Today I am pleased to share good news!
Today at 11:00, the Minister of Environment and Parks, Shannon Phillips, announced enhanced protection for the Castle Special Place, a large area of our watershed between the Crowsnest watershed and Waterton Lakes National Park. A large area (1,040km2) will now be protected with some portions designated as a Wildland Park and some as a Provincial Park.
Recreational use and cattle grazing will still be allowed, but commercial scale timber harvesting will cease.
The Castle area truly is special because it forms a large, unique portion of our headwaters, the source of water for many people, businesses, fish and wildlife downstream. It is also an important spiritual place for First Nations and a place for enjoying the wilderness on weekends.
Because of the strong connection people have to the Castle, many people are celebrating today! I'd like to say congratulations to all Albertans, who will have this area protected in perpetuity to enjoy in person and in less obvious ways - like each time we take a drink of clean, clear water.
I would also like to thank the many tireless advocates who have been raising awareness about the importance of the Castle Special Place for many years!
In particular, the facilitators and citizens who developed the Castle Special Place Conceptual Proposal, A Citizen's Initiative, that showed consensus decision making is possible even in complex situations where mixed uses are needed. It was your work that laid the foundation for today's announcement and I thank you.
I would also like to thank Minister Phillips and the Government of Alberta for bravely acting in the long term interest of Alberta. You took swift action as you promised and showed that you are listening to Southern Albertans.
It is very encouraging to see that community led initiatives do lead to results and I hope this inspiring event will embolden you to get out and make a difference in your own way.
I look forward to the Park Management Plan process that will now be initiated and having worked with local parks staff for years I am confident that all perspectives will be brought to the table and the park will be enjoyed in many ways by generations to come.
Shannon Frank OWC Executive Director