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"I BELIEVE in connected landscapes; so connected that my children can walk from one point to another."
Chris Bunting, Y2Y Supporter since 2007

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Southern Alberta Land Use Plan Fails to Protect Key Landscapes

Alberta's South Saskatchewan Regional Land Use Plan failed to protect critical headwaters in the southern part of the province.

July 23, 2014

Calgary, AB - The final land use plan for southern Alberta – called the South Saskatchewan Regional Land Use Plan (SSRP) – has failed to protect critical headwaters, including the Castle Special Place. This leaves in doubt the SSRP’s ability to meet its mandate to resolve conflicts over land use planning in the southern part of the province.

“There is little improvement over the last draft of the SSRP,” says Wendy Francis of the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y). “Albertans have been very clear that they wanted to see the Castle Special Place protected in its entirety, and that hasn’t happened. All the government has done is change the designation of the Castle Conservation Area from Public Land Use Zone to Wildland Park. The total of 546 square kilometers, most of which is still rock and snow, falls far short of the 1020 square kilometers Albertans have demanding for three decades. As a result we can’t support this plan.

“The government found it easier to ignore the concerns of the vast majority of Albertans about the Castle than to stand up to industry and motorized recreation groups. Albertans have been telling the government that we expect top-to-bottom protection for Castle. It is vital to conserve the headwaters of the Oldman River, to protect bull trout and grizzly bears, and to ensure wildlife connectivity along the Rocky Mountains,” says Gord Petersen of the Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition (CCWC). "Three-quarters of local residents are in support of protection. This should have been easy for the government to do. Instead of listening to common sense solutions that we have suggested, they’ve taken the easy way out. With the exception of 100 square kilometers, they are simply re-designating areas protected through existing policy."

The Castle Special Place was designated by Premier Klein during Special Places 2000, one of 80 new protected areas in the province. The Castle, however, never received its final designation and over the past decade and a half has seen steady erosion of its ecological value as a result of logging, rampant off-highway vehicle use and oil and gas development.

Under the new plan only 55% of the Castle will be protected. “The mountains and foothills of southern Alberta are natural water towers for millions of people downstream, and protecting these headwaters has been a priority for Albertans for decades,” says Kate Semrau of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS).

The whole purpose of land use planning was to resolve conflicts by dedicating certain areas to different usesThis was the government's opportunity to show leadership by formally protecting the Castle and they failed to do so.

“We’ll continue to advocate for 1020 square kilometers of the Castle to be legislatively designated as a Wildland Provincial Park,” says Brittany Verbeek of the Alberta Wilderness Association. “This is what Albertans expect of their government: for them to listen to average citizens and not just industry groups with the ear of the government.”