Thursday, March 2, 2017

James Tweedie appears before MD council to advocate for Castle parks protection

Chris Davis -  Willow Valley area resident James Tweedie appeared as a delegation before council for the MD of Pincher Creek at their February 28 meeting to voice his disapproval of the council's unanimous February 14 decision to write a letter to the Alberta government "expressing the MD's concerns regarding the Draft Castle Management Plan, including the lack of notice regarding the announcement, the removal of all Off Highway Vehicles from the area, and the potential negative economic impact to the surrounding areas."

At their February 14 meeting council also decided to make a request to Alberta Environment and Parks, "that the 60 day consultation period, with regards to the Draft Castle Management Plan, be extended to 120 days."

Today, March 2, the Alberta Government announced public consultation on the Castle parks draft management plan will be extended an additional month, until April 19. Wildrose Livingstone-MacLeod MLA Pat Stier responded by saying 30 days was not enough, and advocated for a 60 day extension that the Wildrose Party previously asked for.

In correspondence to council prior to appearing before council Tweedie said he wanted to "set the record straight regarding the Government's commitment to 'enhance the protection of the Castle' as set out under the SSRP (South Saskatchewan Regional Plan), which was a five year consultation process in which the Council was fully engaged, and particularly so as it attempted to address the problems identified in the East Slopes Joint Task Force Report which the Council endorsed with other MDs in 2010. Individual councillors have claimed to me that the MD has not been consulted; I would suggest the record rebuts that."

"I am particularly upset that the MD council has chosen to put forward a single local opinion on the newly designated Parks, as per your Draft resolution, without any attempt to solicit opinions from their ratepayers in any formal way. All Councillors know that there is no single opinion on this matter and therefore Council should refrain from making such a resolution in the absence of such conversations."

"To say that there is one voice, one answer... is deceptive," he told council in person.

Tweedie told council it has already been "a very long and not smoothe road to the designation of these parks."

"The reason beyond all others is that the wherewithal, the jurisdictional tools, the mandates of the land managers, have never been able to address the very specific concerns that your council has reiterated to previous governments over a number of years. and I reference in my document the task force that you guys were part of, letters that you have written  in the past... in 2008 where this council actually writes to all of the cabinet saying we need to deal with the unability of the government to manage the surrounding lands..."

"You know as well as I do, a number of you participated in this process that was the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan.  This has been central to the debate."

"The land base is one that we have to share for the future, and it is one that is identified very clearly in the SSRP as key, absolutely key, to the biodiversity, for the long term sustainability of this part of the world.  And that's sustainability for all of us, and sustainability for the living creatures that we share this land with."

Tweedie told council he could provide documentation "that lays out the inadequacy of the current legislative framework under Alberta Public Lands Act, Alberta Forestry Act, the Traffic Safety Act and the Occupiers Liability Act to address the very real concerns identified in the Task Force Report for our neighbouring Public Lands. And in that context, the designation of the Castle Parks was and is a 'no brainer'."

"This government committed right from the get-go that they would try and resolve these issues for all of us, not just the people who live in Pincher Creek... but for all people in Alberta."

Tweedie said the SSRP was the first legislation to address the previous lack of jurisdictional control over conservation areas.

"Here we are fighting with each individual group, saying 'this is my land', 'this is my land'."

Tweedie said the Quad Squad's original applications for funding were for K-Country initiatives, and questioned the council's alignment with what he said were Quad Squad and Crowsnest Pass concerns instead of Waterton's concerns.  He also said it was shortsighted to not take into account the tourism value of the Castle parks as preserved lands.

"We seem to be looking at allowing a very very small minority that remaining 19% of our land base and do what they like with it... but there is nothing to stop them unless we were to have an army of enforcement people with very specific and limited controls, which as you know mostly go into waiting until the damage is done and then picking up the drunks afterwards... they don't have anything that would allow them to actually nail somebody for doing ecological damage."

"I think this council needs to reconsider their motion..."

"This council has been consulted since day one."  Tweedie listed a number of meetings held locally and regionally during the consultation  process.  "I don't know how much more consultation you expect to get when this is an open process for the whole province..."

"This council is not being representative of either my concerns or a number of my neighbours' concerns..."

Tweedie said it was shortsighted to support the community of Crowsnest Pass regarding OHV access issues at the price of creating conflict with the provincial government.


  1. Anonymous2/3/17

    Mr. Tweedie and some of his comments are ridiculous. Why should Pincher Creek MD align with Waterton. Waterton is under federal jurisdiction not provincial. The Castle area is 15 minutes from Pincher Creek, and the MD borders it to the west. It would be irresponsible for the MD council not to support the Crowsnest pass when they believe as the Pass does that the NDP is wrong. He mentions the SSRP, but doesnt' mention that it was 5 years of consulting will all user groups and scientests, that was thrown out by the NDP. Mr. Tweedie said that a very very small group was allowed to do what they want. Is he referring to the environmental people like himself in the area that think they should tell everyone else what to do and how to do it. Is he referring to the environmental people that are drunks. Mr. Tweeeie's point losses a lot when making ridiculous comments like that. Just because the council doesn't represent his or a few of his neighbors concerns, it does represent the majority of the people in this area. Good on the MD for not giving in to the minority of special interest groups that Mr. Tweedie and his point of view represent.

    1. Phil Burpee3/3/17

      A lot of heat and not much light here from this anonymous commenter. Concern and consultation over the fate of the Castle and Eastern Slopes has been going on for more than twenty-five years, from Andy Russell’s early warnings down though the chronically-shelved ‘Special Places’ designation, to the EUB information letter IL93-9 which articulated the parameters within which industrial activity might occur on these lands, to the C5 Forest Mangement Plan and its causes for concern among ministry biologists, to the Southern Foothills Study by Dr. Brad Stelfox, which was signed on to and supported by the MD of Pincher Creek, demonstrating graphically how cumulative impacts would drastically and irrevocably alter the landscape under business-as-usual practices, to the development of the Land Use Framework under Ted Morton whose own estimate of the value of the Castle area was as a water tower for streams and rivers issuing from it, as a biological wellspring, and as a valuable resource for tourism given its pristine character, tranquillity and relatively accessibility, and down through rancher’s concerns for rapidly-increasing OHV traffic in all the hill country of the Rocky Mountain front with its accompanying noise, stock disturbance and compromised fencing. And we should be clear that the explosion of quad use in the back country over the last fifteen years or so can no longer be classified as mere recreation – it is now being undertaken on an industrial scale and should be treated as such, just as forestry, mining, and cattle-grazing are. This means licencing, usage capacity limits, area designation limits, set trails, and an appropriate regimen of fines and confiscations where appropriate. The reality is that the ecological goods and services which accrue from these lands far outweigh any and all short-term gratifications. And the continued use of the term ‘environmentalist’ as an insult is way, way past its best before date. Our planet has shrunk – there are way too many of us. The environment is the name we give to the land which sustains us. It is not a plaything. Claiming it is somehow expedient to separate the ‘economy’ from the ‘environment’ is both false and disingenuous. It is therefore indeed odd that the MD should now be seen to quibble over extended consultation periods when due consideration has been exhaustively given for decades. Our provincial government has finally acted. The bad dream of deferred responsibility is finally starting to fade. It would be well to recognize the facts for what they are.

  2. David McIntyre4/3/17

    Readers might, for added emphasis, reread Phil Burpee's response. Concerned members of the populace might also think of the Castle as a dying patient. The ambulance has arrived. Medics are on the scene. But instead of rushing to the victim and offering aid, they began to argue. They grow tired and lie down. Thirty years pass.

    How long does it take to kill a priceless watershed?


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