Braving a bitter north wind and snow flurries Thursday, about 20 protestors rallied outside the Spray Lake Sawmills’ open house in Blairmore.
The Castle area, southwest of Pincher Creek, Alberta, was declared a Special Place in 1998, but remains the only one of 81 Special Places that has not yet received its final protective status.
“We wanted to let Spray Lake Sawmills, the Forest Service, and the public know that even though some clear-cut logging has already occurred in the Castle Special Place we haven’t given up or gone away,” explained Nancy Tripp, one of the protestors. “We want the logging to stop, and for the Castle to be protected as a Wildland Park.”
Public opinion polls conducted in early 2011 show that more than three-quarters of the residents from the Crowsnest Pass to Lethbridge oppose clear-cut logging in the Castle Special Place.
The polls show a similar number would like to see the Castle protected as a Wildland Park.
A community values assessment by the Southwest Alberta Sustainable Community Initiative released in March 2012, had similar findings:
The strongest opposition among residents was for increasing opportunities for motorized recreation, allowing clear-cutting of the Castle Special Management Area, and subdividing land used for agriculture.
Individuals, groups, and business owners worked for over two years to try to prevent the logging.
This culminated in a three-week protest in January at the site where logging was set to begin. Several protestors were arrested and banned from accessing public land in the province. Proceedings have since been dropped.
Logging started after a court order compelled the protestors to leave.
Once the logging started, and having little other choice, a group of individuals plus the Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition initiated a judicial review of the logging license, and the logging itself, in the Court of Queen’s Bench in Calgary. A court date has not yet been set.
“Many of the folks who were out today were also out in January when it was down to –35 Celsius,” Gordon Petersen said. “It’s a testament to their tenacity and their passion for the Castle that they haven’t given up the fight.”
“Having said that, we have better things to do than protesting, and taking the government to court. We’d be delighted to work with the new government to stop the logging and to get the Castle properly protected.”