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New Report Highlights Opportunity for Restoration in the Castle

A new report by Global Forest Watch Canada is raising concerns about land-use in the new Castle Wildland and Provincial Parks.

September 7, 2016

Calgary, AB - A new report released Tuesday (September 6) by Global Forest Watch Canada is raising concerns about land-use in the new Castle Wildland and Provincial Parks, and has prompted two leading conservation organizations to call on the Alberta government to set up a forest restoration program to reverse the damage to the area while creating new jobs.

“The announcement of the new Castle parks last September was an important step towards conservation,” says Stephen Legault, a Program Director with the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y). “The Global Forest Watch Canada report shows that the decision couldn’t come soon enough. After decades of mismanagement and abuse, the Castle is an ecosystem in decline. Less than half of the entire Castle, and just 2% of the new Provincial Park, is considered “intact forest,” meaning that it has big enough areas of forests without roads and motorized trails to support grizzly bears and other species over the long term.”

“Ending logging was important to slow the fragmentation of the Castle,” says Legault. “Now we are calling on the government to create a forest restoration program as part of the upcoming management planning process for the Castle.”

The Castle is located just north of Waterton Lakes National Park and is part of the internationally celebrated Crown of the Continent ecosystem. The report from Global Forest Watch Canada indicates that forest fragmentation and the human impact in the Castle totals 441.4 square km of the 1039 square km region. This is higher than previous reports indicated, particularly within the boundaries of the provincial park. Disturbances have grown considerably since 2000.

“While the state of the Castle is definitely concerning,” says Katie Morrison, Conservation Director for the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society – Southern Alberta Chapter (CPAWS SAB), “it also creates the opportunity to put people to work on forest and ecosystem restoration in Southern Alberta. There are some positive models of a restoration economy in similar landscapes in the northwestern United States that we can learn from, where people are being employed restoring damaged areas.”

“First, we have to stop making things worse,” adds Legault. “That means putting a stop to off highway vehicle use in the new Parks. Then we can work collaboratively to make things better.” Legault points to a seven-year old project near Missoula, Montana as an example. In the Southwest Crown Collaborative, the government worked with the forestry sector, community groups and the conservation community to guide the region from one dependent on a declining forestry industry to one based on a diverse economy that includes enhanced tourism opportunities and restoration work. People who used to work in the mills or cutting timber now build trails, restore trout streams and demolish old roads that created the sort of habitat fragmentation seen in the Castle. The government made modest financial investments knowing that the return for the community and the watersheds would be significant.

“It’s working in Montana,” concludes Legault, “and can work in the Castle and the rest of Southern Alberta.”


For further comment, contact:

  • Stephen Legault, Program Director - Alberta, Crown and NWT, Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y)
    403-688-2964 | stephen@y2y.net
  • Katie Morrison, Conservation Director, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Southern Alberta Chapter (CPAWS SAB)
    403-232-6686 | kmorrison@cpaws.org

View the Global Forest Watch Canada report here.
Learn more about the Southwest Crown Collaborative here.