January 13th, 2016 ~ Vol. 85 No. 2
2016 top stories in the Municipality to watch out for
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Pass Herald Reporter
NDP protects Castle Wilderness Area

The province is protecting the Castle area with two parks, banning forestry and mining in the region and intends to shift the local economy to focus on recreation and tourism but it will be hard pressed to satisfy many stakeholders with divergent ideas on land use.

Hunting and ATVs are mostly forbidden in provincial parks but the government plans to allow those activities, which has upset some conservationists.

Ian Urquhart, a member of the Alberta Wilderness Association, said there is no justification for allowing hunting in the Castle provincial park and called the idea “absurd.”

“Looking ahead, what precedent might these damaging exceptions create for future Alberta parks?” he said. “If I can hunt in the new Castle provincial park, why shouldn’t I be able to hunt in the next new park?”

Local hunters met at the Hillcrest Fish and Game Protective Association in October. Most were against the new parks but some supported them provided the province doesn’t clamp down on hunting, fishing and ATVs.

“If they stop hunting, we don’t favour the park at all,” said Colton Newton, vice-president of the Hillcrest Fish and Game Protective Association. “It’s an area with historical use and with the right enforcement we can have multiple users on the same land doing what they want, without having to eliminate hunting.”

The NDP was also criticized for failing to consult local stakeholders including Crowsnest Pass Mayor Blair Painter, who learned about the province’s decision through Facebook.

“Don’t get me wrong, as I support the preservation of the Castle, our head waters and endangered species, I just believe this was handled very poorly,” said Painter.

The Castle area encompasses virtually all the land south of the municipality and west to the B.C. border and then southeast all the way to Waterton Lakes National Park. It provides critical habitat for grizzly bears, wolverines and west-slope cutthroat trout and acts as a key wildlife corridor. It is also the source of 30 per cent of the water for the Oldman River basin, which supplies water for downstream communities like Lethbridge and Medicine Hat.

A park management plan is in the works.
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Derek Saretzky charged with murder

In the wake of a suicide attempt, a hunger strike and a psychological assessment, Derek Saretzky, 22, was deemed psychologically fit enough to stand trial for the murders of a little girl and her father.

Saretzky’s next court date is Feb. 26.

Saretzky was on a hunger strike in the days leading up to his last court appearance and was sent to Foothills Hospital in Calgary on Nov. 25, as a precaution.

A month before, Saretzky was by himself in the shower at the Lethbridge Correctional Centre when he attempted suicide. He was found in medical distress by guards, and transported to Chinook Regional Hospital for treatment. He was ordered to undergo 30-day review of his mental health.

On Sept. 14, Terry Blanchette was found dead in his home on 21st Avenue in Blairmore.

Crowsnest Pass RCMP issued an AMBER Alert for his missing daughter Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette that would eventually span three provinces and the U.S. state of Montana.

Police said an unknown person took her from her home and fled the residence heading west, at a high rate of speed. The vehicle was described as a newer model white van, with a large rear antenna, with a flag attached.

On Sept. 15, about a hundred citizens were gathered in Lion’s Park for a candlelight vigil, praying for Hailey’s safe return, when an RCMP victim services official approached the crowd and made the devastating announcement.

“They have found some human remains,” the woman said, speaking on behalf of the family.

Many in the crowd wept after hearing the news.

"He was such a good dad, he did everything for her, not many single fathers could do what he did," said Sparwood resident Corrette Harrington, a close friend to the family who often looked after Hailey. "When you saw Hailey with her dad, she would grin from ear to ear."

“Hailey was easy to love, like another one of my daughters,” she said.
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Hanne Meketech’s murder remains unsolved.

Hanne Meketech, 69, a resident of Coleman, was found dead inside her home on the morning of Sept. 9. An autopsy conducted by the Medical Examiner’s Office in Calgary determined that her death was a homicide.
Months later the police have made no arrests and the investigation continues.

Meketech would be remembered for her love of animals and her kindness to children, said her friend Lindsay Websdale.

“To us, Hanne was a strong independent women and it was nice having her as a neighbour," said Websdale. “I can not begin to fathom why someone would end Hanne’s life.”

Riversdale moves to bring Grassy Mountain Coal Project to the development stage

Riversdale Resources continues its bid to restart coal mining in the Crowsnest Pass.

The Sydney, Australia based company has filed applications to move the Grassy Mountain Coal Project to the development stage.

The project would bring jobs to the area but environmentalists are worried about its potential environmental effects.

Alberta’s energy regulator continues investigating Riversdale Resources Ltd. for the release of coal tailings into Gold Creek.

The incident that led to the investigation occurred in July when a large pile of coal tailings from an earlier mine site located on Crown Land near Grassy Mountain collapsed into the creek after a heavy rainfall.

At peak production, the proposed mine would extract 4 million tonnes of coking coal - primarily used to manufacture steel - annually over 25 years.

The project will undergo a joint federal and provincial review process, which is anticipated to take anywhere from 15 to 18 months. Permitting, licensing and construction are expected to take an additional 18-months.

If approved for development, Riversdale wants to have the Grassy Mountain mine deliver its first shipment of product in 2019.
January 13th ~ Vol. 85 No. 2
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