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MD of Willow Creek council’s frustration showing with provincial plans for Castle area

LAWRENCE GLEASON – GAZETTE CONTRIBUTOR
A pleasant introductory visit to the Agricultural Service Board by an Alberta Agriculture researcher turned into an opportunity for Willow Creek councillors to vent their frustration with provincial plans for the West Castle area.
The visitor had nothing to do with setting up or managing those plans, but it was an indication of the frustration of some councillors on provincial plans for the Castle region.
Janna Casson, stationed in Lethbridge, is a specialist in shallow ground water quality and how it is affected by agricultural practice. She earned her Masters degree studying exactly that.
Casson also has a very long professional title, as the agri-environmental stewardship specialist, with the Environmental Strategy and Research Section, Land Use Unit, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.
Once her short introduction was done, councillors’ questions promptly dealt with the West Castle.
“I wasn’t involved with the Castle program management at all,” Casson told councillors. “I’ve been to some public engagement sessions because I wanted to learn more about it.”
Casson added, “I’m excited we have new parks and more places to go for hiking. The pressure in southwest Alberta is quite high.”
Casson told councillors the provincial Castle plan is about protecting headwaters, and noted the document had strong protective language.
Reeve Earl Hemmaway expressed concern that those using quads to access the backcountry were being pushed out by provincial plans and that quad trails in the Castle area are being maintained.
Hemmaway said had spoken to business people in the Pincher Creek area who had expressed concern that if the quadding is stopped in the Castle area that some of them would lose their business.
“They will be going broke,” Hemmaway said.
Coun. Maryanne Sandberg said, “This is not really pertinent for the Agricultural Service Board, but,” and followed up to say if policing and conservation officers were used to enforce measures in the West Castle “then everyone could get along.”
MD of Willow Creek chief administrative officer Cynthia Vizzutti said a problem was there were so many government plans and departments involved.
“You’ve got a recreation footprint, a linear footprint, a biodiversity framework, the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan,” Vizzutti said, adding so many plans dealing with the area could “sterilize pieces of land.”
“The biggest fear out there is what happens when it is decided if cattle have an adverse affect on the ecosystem,” Vizzutti said.

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