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Clear-cut logging approval in Alberta’s Castle Special place undermines regional plan

  • Published on May 11 2010 |
  • This article is tagged as: alberta, castle

Calgary, AB -- Logging in the Castle Special Place, north of Waterton-Glacier National Peace Park has been approved for the winter of 2011-2012. Logging along Alberta’s east-slopes is a part of the region’s economic sustainability, but this approval holds special significance for the entire South Saskatchewan Regional Plan.

In 2008, the Alberta Government promised Albertans a new series of land-use plans to balance economic, environmental, and cultural needs. When polled, the majority of Albertans stated their support for trade-offs that would increase environmental protection while ensuring economic stability. It would appear that these trade-offs do not include the elimination of clear-cut logging in designated protected areas.

The Castle Special Place was designated a protected area in 1998. It is currently managed by the Ministry of Sustainable Resource Development (SRD) as a Forest Land-Use Zone, a multi-use landscape. Since 1998, the ecological health of the Castle has continued to decline.

Clear-cut logging in the Castle was approved based on the C-5 Management Plan. “The C-5 Management Plan was never formally approved by SRD because it did not adequately account for the health of Castle and Waterton River headwaters”, said Sarah Elmeligi, Senior Conservation Planner for the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society – Southern Alberta Chapter. “The Integrated Resource Management Plan is the current approved plan; it has “watershed protection” as its highest priority, not clear-cut logging”.

The Oldman Watershed Council’s State of the Basin Report, only recently completed, states that the effects of clear-cut logging in the Castle on overall watershed health are unknown. The impacts of logging in other headwaters are known. “Clear-cut logging in headwaters increases erosion, sedimentation, and turbidity”, says Stephanie Palechek, Executive Director for the Oldman Watershed Council, “These impacts can affect water quality and quantity downstream, resulting in need for improved water treatment infrastructure, which ends up costing tax payers directly.”

Meanwhile, the Regional Advisory Committee (RAC) continues to meet and discuss land-use planning for the South Saskatchewan Region that will balance economic and environmental needs. As expected and appropriate, many land-use proposals are being diverted into this planning process so the RAC can effectively consider where trade-offs need to be made. This logging proposal was not directed through this process, however, which undermines the the efficacy of this much larger plan.

There is strong local support to increase protection of the Castle Special Place; approving clear-cut logging prior to completion of the regional plan flies in the face of these efforts. “Our concern is that while all conservation related proposals are funnelled through the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan, some development proposals are being pushed ahead,” says Elmeligi, “This threatens the integrity of the whole land-use planning process, goes against government commissioned polls asking Albertans what they want for their landscapes, and undermines the advice being provided by the RAC to Alberta’s legislative cabinet.”

For more information contact:
Sarah Elmeligi, Senior Conservation Planner, CPAWS SA – 403-688-8641