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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Residents and environmentalists gather to protest logging in the Castle Special Management Area


David McIntyre is among those opposed to clear cutting in the Castle Special Management Area
Phil Burpee photo

Chris Davis

Approximately 40 concerned residents and members of the Stop Castle Logging Group and the Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition gathered at the side of Highway 774 south and west of Beaver Mines, in the Castle Special Management Area, to hold a press conference and to protest imminent clear-cutting in the area.

Some of the protesters gathers at the anti-logging press conference
C. Davis photo
Conservationist Charlie Russell was in attendance at the press conference
Phil Burpee photo

The response from the press was impressive, with television, print, and internet-based journalists coming from Calgary, Lethbridge, and of course Pincher Creek to cover the proceedings.

Alberta Sustainable Resource Development granted a licence to harvest 120 hectares of forest in the area, calling it part of their forest management plan.


Environmentalists and local residents have long argued that such logging in what is called a "matchstick forest" would cause irreparable harm to an already damaged ecosystem.  The watershed value of the area is often cited, as are the 51 threatened-species grizzly bears make the area home. Other at-risk species such as wolves, black bears, and elk also live in the area.

Castle-Crown Wilderness
Coalition
Conservation
Director James Tweedie

Phil Burpee photo
Starting from small southern Alberta roots in 1989, the Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition now boasts more than 500 members and more than a dozen member groups that act as Stewards of the Castle Wilderness Region, which is part of the larger Crown of the Continent Ecosystem.

The "Stop Castle Logging Group" was organized specifically to attempt to do exactly as their name indicates.

President of the Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition Gordon Petersen was first to speak to the press. "Castle is a designated special place," he said.  "It's one of 81 special places in the Province, and unfortunately it's the only one of the 81 that hasn't received it's final protective status yet.  We don't believe there should be any logging in a protected area."  Peterson said there had been much correspondence between concerned citizens and various government bodies over the years.  "What more can the public do to get our message across?" he asked.

Gordon Petersen speaks to the press
Phil Burpee photo
Petersen also questioned the monetary value of the proposed logging.  "It's really hard to see how Spray Lakes can be making any money here. This is often called a matchstick forest. These trees, most of them are quite small, only about 60% of them could be turned into dimensional lumber  and about 40% will be turned into fence posts or garden mulch.  So here we are cutting down a protected area to make garden mulch.  It just doesn't make sense."
 
"Premier Redford, this matters very much to us," Petersen concluded.  "Please stop this unwanted an ill considered logging before it's too late."

Phil Burpee photo
Mike Judd was next to speak.  Judd is a self-professed life-time resident of the area who lives north of Beaver Mines and runs a respected dog-sled tour company in the area.  "This is the landscape of the grizzly bear, and logging and grizzly bears don't mix," he said.  "Grizzlies are always the losers when logging occurs, because with logging comes roading, which cannot be controlled, and with the roads come increased human activity."  Judd also spoke about the potential danger to other species in the area.  "The amount of industrial roads that we already have in this country is almost twice the accepted scientific level, threshold for the grizzly bear to survive."
"I'm here on behalf of my family and hopefully my grandchildren to ensure that they will have a forest, they will have wildlife to look at, they will have clean water, and that they will be able to enjoy all of the wild recreation that I have through all my life," Judd concluded.

Peter Sherrington speaks to the press
P. Burpee photo
Peter Sherrington moved to the area about 4 years ago to study the wildlife.  He is the Research Director of the Rocky Mountain Eagle Research Foundation (www.eaglewatch.ca) and a Beaver Mines resident.  "Way back in about '93 the Alberta Conservation Board recommended this be preserved as a wilderness park," he said.  "This is the watertower for the whole of the prairies."  Sheridan was adamant that there was an inherent responsibility to protect the water table for local, provincial, and international reasons.  "Trees are essential are essential for collecting the snow for the water.  We have an obligation to pass that water on to Saskatchewan, to pass it on to Manitoba, and yet we are destroying or degrading this for very short term, probably not even monetary, gain," he said.  "This is a provincial and an international issue.  We're hoping that common sense will prevail."


Rebecca Holand speaks to the press
P. Burpee photo
Beaver Mines resident Rebecca Holand was next to speak.  With Jacques Thouin she owns and operates the Beaver Mines General Store.  "I also think that the Government is playing a couple of different roles here. One is where they are coming in and taking down the trees and destroying this beauty, but there's another whole arm of the Government that is spending lots of money and encouraging the world to come and Travel Alberta, and when you see pictures on the ads, what do you see? You see pictures playing in the mountains.  And they're saying just breathe.  Well, I would like to breathe here and I would like to invite other people to breathe here, but they're going to have to have some trees in order to come here and do their breathing."

Jacques Thoiun (far left) with fellow protesters
C. Davis photo
Jacques Thoiun was actually the first to bring this issue to the attention of this reporter, a year or so ago.  "The Castle logging should not happen because we have a 20 kilometre width band of forest here, and 2000 km of prairie east of us , no trees, and 1000 kilometres west of us in BC loaded with trees.  Everybody in Alberta wants to come and play in our 20km width of trees."

Sybille Manneschmidt
C. Davis photo
Beaver Mines resident Sybille Manneschmidt expressed concern about both the effect logging would have on the watershed, and also the consultation process. "Apparently there was a consultation with the local population on the logging issue long before this even started... I've lived here for over 30 years, I've never heard anything obout this consultation, and if there was one I asked to have access to the information.  The request was not even answered," she said.

On this day at least the protesters seemd to be successful, as the logging equipment stayed idle.

Forestry Rangers talked to protesters who remained after most of the press had left (including this reporter). In a phone interview this evening Mike Judd said they were told by a Forestry Compliance Officer that a court-order would be sought if anybody planned to continue to block the logging.  "We told them that we were planning to stay," Judd said 6 to 8 people, including himself, have decided to stay onsite in rotating shifts to prevent the logging machines from moving. "There will be someone there all the time."  Judd said the protesters who were determined to stop the machines were seeking legal advice.  "You might have to interview me in jail next time," he said, before signing off for the night.

Mike Judd (far right) talks with Forestry officials.  Judd and a small group of
like-minded individuals have decided to stay and try to block all
logging activity, despite being threatened with a potential Court order.
Joe Cunningham photo
According to the Stop Castle Logging website, other protesters plan to be at the site again on Thursday, January 12.

Protesters plan to return to the area on Thursday, Jan. 12
Phil Burpee photo


Relevant links:
Castle-Crown Coalition
Stop Castle Logging
Eagle Watch

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous12/1/12

    The logging company knows there are grizzlies in the area and dont care.If they log in the area they will kill the hibernating grizzly bears.I have heard the loggers taalk about the bears in the castle area,they just say kill the bears.the loggers are from esc in cochorane ab.they must be stopped.

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