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 http://www.sierraclub.ca/sites/sierraclub.ca/files/1998_decision.pdf
The Government website at http://www.tpr.alberta.ca/parks/managing/establishing.asp#special 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 http://www.castlespecialplace.ca/map.pdf )
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)http://www.spraylakesawmills.com/Portals/3/Woodlands/GDP.pdf
“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 http://www.albertafoothillsnetwork.org/stop-castle-logging/advisory
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.