July 24th, 2017

Conservation group confident in Castle plan


By Mabell, Dave on April 21, 2017.

Dave Mabell

Lethbridge Herald

dmabell@lethbridgeherald.com

An international conservation group says it’s confident Alberta’s government will take a balanced approach to managing the new Castle provincial parks.

But respectful dialogue must continue with community groups, First Nations leaders, local government and user groups, according to the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative. That should include residents who use motorized as well as non-motorized equipment in the parks areas, it says.

“This has been one of the most exhaustive consultation processes in Alberta history,” says Stephen Legault, one of the organization’s program directors.

“The South Saskatchewan Regional Planning process and more recently the Castle Parks Management Plan public consultation process has provided Albertans with many opportunities to ensure their voices have been heard on the important issue of protecting this unique corner of the province.”

Some of those voices have expressed concerns about recreational activities including hunting, fishing, camping, hiking and off-road vehicles.

“We’ve been most encouraged when different groups and points of view have been expressed respectfully,” Legault says. “We may have different ways of enjoying Alberta’s mountains and foothills, but most Albertans share common values. Those values include protecting our water and wildlife.

“We can build on common ground as we move forward, as our province grows and pressures mount on unique places like the Castle.”

The Castle Wildland and Castle Provincial Parks now cover about 1,000 square kilometres of mountains and foothills immediately north of Waterton Lakes National Park, south of the Crowsnest Pass.

Along with Waterton, they’re part of the “crown of the continent,” one of North America’s most diverse biological regions.

“Our hope is that the province moves forward with a management plan that protects this phenomenal landscape,” says Connie Simmons, an area resident who’s worked with community groups during the planning process.

“It’s where our water comes from, where we recreate, where our wildlife live. It can be the backbone of an expanded tourism economy in southern Alberta.”

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