Group Sues Government over Castle Logging

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.

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