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.