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)