New findings prompt call that Alberta Government make good on having failed the Castle Special Place

Calgary:  The tools the Alberta Government has used since 1998 to protect the Castle Special Place in the southwest corner of Alberta – a Forest Land Use Zone, the Castle Access Management Plan and “special management” – are now documented in a new study by Global Forest Watch Canada as an utter failure observes the Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition, Sierra Club Canada and Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Southern Alberta Chapter.  Global Forest Watch Canada’s study was released today, complete with photographs on the accumulated density of linear disturbances (roads, seismic lines, truck trails, etc.) that are de facto open to motorized use in the Castle.  It provides one more reason why commercial logging should not go ahead there and gives the scientific evidence for what outdoor enthusiasts and conservation groups alike have been pointing to for years – that the Castle is being degraded and it isn’t managed in a sustainable manner.  

The 1041 square kilometer Castle Special Place is located between the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park and Crowsnest Pass, within the international Crown of the Continent ecosystem and geotourism area.  It is the province’s most biologically diverse area and was added to its network of protected areas in 1998 by the Government. 

“It’s time the Alberta Government makes good on having failed the Castle, and the wildlife, recreation and tourism that depends on its health,” says James Tweedie of Pincher Creek based, Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition.  “Don’t make a bad situation worse with a maze of new logging trials and roads.  Legislate the Castle like the other Special Places; like the Whaleback southwest of Calgary. It’s in far better shape having been legislated as a Wildland Park.”

Based on the level of linear disturbances and their motorized use, Global Forest Watch concludes that management as a protected area (committed to by the Alberta Government in 1998), has been a significant failure; that sustainable environmental management is not occurring.  That echoes the conclusion of a 2005 report by Arc Wildlife Services, which compiled ecological research and a 1993 ruling of the Government’s Natural Resources Conservation Board.  At the time, the 2005 report was presented to the principle manager for the Castle, Alberta Sustainable Resource Development (SRD).

The Global Forest Watch report found that the accumulated linear-disturbances average 1.3 kilometers of linear disturbance per square kilometer of public land.  That exceeds the needs of grizzly bears for habitat security, and exceeds it within an area the province has mapped as a core conservation area for the recovery of this threatened species.  That also exceeds habitat needs for the occurrence and abundance of bull trout, as delineated in another 2005 study. The Arc Wildlife Services report revealed low adult numbers for all three sport-fish in the Castle, and linear disturbance densities that exceed the threshold for viable moose populations.  

SRD has scheduled the core of the Castle for block-cut logging to commence this June. That includes within what is zoned as Critical Wildlife, “crucial to the maintenance of specific fish and wildlife populations.”  Shell Canada has a couple of wells and service roads there, which it keeps closed due the zoning, including to protect winter elk range.  Now it is set to be roaded and logged off. 

“It’s time the Alberta Government honour the commitment made in 1998 and thereby, help turn-around Alberta’s poor environmental image,” says Sarah Elmeligi of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

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For more information: 

  • Global Forest Watch Canada report & news release at (photos in appendix of report).
  • James Tweedie, 403 628-2422, Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition
  • Dianne Pachal, 403 234-7368, Sierra Club Canada
  • Sarah Elmeligi, 403 232-6686 ex 6, Canadian Parks & Wilderness Society, Southen Alberta Chapter