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Area residents fighting to stop Castle logging

Area residents continue efforts to stop the provincial government from allowing clear-cut logging in the Castle Mountain area.
Speakers at a public forum this month in Pincher Creek refuted the government’s claims clear-cut logging is needed for fire prevention and to eliminate the mountain pine beetle.
“We’re not against logging in these forests,” said Nigel Douglas, a conservation specialist with the Alberta Wilderness Association. “What we’re against is industrial strength clear-cut logging.”
Douglas was one of the presenters at the forum at the Heritage Inn hosted by the Southern Alberta Sustainable Community Initiative.
Douglas told close to 70 people at the forum that if the province is going to allow logging, it should do so with concern for the forest at the forefront.
“Do it in a way that respects forests, and not just the forest industry,” Douglas said.
Other speakers at the public forum included James Tweedie of the Castle Crown Wilderness Coalition, Oldman Watershed Council executive director Stephanie Palechek and Rebecca Holand from the group.
The Southern Alberta Sustainable Community Initiative hosted to forum in keeping with its mandate to foster public engagement and consultation.
“I was very pleased with the content and scope of the presentations,” initiative manager David Green said in an e-mail message.
Alberta Sustainable Resources Development and Spray Lakes Sawmills declined an invitation to take part in the forum.
“I firmly believe that the town hall style of forum adds a necessary dimension to public dialogue no matter who attends or who isn’t able to,” Green said
Sustainable Resources Development has given the Spray Lakes Sawmill west of Calgary permission to clear-cut log in the between Beaver Mines Lake, Castle Falls and over Carbondale Hill into Lynx Creek.
James Tweedie of the Castle Crown Wilderness Coalition said it’s no mystery why that approval was given.
“It’s about keeping the Cochrane mill going,” and preserving jobs in that town, Tweedie said.
Tweedie refuted the government’s claims clear-cut logging will control the mountain pine beetle.
“That bottom line is the mountain pine beetle has been used by (Sustainable Resource Development) as an excuse,” Tweedie said.
Oldman Watershed Council executive director Stephanie Palechek also expressed concerns about clear-cut logging.
“What we do to the land will affect the water quantity and water quality in the Oldman basin,” Palachek said. “You can’t manage water without managing your land.”
The council’s overall assessment of the Oldman watershed and Foothills sub-basin is fair. The mountain sub-basin is rated good.
“Then they (government) saw the water quality and quantity was good, they just went ahead,” said Palachek, noting the council opposed the logging plan.
Rebecca Holand said the group is determined to stop the logging plan.
“We’re a group of people who care about this area and find a bit of time in our lives to fight for its protection,” Holand said.
Holand said the area designated for logging is in the middle of a critical wildlife area and grizzly bear habitat is at risk.
The Castle is also a prime recreation area.
“We do have some sound science that shows clear-cutting cannot eliminate a fire hazard,” Holand said.
Holand also challenged the government’s stand the trees have to be taken to stop the mountain pine beetle.
“The pine beetle is a problem, but taking all our trees is not going to solve the problem,” Holand said.
Holand encouraged people to write Livingstone-Macleod MLA Evan Berger to protest the logging plan.
Tweedie said in the early 1900s Canada put legislation in place to protect forests from the lumber trade.
“That’s the way it should be today as far as I’m concerned,” Tweedie said.

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