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Province will protect Castle Special Place

Lynx Creek Valley

A view of the Lynx Creek Valley within the Castle area. Photo credit: John Novotny

Commercial forestry in the Castle special management area has been stopped and the process to designate the entire area is under way.
The provincial government announced the steps Friday at a news conference at Blairmore.
“Protecting the Castle is critically important for the biodiversity and water quality of this entire region,” Environment Minister Shannon Phillips said Friday. “Under Parks’ legislation, and with the input of all Albertans, we will permanently protect this special place for future generations to enjoy as we transition the land to support good local jobs in tourism and recreation.”
The New Democrat government is protecting the area with two new designations within the Castle: an expanded wildland provincial park and a new provincial park.
Covering nearly 104,000 hectares, the Castle area is an ecologically-diverse expanse of mountains, foothills, forests, grasslands, rivers and lakes in southwestern Alberta.
The area is prized for its headwaters, biodiversity and functions as a key wildlife corridor.
The Castle is culturally significant to First Nations, and forms part of the Crown of the Continent — the mountainous region where Alberta, British Columbia and Montana meet.
In addition to discontinuing commercial forestry within the Castle area, there will be a prohibition on surface rights access for any new petroleum and natural gas leases. Existing petroleum and natural gas leases will be honoured.
No new tenure will be sold for extracting metallic, mineral, coal or surface resources. Existing leases for metallic, mineral and coal commodities will be cancelled, consistent with direction under the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan. Current livestock grazing permits will be respected.
Area residents welcomed the news.
“This is a great day for Albertans who love wildlife, clean water and wild places,” said James Tweedie, president of the Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition. “The completion of the protection of the Castle is a conservation success that has been decades in the making.”
Wendy Francis, interim president of the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, agreed.
“This announcement puts Alberta back on the map in terms of international conservation success stories,” Francis said.
Designating the Castle under the Provincial Parks Act will allow government to focus on stewardship, protecting and enhancing biodiversity, and boosting the local economy by promoting the area as an outdoor destination for Albertans and out-of-province visitors.
Consultation with Albertans on the future of the Castle special management area began Friday and will remain open for the next 30 days.
For more information and to participate visit albertaparks.ca/consult.

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