October 28th, 2015 ~ Vol. 85 No. 42
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Locals discuss new Park
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Vyk Harnett photo
Castle area. View looking south from Adanac viewpoint.
EZRA BLACK
Pass Herald Reporter
If it’s true that the best compromise is when no one is happy, then the Hillcrest Fish and Game Protective Association is ready to go along with the provincial government’s decision to protect the Castle Wilderness Area with a provincial park and provincial wildland area.

On Oct. 22 about two-dozen members of the Hillcrest Fish and Game Protective Association met with Bryan Sundberg, Pincher Creek district conservation officer, to discuss the new parks and what they mean for the future of the region.

Shawn Bravender, an associate in Stantec Engineering’s planning department and Britany Ostridge, a consultation officer with the Land-Use Secretariat were also there to field questions.

After a lengthy discussion the consensus among the local hunters and fishermen was that they were more-or-less against the additional protection of the Castle area but they did see a few positives coming out of the park.

Some in attendance argued that there was virtually no support for a park during public consultations to develop the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan (SSRP).

Under SSRP about 48 per cent of the Castle was to be protected. It was approved on July 23, 2014, and became effective on September 1, 2014.

“I participated in the SSRP,” said Wade Aebli, land use chair with Hillcrest Fish and Game. “This is a political decision that has put us in this situation and it’s ignoring most of the people who spoke out at open houses”
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“If I were the guy who had done the final draft to the SSRP, I would consider this park thing a total slap,” said John MacGarva, president of the Crowsnest Forest Stewardship Society. “Because this wasn’t the conclusion that came out of it from stakeholders.”

Others questioned whether a park would offer real protection against random campers and unlawful off-highway vehicle users without increased enforcement.

Sundberg agreed that it would not make sense to create the parks without backing them up with sufficient manpower. In the last year he has been given one extra permanent conservation officer and six seasonal park rangers specifically responsible for public lands enforcement.

“The focus this summer was trying to curtail some of the unlawful off-highway vehicle use,” he said.

Colton Newton, vice-president of Hillcrest Fish and Game, said that there was some fear that hunting would be curtailed once the area is designated.

“Once it does become a park, will we begin to lose our traditional rights?” he asked.

Sundberg said usage in the Castle area has increased dramatically since he came to the area in 1997. The population of Southern Alberta is expected to double in the next fifty years and that the parks and the SSRP were designed to accommodate this growth.

“There is a carrying capacity that this land has,” he said.

He said it was the failure of successive provincial governments to not properly staff the area but that hunting and quadding would be allowed in the new parks. He said about 80 per cent of the land base in Alberta is open to recreational hunting.

He explained the main difference between a provincial park and a wildland area was infrastructure and roads. A provincial park allows for the construction of campgrounds and highway accessible vehicle traffic while a wildland designation does not allow for that as stated in the Provincial Parks Act.
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October 28th ~ Vol. 85 No. 42
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