Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Castle Parks – local citizens’ democratic right to speak

  • Also: Municipal District of Pincher Creek Citizens’ Statement for the Castle Parks

Note: A delegation presented a "Citizens’ Statement for the Castle Parks to the MD of Pincher Creek Council" on March 14.

Connie Simmons, Letter to the Editor
- Intimidation has too often been used as the ‘go-to’ method for some pro-OHV advocates when it comes to the discussion about the future of the Castle Parks and surrounding area.

A threat to disrupt the reading of a ‘Citizens’ Statement for the Castle Parks’ to the MD of Pincher Creek Council by an OHV advocate has shown the dark underbelly of political intimidation by some (but not all) in this minority recreation user group. Local people, including some members of the Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition, small business owners, non-motorized recreationists and ranchers in support of the Citizens’ Statement decided that for the sake of safety and protecting regular folks from harassment, the presentation to the MD of Pincher Creek Council on March 14th would be done by one spokesperson, accompanied by a few others for support.

In the ongoing debate over the Castle Parks and, in particular, the issue of the OHV phase-out, it is important to understand that the OHV lobby has been consulted, and often. All through the Draft Castle Management Plan process, through multiple planning meetings and workshops, and through the public input mechanisms provided by the Government of Alberta – they have had their say.

It is time to hear from others - the quiet majority of Albertans.

To provide the MD of Pincher Creek Council a better understanding of the diversity of opinions on the Castle Parks, the Citizens’ Statement gives voice to Albertans who are in favour of the Castle Parks, who want to have this unique and important area protected – for critical source water, for quiet nature- based recreation, for threatened species such as westslope cutthroat trout, and for the substantial economic diversification opportunities that come with a well-managed parks system.

Municipal District of Pincher Creek Citizens’ Statement for the Castle Parks

As citizens of the MD of Pincher Creek and area, we are here today to make a statement in support of the Castle Parks. It has come to our attention that statements made by the MD of Pincher Creek to the Government of Alberta on our behalf do not reflect our views. We request that the MD Council reflect our views in this matter:

1. We support and commend the Government of Alberta for using evidence-based decision-making to legally protect the myriad values in the Castle Parks. The need to protect the Castle Parks is not new to the MD of PC Council. The recommendations for protecting and sustaining our environment and source-water watersheds for the benefit of all go back to at least 1974.

2. We support and commend the Government of Alberta for working with indigenous groups to explore how the parks can be managed cooperatively.

3. We support and commend the Government of Alberta for a quick phase-out of OHV use in the Castle Parks.

4. We support and commend the Government of Alberta in bringing forward the Castle Tourism Strategy that will provide economic diversification opportunities for all communities in the area of the Castle Parks. The Castle Parks have the

potential to be a cornerstone of economic diversification and sustainability in this area – it is time to embrace them.

5. We encourage the Government of Alberta to engage a full spectrum of recreational users to develop and implement environmentally-sound land-use and recreation management standards for public lands along the East Slopes.

If you are in favour of the Castle Parks and Citizens’ Statement – your voice is needed. Please take the time to let the Government of Alberta know your views – fill out the Castle Parks survey at

Connie Simmons
MD of Pincher Creek resident


  1. Anonymous21/3/17

    Wow. I would have to say this citizens statement leaves out too many facts. I would ask you where you were when they took millions of trees out of the castle area and how does that compare to an atv driving down a trail? I would ask you where you were when they sunk fossil fuel wells in the sensitive high altitude back-country? Where are the protesters standing beside the roads that lead to the pristine high country North of Waterton where big rigs and massive trucks travel almost every day? This is the reality. The well sites put out tons of deadly H2S gas every year right into our beautiful castle wilderness. Oh but keep my atv away so I can't remove my game in a speedy and productive manner, reflecting I am not 25 anymore and can't haul an elk out on my back five miles. Where were you when the local citizens were getting sick because of the Waterton gas complex right beside our beautiful Castle area mountains? Does that still happen anyone? Lets put this into perspective people. People that hate atv's will always hate them, but that doesn't mean they know what they are talking about when it concerns the environment. The government report is a bunch of one sided opinions cherry picked for their agenda. As much as I like cattle, thanks rancher guys who went and spoke against my access to my beautiful castle wilderness. Are those your cattle raising turbidity and total dissolved solid levels way past provincial standards in our watersheds? Do you want me to point this out to everyone at public events and cause a fuss? Its not hard, anyone can raise a stink. My rancher friends disagree with you and see what this really is. How long do you really think you will be allowed to graze in the Castle area if I get kicked out? They will come after you after they are done with me and there will be no one left to speak for you. That goes for the band council as well. They can only see this as a great way to take away rights from others and attain them exclusively. But unfortunately this applies to them as well, it won't be long until they are also booted out, in the name of your next environmental cause. Its how things are done my friends, play different groups against each other and in the end you can take away everyone's rights. The NDP will not be re-elected. Keep that in mind those that wish to milk this for all it is worth. People around here have long memories as we all know. We should stand together and come to a reasonable agreement and stop the abusers not the users like me. If we do not, foreigners will be taking pictures from a paved road drinking their Evian water bottles and commenting how beautiful the castle area is, while we become profane locals not allowed anywhere.

  2. Anonymous22/3/17

    Wow... With an attitude like that, it is no wonder you and the rest of the OHV crowd are getting relocated from the Castle region. It goes to show that it is the OHV users group that has drawn the line in the sand and state that if you're not on their side then you must be an environmentalist. Well, I, and most of the people in Alberta, are not OHV riders and also not considered environmentalists, but with the line that the OHV rider's have drawn in the sand and no other choices, I (and I am sure most other Albertans as well) would rather take the side of the environmentalists as they are not as condescending or as destructive. Please check your facts before writing.... Shell has very stringent environmental regulations to follow in order to be allowed to operate in the region. The logging that was done back in the Castle area was for Pine Beetle control and the logging company also had very stringent environmental regulations to follow. Oil and gas development has been stopped in the Castle for some time. The government has to make changes in the area in order to rebuild the spawning grounds of the endangered species and once the area is designated as a protected area, no matter who comes in to power, they cannot change it back.... so your ideas of getting back to open OHV riding in the Castle area after the next election are just fantasies.
    And really... all I hear from the OHV groups is talk about their "RIGHT" to ride their OHVs in the Castle area. Reality is, much like driving a car or hunting, it is a 'PRIVILEGE', not a 'RIGHT' and if the privilege is abused, it can be taken away, but you will still have your 'RIGHT' to voice your opinion about it.

    1. Anonymous22/3/17

      Its funny when people are presented with facts how they try to elude them and call the messenger condescending. Its also interesting how you call ohv users destructive after presented with the truth about the long term industrial use and real destruction of the Castle watershed by large corporations. Nothing to say about the big rigs going in and out of castle almost everyday? Nothing to say about the millions of trees removed? Logging for pine beetle? Where did you get that fantasy? That was only at the very end. Have you even been there? Stringent environmental rules for logging companies? Clear cut logging? We criticize 3rd world countries for clear cut logging, but we still do it here! You've got to be kidding me. Have you seen the gas well sites? All of the plant life is dead above the well heads on the side of the mountain. Have you noticed the danger poison gas signs? Saying oil and gas development has been stopped for some time sounds really great, but the truth is all the wells are already drilled and they don't need anymore exploration. You are ok with all the gas wells and figure they meet environmental standards? Are you aware the environmental standards allow for several tons of H2S to be released every year into the Castle region? You are the one who needs to check the facts my friend. This is all about the proper scale and perspective which you do not have. This is why you scream at the ohv crowd and call us condescending, when the fact is people like me love the Castle and know what is really going on. After the long term destruction of the watershed by logging companies and oil and gas development, they want the general public out completely. So what better way than to say we are destroying it. People with no knowledge clap and cheer whilst industry snickers behind their backs. Oh and about your last comment about rights. It is definitely some kind of "right" because they are taking it away from me and giving it to others based upon race or business use. Ironically there will still be plenty of ohv's you will just have to be aboriginal, a rancher, a trapper or an oil and gas worker. Ya that sounds fair. You see I actually care about the Castle and all you care about is stopping hunters and campers enjoyment of a beautiful natural area. If you did care about the Castle you wouldn't have given lame excuses for the corporations while bashing recreational users. You complain about mud puddles and dust while well sites poison the landscape and huge gravel roads reach the back of places like Yarrow Canyon where grizzlies live. Your OK with 18 wheeler,s in the back country, just not atv's? Ya I have an attitude, its called reality.

    2. Anonymous23/3/17

      Yep.... once again you show your true colors... I do live in Pincher Creek and have lived in the area for 40 years. I enjoyed camping in the Castle area for many years but the ever increasing presence of OHVs and the noise have made my, and many others that I have talked to, experience in the Castle area less than enjoyable. I have watched the landscape change because of the use and abuse of OHVs. I have been almost run over, told to mind my own business and told to just pack up and get out if I don't like having OHVs come and set up camp beside me. I go into the area on a regular basis and have not come across the multitudes of large trucks you rant about. I question whether or not you are actually from the area. If you were you would know that Shell is closing down operations as wells expire and may shut down all operations completely in the near future. Your argument there is a moot point as we cannot change the past but we can direct the future. Logging has been stopped in the Castle area for quite a long time by the conservative government and the last round of logging (you can check the facts on this as obviously you have failed to do so yet) was carried out as a measure to prevent the spread of Pine Beetles. I have worked in the energy sector and am quite aware of the environmental regulations that all companies must comply to. Obviously you have not worked for the industry and are unaware of the facts regarding the environmental regulations. In case you are also unaware... the main heavy truck traffic back by Yarrow is for well maintenance, shutdown and cleanup... would you rather they just left the wells once inactive? The government is looking at ways to deal with OHV use that may be required by ranchers but most ranchers state that they do not use OHVs as they cannot get into the same areas as horses can. What industry do you speak of that uses OHVs? All oil and gas well sites are accessible by vehicle, logging has been shut down and there are no major power lines so please clarify your statement.
      Funny how once again you bring up the idea of it being a right that is being taken away from you.... maybe you should spend some time reading the constitution so you fully understand what constitutes a 'RIGHT'.

  3. Anonymous23/3/17

    The only true color I have is the plain and simple truth. Once again you completely try to nullify the truth by smoke and mirrors. I suspected you worked for the oil and gas sector. So you probably know how the gas wells leak H2S constantly into the castle region and this has been ruled totally acceptable by environmental standards. I guess you have seen the DANGER POISON GAS signs and are completely ok with that. Oh and you are completely ok with giant trucks in the back country, but claim you have never seen "the large multitude of trucks I rant about". You than admit that giant trucks go back into Yarrow Canyon constantly, but its ok because its for maintenance and shut down? If anyone needs to clarify their statement it would be you my friend. So please enlighten us on why these well sites need constant attention, even if and when shut down? How about I do it for you, since you don't want to come clean on any of this. The industrial chemicals contain VOC's (volatile organic compounds) which basically can kill you in myriads of fast and slow methods, from cancer to respiratory distress. But you should know this from all of your oil and gas safety training right? The areas surrounding the well sites will have VOC's on and in them, including all the wildlife. I was there those many years ago when they sunk those wells, so I am guessing I could take you to school on many of these subjects. I saw the mountain slowly die around the well site, but back then no one really cared. And yes the gas industry uses OHV's, but you should know this since you are an expert. The gas industry uses OHV's to spray nasty weed killers around well sites and the hundreds of miles of cut lines that have buried gas pipelines. They also use OHV's for other purposes. You see this is all about the proper perspective and dude you do not have it! You have the nerve to compare OHV use to industrial poison, heavy industrial traffic and clear cut logging. You actually excuse industry completely because you took a pay check from them. Nice. By the way the purpose of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is to stop government from creating laws that are unconstitutional. So here I am practicing my freedom, which is a right I am choosing to exercise, with the purpose of enlightening and educating people like you on an unconstitutional law that the government is trying to pass. By the way ranchers use OHV's all the time. I rescued a rancher out of a river one time on his atv. I hate to do this, but here it goes. The forestry areas graze thousands upon thousands of head of cattle. The cattle urinate and crap in the rivers, streams and pretty much everywhere else. The turbidity and total dissolved solid levels are very high in some areas because of the cattle. Areas I drank water out of the creek when I was young are now brownish in the summer. The truth is however if the cattle are managed properly this could be avoided, but here is my point. We don't need to kick out the cattle or the gas industry or the loggers or the ohv users. This area just needs to be managed properly. Close down all sensitive area gas wells, have a better cattle management program, use selective logging and have enforcement to catch all of the long weekend idiots on ATV's that have offended my friend here from Pincher Creek. By the way using the "local" thing makes us all look bad. I am only trying to bring this all into perspective for everyone concerned. This is the point everyone has missed...gas wells, clear cut logging and thousands of cattle DO NOT COMPARE to me driving my quiet clean low pressure tire ATV down a long established forest trail. The truth is, they don't even compare to the drunk guy spinning his tires, it doesn't really hurt anything except sensitive peoples feelings. Have you seen what this area looks like after floods? I use to be one of the people that patrolled these areas. I have done so on horses, on foot, on ATV's, in trucks and in helicopters. You can call me Ranger.

  4. Anonymous24/3/17

    Quite the rant..... unfortunately you have just given more proof that the OHVs should be banned from the area. I can see you have a strong dislike for the oil and gas industry.... surprising since you want to be able to drive a vehicle that requires that industry in order to run.... or is it that you want to be able to possess items that require oil and gas in order to be manufactured and fuel but don`t want the oil and gas production facilities in your back yard. Well... you will get your wish on the oil and gas part as the wells in this area are steering towards shutting down. I see you also don`t like the grazing being allowed to continue. Well... the government has stated that current grazing leases would be honoured..... but leases are only issued for a maximum of 20 years and most are only issued for 10.... they did not say anything about renewing leases... so maybe you`ll get your wish on that too... You state that things could remain the same with better management.... unfortunately, better management cannot control the small percentage of people who go out of their way to put their personal enjoyment above the needs and wants of the majority and it is that small percentage that ruins it for everyone. There is also the concern over who will pay for better management. Most OHV riders are also random campers who don`t pay park fees yet have had free access to all of the area while those of us who do camp in the campsites and pay fees are given a noisy experience and expected to pay for the enforcement over those who are not paying. We all pay taxes... so using that as an excuse for not paying camping fees cancels itself out. I also see my tax money going out in grants for building OHV trails (as stated by the CPQS) and have not raised an issue over that. Also try to remember... although your OHV may have soft tires and you stick to long established trails (funny what people think of as long as OHVs have only been popular for less than 30 years) the actual footprint of your OHV is as large as the area it can be heard in, not just by people but the natural habitants of the area... birds, animals and even the fish (sound waves move quite well in water and do stress the aquatic species). You may think you are just a small OHV but in reality your path is close to at least 500 meters in diameter. I guess that`s ok with you though as you portray the concept that you have the right to hurt sensitive people`s feelings but nobody has the right to tell you not to ride in certain areas. Hmmmm..

  5. Anonymous24/3/17

    I stand by my comments and the fact I know where I speak and you do not. Again you are trying to avoid the facts with smoke, mirrors and nonsense. Oil and gas moves our world, but they do not belong in sensitive areas. You defend them because of your paycheck and then say my small quiet 4 stroke atv bothers everything 500m off the trail. Have you actually heard a gas facility operate, or is your hearing gone from hearing too much. Why is it workers have to wear hearing protection at facilities in our back country? You are hilarious, my atv bothers everything 500m away, but 18 wheelers and processing facilites are ok with you. I would bet someone from the gas sector or ranching wishes you would shut up, because all you do is keep forcing me to reveal the truth about all of this. But I am having fun bringing reality into your dreamworld, so lets keep this up. Campground fees go to enforcement? Its like you have never been to this place before. The campgrounds in Alberta were privatized more than 20 years ago guy. The province gave away our campgrounds, which ironically more than paid for themselves, even with the reasonable low fees at the time. The private companies have the fee up to around $25, which started at $5.00. The local people of Pincher Creek, Crowsnest Pass, Cowley and every small town around the forest reserve in any place in Alberta deserve these places for recreation and should not have to pay anything past their own high taxes. Shoot, everyone that pays taxes in Alberta needs somewhere to go to get away from it all, that is FREE. We have a big beautiful country. All wildlife biologists and environmental nutjobs think humans should not be allowed in any wild area anymore, wouldn't that be fun? The people of Alberta own this province, not the government, they are not our masters. So lets sum up your last comment. You are against better management of cattle and for thousands of head of cattle uncontrollably crapping and urinating in our watersheds, you are against random campers and ATV use, but you are for gas wells and 18 wheelers in the back country, you are for more fees from government and you are for private companies profiting from our mountains, but Albertan families need their wallets out for everything in your Orwellian nightmare world. You are precisely the person I wanted to debate. Show your boss this thread, you will probably get fired. Oh and the next time I drive over a bridge on the highway, I will try to be quiet for the fish. I suppose they will commit suicide if I turn up Dwight Yoakam. Ranger out...

    1. Anonymous24/3/17

      Nice to see that you stand by your opinion. Unfortunately you have failed to provide any facts or outside support to back up your statements. I assume you are one of the bullies that made the people on the SSRD plan so nervous that some were afraid to walk to their vehicles alone after the meetings in your area. Your statements here show that you have absolutely no respect for anybody other than those who will support your stance on being able to have your way in spite of what the majority of the people in the province want. You sound like a child that has had his rattle taken away. Please grow up before you chose to write another response and show everyone reading that you are limited in your ability to properly defend your stance and chose only to bully your way through a conversation by attacking everyone else's point of view and repetitively using the same arguments that deal with things that are in the past tense instead of dealing with the future where you can actually make a difference.
      Seriously... if you really were aware of what was going on in the Castle area, you would know that the Castle campgrounds have not been privatized for over a year and if you haven't been paying attention.... the provincial government(including the carryover from the past government)is not in a good financial situation Your taxes are not cutting it anymore when it comes to having the government police campers without a pay-for-use policy. You should pull your head out of the sand that you have drawn the line in and see that it is no longer the 80's and money is not falling off trees to pay for all of the 'free' stuff you desire.
      Oh yes... I am my own boss and I approve of my statements.
      And... really... Ranger.... That's an American term..... in Canada, people that work in that position are called wardens..
      Self righteous... self titled and a bully.....

    2. Anonymous24/3/17

      I night add..... you state that the people of Alberta own this province, not the government.... who do you think the government is? They are people who are 'people of Alberta' that have been elected by 'people of Alberta' to represent them to the best of their abilities. They have just as much right to the land you hold so dear, as you do. If you don't like what they are doing, don't vote for them, but if the majority of Albertans do vote for them, they will be in power... that is democracy.. if you don't like that, there are several other countries in the world that do not have a democratic system where you are more than welcome to relocate to with your OHV.

  6. Anonymous26/3/17

    I am thinking this is just one of my friends messing with me? Ya federal positions are called "wardens" and provincial are "rangers" or just "officers". During my time we were called the Alberta Forest Service, Alberta Land and Forest Service than switched to being called Provincial Park Rangers and Forest Officers were considered now a different agency. The government seemed to be losing direction at that time. We were also now given firearms training, which forestry never had. Forest rangers did carry guns before that in their trucks, mostly for humanely ending the lives of animals hit on highways, which was not a fun part of that job. I am a self righteous, self titled bully and I should move to another country with my ATV. I am totally laughing now. I think I know who this is. LOL No one could really be this naive. OK lets finish this off with some humility for the sake of posterity. This ex-forest ranger does not hate the oil and gas industry, ranchers, loggers or even this person supposedly debating me. I protected everyone else from the drunk idiots and made everyone happy in my day and sure had many, many long nights. I am grateful to have worked that job in the time period I was in, because the world is way too complicated now and everyone seems to want to tell everyone else they can't do anything anymore...ever. I would hate to even look in the highway traffic act, off highway vehicle act or the forest act to see what is going on now. I hope the ranchers and oil and gas workers and loggers can use this area in a respectful manner and not lose their jobs to environmental nuts. I would just prefer the wells not to be in sensitive places. I would just prefer selective logging and I would just prefer the cattle numbers be reduced and the cattle kept free and healthy as usual, because we all need beef, at least I do. Oh ya and it would sure be nice if I could set my outfitter tent up in the same places we have been using for more than 40 years and park my ATV by the front door as per usual. By the way if they eventually do ban ATV's in Castle, I am buying a horse and will still be out there every fall. I can still get on a dam horse. But I will see you all this summer on my ATV on the first long weekend with one of my hunting buds, just because we still have a right to be there. We will practice "leave no trace" and be respectful of others as usual. If I see someone like my fictional friend here from Pincher Creek, I will go out of my way to help them if they get harassed by drunks. I hope my comments bring thought and debate to this issue as was intended. My facts are true and my reasoning sound. I only brought up ranching and oil and gas to provide perspective to show how unbalanced this whole thing is. By the way I attended several meetings for locals in my uniform in my days and was on that side getting yelled at more than once. Its no big deal. People feel strongly about their inherited rights to our mountains. Anyone in any law enforcement position or management position can handle yelling and screaming without wetting themselves, it is their job. If you can't, you wouldn't last past the first long weekend. This nation was built on trapping and woodsmen people...most people forget that. The trading posts became wonderful places for the local tribes bringing pots, pans, blankets, firearms and wonderful steel knives. The Hudson Bay Company extended all the way to David Thompson Country where the last trading post was. Stand up for your rights and don't let the government knot heads kick you out of an area where generations(including my family back to the 20's) have hunted and fished and generally enjoyed life in our beautiful country. I hope you all have a great summer and try to enjoy yourselves in this crazy, crazy world. Ranger out...


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