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Wildrose MLA Pat Stier wants more discussion on Castle plans

Wildrose MLA Pat Stier wants more consultation before the new Castle region provincial park is created.
The Livingstone-Macleod MLA on Friday urged the government to extend the consultation period by six months.
“It’s simply unacceptable that this decision was sprung on municipal officials, industry, stakeholders and the public with such a short consultation window attached,” Stier said. “To make matters worse, consultation was avoided with some municipalities.”
“The timeline must be expanded by at least six months to allow for a complete and thorough process for all individuals and groups affected.”
The NDP provided a 30-day window for public consultation after it made the decision to re-designate the area. The deadline is Monday, Oct. 5.
Stier said past proposals like the installation of major power transmission lines in southern Alberta and the creation of the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan involved significant public consultation on a step-by-step basis.
“Any major land use proposal must pass the scrutiny of stakeholder groups and the public. The credibility of these projects rely on it,” Stier said. “The NDP government must take a step back and develop a more thorough review, before putting this new legislation in place.”
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 earlier this month at a news conference at Blairmore.
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.
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.
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