2012-10-22 A Stay of Execution in the Castle - But for How Long?
In an article from Saturday, the Calgary Herald explores the recent AESRD decision to halt future logging in the Castle pending the outcome of the South Saskatchewan Regional Land Use Plan. With this article is included a 5 minute video taken in the Castle recently highlighting some of the natural beauty and majesty of this area, as well as many of the threats under which it finds itself. If you've never been lucky enough to visit the Castle yourself, we recommend you take a few minutes out of your day to watch it and connect with this Special Place that Alberta is at such risk of losing.
Still of the Castle River from the video on the Calgary Herald site
It might be fair to say that the defence of the Castle wilderness has been the single longest-running campaign in AWA history. When a group of ranchers, hunters, outfitters and other outdoor enthusiasts gathered around a Pincher Creek kitchen table in 1965 to form what would eventually become Alberta Wilderness Association, it was the degradation of the wilderness areas around the headwaters of the Castle River that was foremost on their agenda.
In the 47 years since that day, AWA’s mandate has expanded to cover countless other issues, including forty-eight areas of concern, innumerable species both threatened and not, and wider-reaching issues such as energy licensing, a provincial biodiversity strategy, and water and wetland security. Yet despite the above, the unique natural treasures of the Castle have caused it to remain near to our hearts over all this time, and ensuring the intactness of the wilderness in this Special Place remains one of our top priorities.
At the same time, we recognize that not all AWA members have had the chance to experience this magical area for themselves. For those members especially – but of course also including those that have been so lucky – we recommend you check out this article from last Saturday’s Calgary Herald.
Included with the article is a 5 minute video taken in the Castle, which features some of our colleagues from Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition and CPAWS. The video takes viewers on a tour of this wonderland, introducing them to its beauty, but also to some of the pressures that threaten its vitality.
One of those threats is, of course, the logging currently being undertaken by Spray Lake Sawmills (SLS) in the C5 Forest Management Unit (FMU), which includes the Castle. AWA has written about this threat several times before, including with some passion earlier this year when several local residents were willing to lay their freedom on the line and be arrested rather than see their beloved Castle mown down without any opposition.
Now, as the Calgary Herald story explains, it seems that those sacrifices may be bearing fruit. Thanks in part to continued public pressure and outrage at the destruction of the Castle, Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (AESRD) decided recently that no new logging will be permitted in the Castle Special Place, at least until the completion of the South Saskatchewan Regional Land Use Plan (SSRP). While existing logging occurring under year one of SLS’ three-year plan will be allowed to continue, years two and three will be put on hold.
To be clear, this is not a clearcut victory. The decision represents merely a temporary stay of execution until the SSRP is complete, and does not purport to ban logging in the Castle – which is what AWA would like to see – altogether. Several other questions also remain, principal among them being that of logging in other areas in the C5 FMU. Will the moratorium on logging in the Castle simply result in even more logging elsewhere in the C5? It remains unclear, yet rumours of expanded logging plans in the Trout Creek area of the Livingstone-Porcupine imply it might.
Nevertheless, this delay represents a positive, if tentative, step. And if the decision is one ray of sunshine through the window of this wintery day, let the video’s reminder of just why the Castle is so precious be another.