone 403 234-7368; FAX 403 234-9532
To Donate:

Good Turn Out for the June 8 Stop Castle Logging Rally at the McDougall Centre

June 23, 2011

The weather gods smiled on us, and the rain held off until the rally was over.

Some 80 people were on hand to take part in the rally, and to hear music and verse by Sid Marty, a thoughtful presentation by Bob Sandford, and a short address by Harry Chase, MLA

Here is the link to CTV’s coverage of the event

Stop Castle Logging Rally, Calgary, Wed June 8, McDougall Centre, 12-1 pm

June 3, 2011

Here are a couple of notices about the rally. Hope to see you there!


Wednesday June 8, 2011, McDougall Centre (455 – 6th Street SW, Calgary, AB), 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM

Bob Sanford – EPCOR Chair of the Canadian Partnership Initiative in support of United Nations “Water for Life” Decade, will speak on forest and watershed health.

Sid Marty – Well known musician and writer will join us to share his music and poetry.

Rain or shine – dress for the weather.

Please let us know if you would like to attend; contact Carolyn at 403-627-5059 or by email We will be coordinating car pooling from Southern Alberta to make sure that all that want to attend can do so.

For those who are local to Pincher Creek and area please meet at the Pincher Creek Coop parking lot at 8:30 AM.

For those of you who would like to attend from other areas please let me know the following:


I am a passenger seeking a ride (from).

I am a driver seeking passengers (specify available number of seats) (from)

# of Carpool seats available

Please feel free to pass this on to all who may be interested.

Come out and join us, we hope to see you there!!!

Carolyn Aspeslet

Executive Director

Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition


Hello all,

I am writing to inform you of a rally for the Castle coming up in Calgary next Wednesday, June 8.

As many of you know, the Castle Special Place is slated for clear-cut logging this summer. This logging combined with oil and gas activities and recreation will have hugely negative effects on Alberta’s most biodiverse place. The Castle is a water tower, core grizzly bear habitat, home to many species at risk, and a great place to hike. The logging puts all of these things at risk.

CPAWS has been working hard with many other organizations to stop the logging. Next week, we are taking the campaign to the streets to show the Alberta Government and Spray Lakes Sawmills (the company responsible for the logging) that logging the Castle is not acceptable and that the people of Alberta are opposed to further damage of our sensitive ecosystems.

Sid Marty, author and musician, will be there to sing a few songs. Bob Sanford will also be present to speak to the UN International Year of Forests and the impacts of logging on watershed.

I hope that you, your friends, family, and neighbours will be able to join us.

Please send this email out to your networks. The more people that can give the grizzly bears, plants, and water of the Castle a voice the better!


What: Castle Rally

Where: McDougall Centre, 455- 6st. SW, Calgary, AB

When: 12pm-1pm

For more information about this campaign, you can check out these websites:

We’re also on Facebook: Stop Castle Logging.

If you have any questions at all, please email or call me. I look forward to seeing some of you there.

Have a great weekend.


Sarah Elmeligi, PBiol, MNRES

Senior Conservation Planner

Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society – Southern Alberta Chapter

425- 78 Ave SW

Calgary, AB., T2V 5K5

T:(403) 232-6686 ext 6
Cell: (403) 688-8641

Please consider the environment before printing this email.

International pressure mounting to protect Alberta’s Castle wilderness: Clearcut logging threatens Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park

May 11, 2011

May 9, 2011 Press Release

International pressure mounting to protect Alberta’s Castle wilderness: Clearcut logging threatens Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park 

Stumping the Forest

May 4, 2011

This Op-Ed appeared in the April 20th Edition of the Lethbridge Herald

Stumping the Forest

 Lorne Fitch, P. Biol.

Usually people of my advanced age group are favorably disposed towards fiber, both for the physical constitution and the moral one. But, I find myself more and more anti-fiber when I witness the ongoing war in the woods over industrial, clear-cut logging. Each generation has its own rendezvous with the land; it would seem today’s Forest Service is at least a generation behind today’s public that want their forests managed for more than dimensional lumber. The specter of logging in the Castle River watershed, in southwestern Alberta reinforces this dichotomy. It follows pitched battles by concerned citizens over logging in the Ghost watershed, Bragg Creek area, Kananaskis and Crowsnest Pass.

The impression one is left with in reviewing the actions and intent of our Forest Service in these disputes is an agency out of touch, lacking a unifying sense of forest values. Observers might conclude that leaving forests to the care of the Forest Service is akin to leaving a pig under the protection of the butcher. In one case all that is left is the squeal, in the other just sawdust, stumps and sediment.

Forests are more, much more than fiber, described as dimensional lumber, fence posts and now bark mulch for landscaping.  But, fiber vision, a variant of tunnel vision, has become a debilitating disease in which perception and reason are restricted by arrogance and ignorance. Vision is further distorted by vested economic interests and politics. If left untended the malady progresses to a type of institutional blindness, in which no other forest attribute or value can be discerned. Its legacy, other than rotting stumps and eroding skid trails, includes streams filled with silt, a ravaged landscape that has lost visual interest, an unnatural quiet, with no trees to capture the wind or shelter birds and a vacant space, across which wildlife are reluctant to travel.

If there was an appropriate metaphor for the situation it would be a brain dead dinosaur, whose tail hasn’t yet got the message that forests are more than fiber. The tail, consisting of industrial clear-cuts, continues to swing wildly, crushing and smashing everything in its path. It is almost as if the sole goal of our Forest Service is to reset the geological clock back to a less biologically diverse time when there were only primordial pines and ferns.

As for the foresters that design the logging plans, the bureaucrats and politicians that push them over citizens’ concerns and the corporate directors who collect the profit from deforestation, they will soon be extinct. But we must give them their due; they are doing their very best to take with them creatures whose residence in these watersheds is at least 10,000 years longer than theirs. That which exploiters fail to value, or do not value, they take no trouble to comprehend. Of clean water, cutthroat trout, bull trout, grizzlies and connections only lip service is paid.

The forests of the Eastern Slopes of the Rocky Mountains were viewed by early policy makers as pivotal to the settlement and well-being of the area later to be known as Alberta and Saskatchewan. Hence, the forests were “reserved”, for water, local timber needs and to sustain wildlife. How quickly our Forest Service has forgotten history. The need for watershed protection and maintenance of biodiversity is not an artifact of history, but a compelling need for today (and the future). We need to learn to take our wealth from our forests in less damaging ways, and to realize wealth is also found in managing them for more than fiber. An intact forest is a symbol of progress, a landscape covered with stumps is not.

The Forest Service, in their antiquated public input process, sucks the oxygen out of legitimate debate over forest management with the time tested “DAD” approach (Decide-Advise-Defend). Whatever the public process is, the deal is rigged and participants end up wasting time and energy on something our Forest Service was really never engaged in anyway. Any good will engendered by asking the public to participate is squandered and rapidly evaporates into anger towards an agency still in a command and control mode. The rush to cut trees, because they are getting older supercedes forest management for multiple values and, meaningful engagement with Albertans who care about their forests.

I know there are still professionals in our Forest Service that care about forests and have the public interest as a focus. These voices of reason, of balance and of restraint are overwhelmed by the politics of timber harvest.

If, in the future, you plan to drink water, enjoy a forest landscape, fish and hunt or watch wildlife, now is the time to pay attention to the rapid industrialization of our forests. The focus should be less on wood fiber and more on moral fiber in forest management. A lack of public oversight now will doom us to a new Alberta coat of arms displaying a field of stumps where forests once stood.

December, 2010

Lorne Fitch is a Professional Biologist, a retired Fish and Wildlife Biologist and an Adjunct Professor with the University of Calgary.

Press Release: Canada’s “battles in the woods” flare up in Prairie headwaters

April 26, 2011
Media Release

(Map & contacts at end.)
Canada’s “battles in the woods” flare up in Prairie headwaters
Market action launched against logging in Alberta’s southern Rockies

Calgary: A market action against clear-cut logging in the southern headwaters of the Prairie Provinces has been launched by local and national conservation groups, with international ones adding their names to the grassroots action. It focuses on the Crowsnest Forest, which is located at the head of the water-stressed South Saskatchewan River system, between Kananaskis Country west of Calgary and the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. The Crowsnest falls within the international Crown of the Continent geotourism area. It is the southern part of the public Rocky Mountains Forest Reserve, which the governments of Canada and Alberta historically described as important to the nation as a “conservation area dedicated to watershed management.”

Eighty-seven lumber retailers in southwest Alberta received letters asking them to decline selling Spray Lake Sawmills (SLS) wood from the Crowsnest Forest and instead sell Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood, until the Castle Special Place is off the chopping block and SLS along with Alberta Sustainable Resource Development have reformed forest management in the Crowsnest Forest through an FSC certification process. The Alberta Foothills Network and volunteers are currently following up in-person with the retailers. Representatives met with the company again last week.

Citizens are also asked to check their local retailer and if selling SLS wood from the Crowsnest Forest, to email the Alberta Foothills Network and while at the retailer, to ask them to sell FSC certified wood instead. SLS is the only sawmill logging in the Crowsnest Forest. Its mill is located in Cochrane, west of Calgary. It predominantly uses contractors for road building and logging.

“Southern Alberta isn’t short of fence posts or lumber. It’s short of the three big Ws: water, wildlife habitat and wildlands, including for outdoor recreation and tourism,” observes Dianne Pachal of Sierra Club Canada.

Water’s equivalent of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Rosenberg International Forum on Water Policy in its 2007 Lessons for Canada and Alberta points to the importance of undertaking headwater (upland watershed) protection in the face of significantly reduced water flows in the Saskatchewan River system of Canada’s Prairie Provinces. It reports that the Crowsnest Forest “may be a good candidate for special watershed protection.” It goes on to state that the proposed park for the Castle Special Place “will pay for itself over and over again in the value of the ecological services it provides alone.”

“Engaging the power of consumers, small and big, through a market action to reform forest management and keep the Castle as a protected area is the best way we figured we could help the two-dozen local business who earlier issued a Tourism and Recreation Industry Advisory about Alberta,” explains Sarah Elmeligi of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

The initial round of public input on a plan for the South Saskatchewan region found the majority of respondents want an end to clear-cut logging throughout the region. They placed tourism and recreation as second only to agriculture for future economic growth in the region and logging last. Surveys revealed that three-quarters of residents local to the Castle Special Place, located at the south end of the Crowsnest Forest, are opposed to clearcut logging in it and support making it a Wildland Park.

The Castle has the province’s largest diversity of native plants and animals. It has 223 species listed as rare or as Species-At-Risk of extinction within Alberta (called extirpation). That includes grizzly bears, which are trans-boundary.  They are listed as threatened in Alberta and endangered in the U.S.A.

“Alberta’s own grizzly bear status report concludes the net effect of clear-cut logging is bad for bears,” says Louisa Wilcox of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Alberta can and must make a positive contribution to a shared goal of protecting the Crown of the Continent by reversing the logging decision in the Castle. While it is currently a mortality sink for endangered US bears, it could be the opposite; aiding in recovery.”
SLS also logs in the Bow Forest, which is located in the South Saskatchewan region, upstream of Calgary. The current market action is not against the sale of wood from the Bow Forest.

For more information and interviews
Organizations leading the market action under the umbrella of the Alberta Foothills Network include the local Castle-Crown Wilderness Coaltion, the Alberta Wilderness Association and the nation-wide Sierra Club of Canada and Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. Other organizations such as Rainforest Action Network and the Natural Resources Defense Council are lending their names and communication skills in support.
The current market action focuses on the 3,518 square kilometer Crowsnest Forest, and is not against the sale of wood from the Bow Forest.  There, the company through an independent FSC assessment firm has completed a pre-assessment to determine if they will enter into an FSC certification process for the Bow Forest.
A wallet and a vote – Two of the most effective tools citizens have to bring about change are their wallet as consumers and their vote.  By not purchasing wood products from the Crowsnest Forest, retailers and citizens alike will be encouraging Spray Lake Sawmills (SLS) and Sustainable Resource Development to reverse the Castle logging decision and for the rest of the Crowsnest Forest to enter into a Forest Stewardship Council certification process, thereby changing practices to meet the strict social and environmental standards of FSC.
FSC is an international certification and labeling system for wood products and is the only one jointly recognized by industry, First Nations, and social and environmental organizations.  Wood and fibre from certified forests are tracked all the way from that forest to the consumer.  Forests are certified against a set of strict environmental and social standards; standards that include community involvement and adequate protected areas. (Principles and Criteria are at )
The Castle Special Place is one of Alberta’s 81 Special Place protected areas designated by the province between 1995 and 2001. (It is #40 on the government map and list of Special Places at ) In 1998, the Alberta Government added the 1,040 sq km Castle Special Place as the new Castle Special Management Area “to Alberta’s protected areas network; describing it as “a major milestone in the preservation of Alberta’s natural heritage for future generations.”  It remains the only one of 81 Special Places without its protected area status secured by law.
Crowsnest (C5) Forest Management Plan
Contrary to his own public advisory committee (CROWPAC) recommendations, the SRD Minister, Mel Knight  recently approved a 20 year logging plan – C5 Forest Management Plan 2006-2026 – which sets timber and logging as the priority of the public’s Crowsnest Forest, instead of the public’s consistent priorities of watershed protection, wildlife habitat and intact natural landscapes for recreation and tourism.  The plan includes an increase in the annual amount of logging and continues clear-cut logging.  It also is an about-face from the Government of Alberta’s 2008 Land-Use Framework which clearly states, “Historically, watershed and recreation were deemed the priority uses of the Eastern Slopes. These priorities should be confirmed, and sooner rather than later.”
Water & Forests
“There are three elements or objectives in watershed management: quantity, quality, and timing. … Consider, for example, a virgin forest… Such forests produce the highest quality of water and, because forests are cooler and moister than open areas, they tend to delay snow melt. Since an important objective in timing is to delay snow melt as long as possible, this is a desirable feature…
An area which has been cleared of forest cover, either by fire or timber harvesting, experiences a substantial increase in water production … Forest openings are hotter and drier and, because of this, the increased volume tends to be available as an increment on peak flows [increases level of spring flood waters], rather than spread out later into the summer as is the case with a virgin forest. The quality of this increased water also tends to be lower. …

If forest clearing is the result of harvesting, anther factor enters … the forest access roads… Here, unless great care, good planning and, frequently, a substantial investment is provided, major degradation of water quality can result.”
(Environment Council of Alberta. 1979. Management of Water Resources within the Oldman River Basin. Report and Recommendations)
For more information contact:
  • Louisa Wilcox, 406 222-9561 (ex 3), Natural Resources Defense Council (Montana)
  • Nigel Douglas, 403 283-2025, Alberta Wilderness Assoc. (Calgary).
Albertan’s Crowsnest Forest (C5)
     3,518 square kilometers
Castle Map

Check out the Stop Castle Logging page on Facebook

April 20, 2011

Check out Stop Castle Logging page on Facebook:

77% of Local Residents Oppose Commercial Logging in the Castle

April 19, 2011
NEWS RELEASE       Castle Special Place Working Group    
For Immediate Release, April 18, 2011
Thumbs-up to Wildland Park for Castle
and logging it panned by adjacent residents

Calgary & Lethbridge: A “vast majority” of residents living around the Castle Special Place favor creation of a Wildland Park there and oppose logging inside it, a new survey by The Praxis Group of Calgary shows.  The Castle, technically called the Castle Special Management Area and one of the Alberta’s 81 designated Special Place protected areas, is located between Waterton Lakes National Park and the Crowsnest Pass, within Alberta’s portion of the international Crown of the Continent ecosystem and geotourism area.

The area surveyed is the southern part of MLA Evan Berger’s Livingston-Macleod constituency and statistically sampled almost half (48 per cent) of the constituency’s residents. Berger is Parliamentary Assistant for Sustainable Resource Development, the government department under Minister Mel Knight, who approved the logging.

Of the 774 residents surveyed between April 3rd and 12th, three-quarters (74 per cent) agree with the Castle Special Place Working Group’s 2009 proposal to the Government of Alberta, that the province should legally establish a 1023 square kilometer Wildland Park to better protect the 1041 square kilometer Special Place.

As well, three-quarters (77 per cent) oppose plans by Spray Lake Sawmills of Cochrane to block-cut log the area between Beaver Mines Lake, Castle Falls and Lynx Creek starting in June.  Block-cut logging is the industry’s term for what is publicly known as clear-cutting.

“The results weren’t a surprise because the working group is made up of 35 local residents and user groups, and it kept in touch with municipal governments and residents while developing the proposal,” said Gordon Petersen, who represents a local environmental organization on the Castle Special Place Working Group.  “But it’s really helpful to see it come out so conclusively in this survey and consistently for the individual communities too, not just the total aggregate.”

The Castle Special Place is located in the mountainous, public Forest Reserve between Waterton Lakes National Park and on the north, the divide between the Castle and Crowsnest watersheds. Its east-west borders are the Forest Reserve and B.C. boundaries.

The province added it to its network of protected areas in 1998 as the new Castle Special Management Area, but special management has not proven effective in protecting it.  Hence the recommendation of the working group for Wildland Park legislation, which is in keeping with that already in place and working effectively for the other 80 Special Places.

David de Lange, Praxis senior associate who supervised the survey, says he doesn’t find the results a shock.

“The numbers are consistent with surveys in the past few years that show Albertans do care about the environment and about parks.”

The results are consistent with those from a survey of Lethbridge and Coaldale residents in February by the Citizen Society Research Lab at Lethbridge College. That survey showed more than 85 per cent favor a Wildand Park and are against logging in the area.  The Praxis survey asked the same questions.

An earlier Ipsos-Reid survey commissioned by the province found 81% of Albertans agreed that “Alberta should create more parks to balance residential growth and industrial development in the province.”

The Praxis survey released late Friday reports more than 80 per cent of respondents are familiar with the area and almost half visit it at least three times a year.

As well, 82 per cent say that if a choice needs to be made between watershed protection and recreation opportunities in the Castle, watershed protection is more important. And 84 per cent give the nod to wildlife habitat protection ahead of providing recreation inside the Castle.

The Castle encompasses headwater streams for the Waterton, Oldman and Castle rivers.  It annually provides an unprecedented one-third of the water for southernmost Alberta.  It is also Alberta’s most diverse area for plants and animals, including habitat for 223 listed as rare or as Species-At-Risk of extinction within Alberta.

Voting preference makes no difference in majority support for a Wildland Park and opposition to logging, or favoring watershed and wildlife habitat protection over recreation. Numbers range from 67 per cent of Wildrose supporters in favor of a Wildland Park to 89 per cent NDP backers. The anti-logging sentiment ranges from 70 per cent who identify themselves as Progressive Conservative to 90 per cent NDP.

The study statistically surveyed residents of the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass, Municipal District (MD) and Town of Pincher Creek, Fort Macleod and the Piikani First Nation’s reservation. It included villages and hamlets in the MD, such as Cowley, Beaver Mines and Twin Butte.  Across all communities, the majority supports a Wildland Park and opposes the pending logging.

The survey has a margin of error of 3.4 per cent 19 times out of 20, or a confidence reliability rating of 95 per cent.  It was commissioned by the Alberta Foothills Network, which includes area businesses and groups such as the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and the Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition.

For more information on the survey & methodology– The Praxis Group, Calgary
Dave de Lange, Senior Associate – Phone 403 249-8822 or 403 617-0511 (cell); Email
For more information & interviews – Castle Special Place Working Group
Richard Burke, 403 320-2925, Lethbridge
Gordon Petersen, 403 627-3732, Beaver Mines
Brian Hamilton, 403 795-4684 (cell), Hillspring
Rick Cooke, 403-564-5177, Coleman
Alan Brice, 1-877-363-3258 (Alberta Flyfishing Adventures), Coleman
See also:

Survey Shows that more than 85% of Lethbridge and Coaldale Residents Oppose Logging in the Castle

April 19, 2011
NEWS RELEASE           Castle Special Place Working Group 
(Report on poll findings at )
Poll finds huge support for legislating Castle Special Place as Wildland Park
and major opposition to logging it

Lethbridge: Lethbridge and Coaldale residents overwhelmingly oppose logging and support establishment of a Wildland Park in the Castle Special Management Area west of Pincher Creek, according to a recent survey conducted by the Lethbridge College Citizen Society Research Lab.

More than 85 per cent of those surveyed February 12 and 13 oppose the logging plan approved by provincial Sustainable Resource Development last year. Spray Lakes Sawmills of Cochrane plans to clear-cut the area between the Beaver Mines Lake, Lynx Creek and Castle Falls Provincial Recreation Areas and campgrounds starting in June. The logging is technically called block-cut logging.

As well, 87 per cent of Lethbridge and Coaldale residents surveyed support establishment of a Wildland Park in the area, declared by the province in 1998 as one of 81 Special Places in Alberta, but the only one not actually legislated yet as a protected area.

A Castle Special Place working group sent a proposal in October 2009 to the province seeking legislated protection of the Castle.  The Minister of Tourism, Parks and Recreation commended the work and proposal in a letter to the working group, but the province has yet to act on the recommendations.

Faron Ellis, who supervised the survey, says, “They think a Wildland Park is a great idea. And they also indicate they know that would mean a moratorium on development.”

“Public opinion is one-sided on this issue. When you see numbers this big, there’s virtually no variance.”

The survey, commissioned for the working group by the Pincher Creek based Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition, Canadian Parks and Wildness Society – Southern Alberta Chapter and Sierra Club Canada, also showed more than 94 per cent of residents favor protection of the Castle watershed and wildlife habitat over recreation.

The survey found more than half the residents visit the area at least once a year.

Ellis says, “It’s not just selfish city people saying, ‘don’t pollute my water,’ it’s also some who recreate there. They, too, say when push comes to shove, environment wins.”

“People are not unaware of the resource industries. But here, they clearly side with protecting the Castle over that,” says Ellis.

When difficult decisions have to be made between habitat protection and resource extraction, Ellis says the survey shows, “clearly environment trumps.”

Even politics didn’t seem to sway residents in their near-unanimity. Eighty-four per cent of those polled identified their provincial party of choice. Eighty-per cent of Progressive Conservative supporters opposed logging while 82 per cent supported Wildland Park designation. Numbers were even greater for Wildrose, Liberal and NDP supporters.

The survey is considered accurate within 3.51 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The Castle Special Place working group started June 2008 and is a volunteer, consensus-based process of 35 local user-groups, businesses and holders of resource interests in the Castle Special Management Area, as well as adjacent land owners.  Prior surveys identified Lethbridge residents as the largest user group of the Castle.  The working group is now looking to raise the money needed to run the same survey in Crowsnest Pass and Pincher Creek, which are outside the region the Lethbridge College Lab works with.

For more information on survey – Citizen Society Research Lab, Lethbridge College

Dr. Faron Ellis – best by email; BlackBerry 403.360.7466

    Report on poll findings attached.
For more information – Castle Special Place Working Group
Richard Burke – (403) 320-2925 (Lethbridge)
Brian Hamilton – (403) 626-4494; cell 403 795-4684 (Hill Spring)
Dianne Pachal – (403) 234-7368 Working Group Secretariat
Sarah Elmeligi – (403) 232-6686 ext 6; cell (403) 688-8641 (Calgary / Canmore)

Media Release. Tourism businesses concerned politician and resource department misleading public over Castle Special Place logging

March 8, 2011
Media Release
For Immediate Release: Tuesday, March 8
Contacts & two maps at end

Tourism businesses concerned politician and resource department misleading public over Castle Special Place logging

Spokespeople amongst the 23 local businesses and the national Mountain Equipment Coop that issued a tourism industry advisory  last week are concerned the local MLA and Sustainable Resource Development (SRD) Parliamentary Assistant, Evan Berger, and SRD officials are misleading the public with statements in the media.  The advisory was sparked by block-cut logging (commonly called clear-cut by the public) totaling 3,750 truckloads of logs set to start this June in the heart of the Castle Special Place, located in the international Crown of the Continent geotourism area.  SRD spokespeople were quoted as saying the Castle isn’t a Special Place, yet it is there on the government website listed and mapped as one of Alberta’s 81 Special Place “protected areas.”  The 2005 logging license was issued without public notice or consultation.  However, there was extensive internal government and public consultation (1995-98) before the Castle was designated as a protected area.

“People should go and see the company’s recent block-cut logging at the foot of Crowsnest Mountain in Crowsnest Pass, north along the road to Allison Creek Provincial Recreation Area, to get a real view of what’s slated for the Castle” suggests Vic Bergman with the Crowsnest Angler and Fly Shop. Bergman questions, “If SRD insists on logging this protected area, are they going to insist on the same for the adjacent Waterton Lakes National Park, which has the same types of forest and trees?”

In the Canadian Press, picked up by various media outlets, SRD claimed a local committee turned down the Castle as a Special Place, but the Alberta Government’s highlights of their own 1998 decision, map titled “Special Place” showing the new “Castle Special Management Area,” and their news release state the opposite. “Together with the protection of the Castle, these designations mark a major milestone in the preservation of Alberta’s natural heritage for future generations. … The protection measures for the Castle area reflect the Local Committee’s recommendations to provide legislated protection for the area while taking into account the region’s importance for recreation, tourism and established development.” The 1041 sq km Special Place includes the 611 hectare Castle Mountain Resort development. It can be read in full at

The Government website at describes the Special Places as an “initiative to complete a network of protected areas to preserve the province’s environmental diversity.”  The Castle, regarded as Alberta’s most biologically diverse area, is # 40 on the Special Places map there.  Clicking on the map or links at the bottom of the page gives the list of 81 Special Places designated by date and the Castle is # 40.  An excerpt of the Government’s detailed map, Special Places Program, Final Status – July 24, 2001 (map below) also clearly shows the Castle Special Management Area as a “protected area established” and its boundaries.  (High resolution map )

The company’s Five Year Operating Plan (2008-2013) map had no logging (“operating areas”) scheduled in the Castle through 2013 (map below).  That changed last April with SRD’s approval of Spray Lake’s amended plan; a plan now for 2010-2014, with logging in the Castle scheduled for this year and winter 2012-13.  On the plan Summary Table as CTLC050015 (Beaver)

“It’s time SRD and Spray Lakes become transparent by posting the cut-block map on their website,” states Jacques Thouin, in Beaver Mines. Although the forest is the publics, citizens can only see the logging cut-block map if they arranged to view it in-person at Spray Lake’s office. Thouin encourages “All concerned voters need to write the Premier, in order to stop the logging. Businesses can help by signing onto the advisory.”  On-line at

The Alberta Government has full authority as the body that decides where and when areas are logged, to remove the contentious license, just as Premier Klein did at the Whaleback (Bob Creek Wildland Park) located in the Forest Reserve southwest of Calgary.  It was announced as a Special Place the year after the Castle and, like the Castle now, was slated for block-cut logging by SRD.

For more information contact:

Vic Bergman, 403-564-4333, (Bellevue)
Jacques Thouin, 403-627-4878, (Beaver Mines)
Greg Knopp, 403-329-3933, (Lethbridge)

Map Excerpt from Government of Alberta, Special Places Program, Final Status

Updated News Release, March 2, 2011, Pending logging in Castle Special Place sparks Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Industry Advisory

March 7, 2011

Click here to see the Updated News Release, Pending logging in Castle Special Place sparks Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Industry Advisory.

Media related to the Tourism & Outdoor Recreation Industry Advisory

March 3, 2011

Don’t know how long these links will last. Get ’em while they’re hot!

Global TV Lethbridge

Lethbridge Herald, “Tourism warning”

Calgary Sun, “Businesses rail against logging plans”

CBC, “Businesses cry foul over foothills clear-cut plans”

News Release – Logging in Crown of Continent sparks Tourism & Outdoor Recreation Industry Advisory

March 2, 2011

Pending logging in Castle Special Place sparks Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Industry Advisory

Twenty-three tourism and recreation businesses in southwest Alberta are publicly issuing an advisory to the tourism and recreation industry, warning businesses to “be aware before investing or expanding” in Alberta, Canada, if their business is making use of natural landscapes and associated wildlife on Alberta’s extensive public  lands.  The advisory warns that unless the natural state and wildlife habitat are legally protected under Alberta’s protected area legislation, it could disappear “with the stroke of a pen,” even when protection is presumed by virtue of land-use zoning or protected area announcements.  Such is happening now with the popular Castle Special Management Area located between the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park and Crowsnest Pass, within the trans-boundary Crown of the Continent geo-tourism area.  A sawmill located outside the region, Spray Lake Sawmills in Cochrane, west of Calgary, and the Alberta Sustainable Resource Development Department (SRD) are set to log the core of the “protected area” commencing early June.

“Allowing the logging of the Castle wilderness is giving preference to one industry, logging, at the expense of the tourism and outdoor recreation industry.  Both contribute to the Alberta economy,” says Elaine Voth of Alpenwood Guest House near Beaver Mines and a signatory on the advisory. “The logging will have a devastating impact on the local tourism sector for years to come.”

The advisory was sparked by block-cut (commonly called clear-cut) logging set to start within the very same Castle Special Management Area that the Alberta Government had said is a protected area and announced as “a milestone in the preservation of Alberta’s natural heritage for future generations” in 1998.  The province still lists it as one of Alberta’s 81 Special Places.


Action Alert: Save Castle Special Place

February 23, 2011
Castle Falls / Beaver Mines Lake slated for logging

Your prompt action is needed before March 14th to save the popular Castle Special Place / Special Management Area located within Alberta’s portion of the Crown of the Continent from block-cut  (commonly called clear-cut) logging by a sawmill located outside the region.  See Action Checklist below. Spray Lake Sawmills located west of Calgary is set to start logging operations June 10th and plans to take what they estimate as 3,750 truckloads of logs from the protected area over two logging seasons.  It’s short-term jobs at the expense of local, long-term ones associated with tourism and outdoor recreation.  Such large-scale logging has not occurred in the Castle Special Place since 1998, when the Government of Alberta announced it had added it as the new Castle Special Management Area to “Alberta’s protected areas network.”  The Government described it then as “a milestone in the preservation of Alberta’s natural heritage for future generations.”
The Sustainable Resource Development Department approved the logging last year for the logging license they had issued to the sawmill in 2005 and for the sawmill’s requested expansion of the license; both without public consultation and ignoring the 1998 protected area decision.  Spray Lake Sawmills and Alberta Sustainable Resource Development are intent on logging the Castle Special Management Area despite:
  • No pine beetle outbreak and it being at low risk of a future outbreak from this native Rocky Mountain beetle.
  • Regional land-use planning stipulating watershed protection, tourism and recreation as the highest priorities for the area; not block-cut/clear-cut logging.
  • Since 1934, the historically most extensively logged drainages in the Castle (those of the Carbondale) being where all the major fires (> 2 sq. km) have occurred.
  • Few intact forests in Alberta’s southern headwaters and less than 9% of the Castle remaining with trees over 150 years of age, when the natural landscape there should be a third old-growth forests.
  • The Castle providing an unsurpassed 1/3 of the annual water flow for most of southern Alberta; specifically the water stressed, Oldman River Basin and its 70 municipalities, including Lethbridge.
  • Write a short letter to Premier Stelmach. Use the white box at Write your letter in that box, using your own words and making use of tips below (also at the above link).  You can change the wording in the Subject box if you wish.  Click to send when done.  Copies will also automatically go to local MLA, Evan Berger and the opposition MLAs: Bridget Pastoor, Liberal; Paul Hinman, Wild Rose; Rachel Notley, NDP; and Dave Taylor, Alberta Party.
  • After you send your letter, please take a moment and call MLA Evan Berger (403-553-2400). Berger is the local MLA. Let him know of your opposition.
  • Print & post the poster with maps & photos. Download the poster in PDF (1.74 MB) at or JPG (199 KB) and print with your computer’s picture printing function at letter size and post, or for more impact, save to memory stick & print at ledger size (11″ x 17″) at a local print shop & then post in public places.
  • Ask friends & family to join the action and email them this action alert.
  • Stay in the news & action loop by “liking” Stop Castle Logging on Facebook.  If not on Facebook, you can still view our page at
  • State what the Castle Special Place / Special Management Area means to you.
    Ask Premier Stelmach to stop the pending logging of the Castle.
  • Use your own reasons and/or draw from the action alert above.
  • Ask your concerns to be represented in the Alberta Legislature.
    Request a reply.

Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Industry Advisory

February 23, 2011

A Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Industry Advisory has been in circulation, in regards to the logging scheduled for June 2011, in the Castle Special Management Area. So far, 23 businesses have signed on to this advisory, in an effort to halt the logging.

The purpose of the advisory is to inform Alberta businesses and prospective businesses to be aware that the land base in the tourism and outdoor recreation sector in Alberta is not secure, even under the pretense of presumed protective designation, such as areas zoned critical wildlife, prime protection (ie. watershed protection) and general recreation. Such lands have to be legislatively protected if businesses want to be certain that these lands won’t be sold for resource development without public notice or consultation, by the Government of Alberta. Presently facing such a threat are local businesses making use of the Castle Special Management Area. These businesses span from the Crowsnest Pass to Lethbridge and beyond. Land areas such as the castle, that are not protected by legislative designation exist all over Alberta, and could also be slated for commercial logging or other such development, thus drastically impacting the natural settings that local tourism and outdoor recreation businesses rely on for their livelihoods.
You can assist the businesses that are issuing the attached Tourism & Outdoor Recreation Industry Advisory regarding Alberta, by:
  • Signing onto the advisory, if your are also an Alberta tourism or recreation business.
  • Asking Premier Stelmach to stop the pending block-cut (commonly called clear-cut) logging in the Castle Special Place / Special Management Area.
  • Asking Premier Stelmach to generally provide more certainty of protection for the natural landscapes that the tourism and recreation industry depend upon.

Click here for a copy of the Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Industry Advisory.

Logging Scheduled to Start June 10. Time to Write Again!

February 21, 2011

The latest information we have is that logging operations are to start on June 10!

Meetings have been held with opposition MLAs discussing how logging will affect tourism in the region Their assistance was sought to stop logging in the Castle. Here is a copy of the briefing note title Tourism and Recreation Industry Advisory, 2011 that was given to each MLA.

Letters are needed before March 15th to be of help to those Opposition MLAs wanting to question and hold the government to account for the SRD logging decision.

Please address letter to the Premier, with a copy to MLA Evan Berger  and the oppostion MLAs. Good to also follow-up with a phone call to one’s MLA after letter sent.

In the letters, be sure to ask the addressee to raise your concerns in the Legislature and to reply to your letter. That will allow any of the MLAs below that wish to, to read your letter out to the rest of the Legislature, which resumes work Feb. 22nd.

Premier Ed Stelmach
307 Legislature Bldg
10800 – 97 Avenue
Edmonton, AB
T5K 2B6
Phone:(780) 427-2251
Fax:(780) 427-1349

Evan Berger, MLA Livingstone-Macleod
P.O. Box 69
Fort Macleod, AB  T0L 0Z0
Phone: 403 553-2400
Fax: 403 553-2133

Harry Chase, MLA Calgary-Varsity (Liberal, SRD &TPR critic)
Legislative Assembly of Alberta
201 Legislature Annex
9718 – 107 Street
Edmonton, AB
T5K 1E4
Fax:(780) 427-3697

Rachel Notley, MLA Edmonton-Strathcona (NDP, SRD, ENV &TPR critic)
Legislative Assembly of Alberta
501 Legislature Annex
9718 – 107 Street
Edmonton, AB
T5K 1E4
Fax:(780) 415-0701

Paul Hinman, MLA Calgary-Glenmore (Wild Rose, SRD & TPR critic)
Legislative Assembly of Alberta
502A Legislature Annex
9718 – 107 Street
Edmonton, AB
T5K 1E4
Fax:(780) 638-3506

Dave Taylor, MLA Calgary-Currie (Leader, Alberta Party)
Legislative Assembly of Alberta
401 Legislature Annex
9718 – 107 Street
Edmonton, AB
T5K 1E4
Fax:(780) 638-3958

Presentation to SASCI Meeting, Dec 7, 2010

February 21, 2011

Here is the PowerPoint presentation (12.7 Mb) we made to the open meeting hosted by the Southwest Alberta Sustainable Communities Initiative (SASCI) on Dec 7, 2010.

Beaver Mines Lake

Beaver Mines Lake


Castle Logging Open House, Thursday, Nov 18, Pincher Creek

November 16, 2010

Spray Lake Sawmills (SLS) and Sustainable Resource Development (SRD) are hosting a “community information session” on Thursday, Nov 18, 3:00–8:00 p.m., at the Heritage Inn in Pincher Creek.

This is a good opportunity for all of us to get out and let SLS and SRD know that there shouldn’t be any logging in the Castle at all!

We’re hoping for an impressive crowd and, to do that, we’re suggesting that people arrive around 5:00 p.m. if possible. This will also make it more difficult for SLS and SRD to “divide and conquer” the crowd.

On December 7, the Southwest Alberta Sustainable Community Iniative (SASCI) will be following-up with a session titled “Forest Management and Logging, A Community Conversation”, also in Pincher Creek. There will be a Poster Session, Presentations, and a Moderated Question and Answer Session. See SASCI’s website for more information,

Coverage of the Stop Castle Logging Rally in Waterton in the Oct 1 Edition of the Pincher Creek Echo

October 9, 2010

From the Pincher Creek Echo, Friday, Oct 1, Page 8
Don’t log the Castle rally opens Crown of the Continent conference

Debbie Houghtaling photo

Global TV And CTV were both on hand to get information of the proposed logging in the Beaver Mines area. Here Global Television reporter, Ashley Hawkins interviews one of the protestors.

Submitted by

Bob Pisko

Waterton townsite: A colorful cake, cupcakes and card for Premier Stelmach reading, “We’ll eat the cake and celebrate when you protect the Castle and stop the logging” highlighted a rally in the wind outside the opening of the first annual international Crown of the Continent Conference in Waterton townsite this morning.

More than a dozen area residents and business representatives with displays and placards wanted to let their MLA, Evan Berger and the 200 conference attendees know that Berger’s and the Sustainable Resource Development Minister’s plans to allow a more than four-hour distant sawmill to clear-cut of the Castle Special Place is unacceptable.

Candles for the numbers species living in the Castle that are listed as rare and as Species at Risk of extirpation (extinction within Alberta) adorned the cake and cupcakes: 14 mammals, 44 birds, 145 plants, 3 reptiles, 5 amphibians, 2 fish, 10 butterflies and a number of spiders.

The Castle, once part of Waterton Lakes National Park, is part of the future health of the Crown of the Continent ecosystem.

“The great outdoors, not two by fours,” reads one placard and “the Jewel of the Crown” another.

“We want to let people know that tangible conservation action is needed now by stopping the logging, instead of deferring protection until after a new land use plan is done and the core of is clear-cut.” explains area resident Phil Hazelton to the TV news media present.

Inside, Evan Berger who also represents Alberta on the Crown of the Continent round table, gave an opening address to the conference, focusing on inter-jurisdictional cooperation and the province’s regional land-use planning.

Through the planning, he offered the potential of future conservation and stewardship.

But for today, he made no mention of the logging, which pre-empts the planning or of any new conservation actions on the ground during the interim until new plans are done and implemented.

The Castle is an important part of the ecological integrity of the trans-boundary Crown of the Continent ecosystem, including for wildlife habitat of species found part of the time in Waterton Lakes National Park, such as grizzly bears and elk.

“Logging brings no long-term economic benefits to the local area. It harms it,” emphasizes Elaine Voth, owner of a local bed and breakfast business. “We need the Castle intact, just like Waterton for future sustainability.”

Public demand for natural areas has for many years exceeded the ecological and social capacity of Waterton Lakes National Park.

Alberta’s Sustainable Resource Development Department (SRD), of which MLA Evan Berger is Parliamentary Assistant, has given the Spray Lakes Sawmill located west of Calgary, permission to clear-cut log in the between Beaver Mines Lake, Castle Falls and over Carbondale Hill into Lynx Creek.

This is a prime recreational area that includes provincial campgrounds and Scouts Canada’s Camp Impeesa.

SRD has identified the whole Castle Special Place as core grizzly bear habitat for the Alberta grizzly bear recovery plan and much of the area slated for logging is zoned Critical Wildlife and General Recreation.

Also see the Front Page Story:  Alberta Government defends C5 management plan despite local protest

Stop Castle Logging Rally, Thursday, Sept 23, Waterton

September 20, 2010

Media Advisory

For Release: Monday, September 20, 2010

Beaver Mines, Alberta: The ad hoc group, Stop Castle Logging, will hold a rally on Thursday, September 23, starting about 8:30 a.m. outside the Bayshore Hotel in Waterton Lakes National Park where local MLA Evan Berger will be addressing the conference Remarkable Beyond Borders: Shaping the Future of the Crown of the Continent. The rally is intended to let Mr. Berger and the conference attendees know that plans to allow Cochrane-based Spray Lake Sawmills (SLS) to clear-cut log in the Castle Special Place west of Pincher Creek, Alberta, are unacceptable.

The provincial department of Sustainable Resource Development, of which MLA Evan Berger is Parliamentary Assistant, has given SLS permission to clear-cut log in the area between Beaver Mines Lake, Castle Falls and over Carbondale Hill into Lynx Creek. This is a prime recreational area that includes provincial campgrounds and Scouts Canada’s Camp Impeesa. The area is also considered core grizzly bear habitat for the Alberta grizzly bear recovery plan, and is a key component of the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem. Much of the area is zoned critical wildlife.

Members of the Stop Castle Logging group and others have been writing, calling, and meeting with Mr. Berger for months now, but Mr. Berger seems more intent on promoting the interests of Spray Lake Sawmills than on representing the views of his constituents.

For more information
please go to and/or contact:

Karin Buhrmann, Gladstone Valley, (403) 627-5365

Rick Cooke, Crowsnest Pass, (403) 564-4642, (403) 564-5177

Phil Hazelton, Gladstone Valley, (403) 627-4407

Rebecca Holand, Beaver Mines, (403) 627-4879

Gordon Petersen, Beaver Mines, (403) 627-3732

Peter Sherrington, Beaver Mines, (403) 627-3522

Jacques Thouin, Beaver Mines, (403) 627-4879

Pincher Creek Echo Editorial, Sept 10, 2010: Clear-cutting is never a good idea

September 17, 2010

Clear-cutting is never a good idea

There is no doubt that the Castle area is one of the most beautiful places in the world.

It seems a shame to me that Sustainable Resource Development (SRD) Minister Mel Knight’s decision to allow clear-cut logging in such a beautiful place.

Much of the area slated for logging is on the government’s land-use plan zoned as Critical Wildlife and along with Beauvais Provincial Park, zoned as General Recreation (not “multiple-use” which is multiple industrial uses including logging).

So that makes one wonder how these so-called officials can make these decisions without taking into consideration the fact that the area is loved and cherished by not only those who live in the area, but those who enjoy visiting year after year.

In 1998, according to the Alberta Government’s highlights of their Special Places decision, it had added the 1040 sq km Castle area to “Alberta’s protected areas network” as “a milestone in the preservation of Alberta’s natural heritage for future generations.”

Spray Lake Sawmills, located in Cochrane, west of Calgary estimates they will now be taking 3,750 truckloads of logs from those public lands for their Cochrane mill more than four hours haul away.

The logging license, which will consist of clear-cut blocks, is centered in the midst of the Castle’s five Provincial Recreation Areas (campgrounds) and Scout Canada’s Camp Impeesa.

In this person’s opinion logging will hurt fish and wildlife, grizzly bears and rare tree species, it will also damage what is now a healthy watershed even after the slow-growing forest is replanted.

However, Alberta’s department of Sustainable Resource Development, which is responsible for the land, said the plans for harvesting the timber have been on the books for decades and can be done in a responsible manner. Government officials say it’s an issue of forest health.

They also say that logging will help prevent the spread of mountain pine beetle, they say.

But will it really ?

People need to stop and realize that once this beautiful area is gone…. It is gone.

Stop Castle Logging Rally

September 16, 2010

A Stop-Castle-Logging Rally will be held on Thursday, Sept 23, starting at 8:30 a.m., outside the Remarkable Beyond Borders: Shaping the Future of the Crown of the Continent conference being held at the Bayshore Inn in Waterton Park.

More information will be posted here early next week (Sept 20).

Please plan to come out and support the effort to Stop Castle Logging!

Petition Against Commercial Logging in the Castle Special Place / Special Management Area

September 10, 2010

Click here to download a petition form that can be printed and signed.

Critics say clear-cutting Castle area ‘doesn’t make sense’

September 8, 2010

Check out the Calgary Herald’s front-page story on the proposed logging.

Stop Castle Logging Volunteers Get a Boost from Long-Weekend Campers

September 8, 2010

News Release

For immediate release: Tues., Sept. 7, 2010

Stop Castle Logging Volunteers Get a Boost from Long-Weekend Campers

Beaver Mines, Alberta:  Some area residents, small business owners and outdoor enthusiasts gave up part of their Labor Day long-weekend to work in sunshine and rain to alert the hundreds of campers in the Castle Spe­cial Management Area of the local MLA’s and Sustainable Resource Development (SRD) Minister Mel Knight’s decision to schedule the centre of this popular Special Place for clear-cut logging.  Located west of Pincher Creek on public forest lands between Waterton Lakes National Park and Crowsnest Pass, the Castle is listed by Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation as one of Alberta’s 81 Special Places.  Much of the area slated for logging is on the government’s land-use plan zoned as Critical Wildlife and along with Beauvais Provincial Park, zoned as General Recreation (not “multiple-use” which is multiple industrial uses including logging).

“SRD didn’t hold public consultations before they decided to log the Castle and we found almost half camped there (47%) didn’t know at all of the pending logging, let alone where they could send their concerns,” said Phil Hazelton who lives near the Castle. “It was a great morale booster for us hearing the camper’s support for pro­tecting the Castle from the logging.”

The volunteers spent Saturday and Sunday of the long-weekend handing out flyers to campers, getting a sense of where people who recreate in the area come from and collecting signatures on a petition.  West of Beaver Mines near the entrance to the Castle, a sign reads, “Help us! and gives a website address with information:  People were given the addresses for Minister Knight and his Parliamentary Assis­tant and local MLA, Evan Berger, so they could send their concerns directly to them.

On the long-weekend, 155 campsites were visited and despite running out of petitions on Saturday, 256 signed against the logging.  There were first time visitors and those who have been coming to the Castle for more than a decade, some 30 to 40 years.  People come from as far north as Red Deer, as far east as Medicine Hat and from all over southern Alberta, as well as a few from BC and outside Canada.  The largest portion (38%) came from Lethbridge, with the next largest numbers coming from Calgary (15%) and the immediate local area (14%).

In 1998, according to the Alberta Government’s highlights of their Special Places decision, it had added the 1040 sq km Castle area to “Alberta’s protected areas network” as “a milestone in the preservation of Alberta’s natural heritage for future generations.”  Spray Lake Sawmills, located in Cochrane, west of Calgary estimates they will now be taking 3,750 truckloads of logs from those public lands for their Cochrane mill more than four hours haul away.  The logging license, which will consist of clear-cut blocks, is centered in the midst of the Castle’s five Provincial Recreation Areas (campgrounds) and Scout Canada’s Camp Impeesa.”

“By their comments on the weekend, there’s no question that people value the area.  Most were about the logging, with many comments ranging from its tragic to crazy,” observed Jolaine Kelly, who with her husband owns a nearby bed and breakfast.

“We will continue to keep raising awareness to stop the logging and instead leave the area intact.   We want to keep it as a place where the priority is watershed protection, outdoor recreation and tourism as the government committed to in the land-use plan,” said a determined Karin Buhrmann, who also lives nearby.  “What’s next, are they going to insist on logging Beauvais and Waterton too?”

For more information and contact:

Phil Hazelton, 403 627-4407, Gladstone Valley, MD Pincher Creek,

Karin Buhrmann, 403 627-5365, Gladstone Valley, MD Pincher Creek,

Jolaine Kelly, 403 627-5128, Beaver Mines,

August 2010 Update

August 3, 2010

Here is a closer view of the map showing the area currently proposed for logging.

Close Up of Proposed Logging Area

It should also be noted that this is just the first in a series of proposed insults in the Castle. Areas on Gladstone Creek, Mill Creek, and Whitney Creek are scheduled to be logged next.

Time to Write Premier Stelmach Directly

Many of us have been receiving responses to our letters objecting to the proposed logging from Minister Knight and from Evan Berger. Unfortunately, instead of listening to Albertans and cancelling the logging, they seem more interested in defending the interests of Spray Lake Sawmills and the Department of Sustainable Resource Development.

It appears to be time to start writing Premier Stelmach directly:

Premier Ed Stelmach
Office of the Premier
Room 307, Legislature Building
10800 – 97th Avenue
Edmonton, Alberta
T5K 2B6


Phone: (780) 427-2251

Fax: (780) 427-1349

Responses to Minister Knight’s Letters

June 11, 2010

Many people have been writing the Honourable Mel Knight, Minister of Sustainable Resource Development, to complain about Spray Lake Sawmills’ proposed logging. The replies we’ve been receiving from Minister Knight have been remarkably similar, and contain some very contentious statements.

Here are Minister Knight’s replies to James Tweedie and Gordon Petersen, and their responses back to the Minister. You may find some useful information here to help you cut through the spin.

If you don’t like the answers you’re receiving from Minister Knight, be sure to write him back!

Here is the letter James Tweedie received from Minister Knight, and here is James’ response.

Here is the letter Gordon Petersen received from Minister Knight, and here is Gordon’s response.

Early June 2010 Update

June 9, 2010

Here is an updated flyer (updated Aug 10, 291 KB). It can be printed and given out, or e-mailed. Please circulate it widely.

Logging Flyer June 3, 2010

Logging Flyer

SRD did have a public advisory committee—CROWPAC (Crowsnest Forest Public Advisory Committee)—providing input into the proposed Crowsnest (C5) Forest Management Plan (FMP).  But that committee’s concerns (as per letter to Minister & local papers) still have not been addressed, including about water quality, wildlife habitat and protected areas.  Those outstanding concerns and public opposition to the C5 FMP lead the Minister to defer a decision on it until state of the watershed reporting and integrated watershed planning are completed by the Oldman Watershed Council.

On April 11, 2006, the CROWPAC Committee sent the attached letter to the then Minister of SRD, the Honourable Dave Coutts describing some of it’s concerns.

Map showing the location of the C5 Forestry Area.

Map Showing C5 Area

Enlarge Map (279 KB)

Here is a Poster for printing out at 11″ x 17″ (Updated Aug 10, 2.5 MB).

Logging Poster

Proposed Logging in the Beaver Mines Lake/Castle Falls Area

June 2, 2010

Under the direction of Alberta’s Department of Sustainable Resource Development (SRD), Spray Lake Sawmills is preparing to clear-cut log the Beaver Mines Lake/Castle Falls area starting in the fall of 2011.

It boggles the mind.

Why would SRD even consider allowing this logging when 1. This is a prime recreational area, 2. The Castle Special Place is part of Alberta’s Protected Areas Network, 3. There has been no update of the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) since 1985, 4. The C5 Management Plan has not been approved, 5. The Land Use Framework planning process (South Saskatchewan Regional Plan) is underway, 6. The Oldman Watershed Council has not completed its Integrated Watershed Management Plan, 7. [Part of] The area is under a Crown Reservation by the Parks and Protected Areas Division, and 8. There’s a broadly-supported, citizen’s initiative that’s working to have the area protected as a [Wildland] park?

It would be easy to conclude that SRD is helping Spray Lakes Sawmills “get the cut out” as quickly as possible to pre-empt the planning processes that are currently underway. Once the area has been trashed, much of the planning becomes moot.

Click here to see a larger version of the graphic.

Please contact Minister Knight, MLA Evan Berger, and Spray Lake Sawmills and tell them to halt the logging plans:

Honourable Mel Knight
Minister of Sustainable Resource Development
Alberta Legislature Building
10800 – 97 Avenue
Edmonton, AB
T5K 2B6
Phone: 780 415-4815

Mr. Evan Berger
MLA for Livingstone-Macleod
P.O. Box 69
Fort Macleod, AB
T0L 0Z0
Phone: 403 553-2400

Mr. Gord Lehn
Woodlands Manager
305 Griffin Road W.
Cochrane, AB
T4C 2C4
Phone: (403) 851-3314