Resident’s picket-line and outfitters camp continue to hold off clear-cutting a popular protected area in southwest Alberta

Beaver Mines: Situated on the way to Castle Mountain Resort, inside the Castle Special Management Area west of Pincher Creek, it’s now the sixth day and counting that a legal camp set up by a second-generation outfitter and a picket line by local residents, outdoor enthusiasts and conservation groups are holding off logging equipment from starting in the protected area.   It was an upbeat and determined atmosphere through the weekend at the site as long-time ranching families stop by with hot chocolate and more new volunteers stopped in to help.  Most driving to Castle Mountain Resort honked and waved support, and several stopped in for information. The picketers are calling on voters to phone and email Premier Alison Redford, as well as their own MLA, and to ask that the clear-cutting be kept out of this popular recreation area, which is located adjacent to Waterton Lakes National Park and integral to the health of the international Crown of the Continent geotourism area. 

Picketers and the outfitter will legally occupy the site until Spray Lake Sawmills of Cochrane leaves for one of the alternate areas approved for logging, which are not at issue with the public.  Alberta Sustainable Resource Development (SRD) senior communications person, Duncan MacDonnell checked out the camp on the weekend. At the site it is thought that any day now, SRD will issue an order under the new Public Lands Act regulations passed last September and thereby close the whole core of this protected area and popular recreation area to public use including the outfitter and picketers.

“Last chance for the majority who said they didn’t want logging in the Castle to phone as voters and say so,” says Peter Sherrington, one of several Beaver Mines residents on the picket line.  “Even through during the leadership race, the Premier said this logging was an example of where the government hadn’t been listening, with a spring election call coming, it’s now obviously only about votes, rather than the merits of the issue.”

Independent surveys by a firm often used by SRD and by the Citizen Society Research Lab at the Lethbridge College found that “an overwhelming majority” opposed clear-cut logging in the Castle.  That was also the case irrespective of which party they said they were likely to vote for.

“Last Wednesday we asked, ‘why log such small trees so far from the mill, when there’s ample approved timber for logging at half the distance and not at issue with the public?”, says Gordon Petersen, a Beaver Mines resident and president of the Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition.  “But, now we know it’s the woodchip division of the company, called Top Spray, that makes the profit, and clear-cutting these smaller trees makes the most woodchips per dollar spent logging.  So, southern Albertan’s wildlife habitat and recreation area is mostly going to wind up as woodchips sprayed along new road ditches, used in commercial landscaping or shipped off to Super Natural BC for paper.”

Cabinet has not revoked the policy under which the Castle was designated as a protected area.  That Special Places 2000 policy specifies that the Castle Special Management Area and the other 80 Special Place protected areas scattered throughout Alberta are to meet the goals of preservation, outdoor recreation, heritage appreciation and tourism development defined as “areas capable of supporting tourism infrastructure and sustaining long-term economic viability of adventure travel and ecotourism, including extended tours in unspoiled natural landscapes.”

But despite that policy, and without public consultation, SRD issued a logging license that covers the year-round recreation core of the Caste, where there are four Provincial Recreation Areas with their campgrounds and Scout Canada’s Camp Impeesa.  In that recreation core, half of the mature forest is on SRD’s and Spray Lake Sawmills map to be clear-cut over the next three winters.  They estimate that to be 4,737 truckloads of logs, as per the SRD approved plan.

For more interviews contact (no cel phone reception at the camp in the Castle):

  • Dianne Pachal, Sierra Club of Canada, Alberta Wild Program: (403) 234-7368
  • Gordon Petersen, Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition: (403) 627-3732 (will be at phone after 11:00 am today)
  • Peter Sherrington, Beaver Mines, 403 627-3522