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 firstname.lastname@example.org; BlackBerry 403.360.7466
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)