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Ranchers and conservationists support decision for clean water in the Castle

Landowners and ranchers and other southern Alberta water users, along with CPAWS and Y2Y are voicing their support for clean water and healthy land in south-western Alberta’s Castle Parks.

Landowners and ranchers and other southern Alberta water users, along with The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) and the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y), are voicing their support for clean water and healthy land in south-western Alberta’s Castle Parks.

The groups point to evidence that off highway vehicle (OHV) use in the Castle and other Eastern Slope watersheds is damaging the region’s drinking water and fish habitat. The groups have released a series of photos of damage done to watersheds and fish habitat in the Oldman River watershed.

"I support protecting the Castle Wilderness not because of a hidden agenda to remove all OHV use in Alberta, but to protect our invaluable headwaters from further degradation that we cannot afford. As a rancher, we deal with the concept of carrying capacity on a daily basis. The current trends of land use pressure exceeds the carrying capacity of the Castle Wilderness,” says Cody Spencer, rancher and owner of Lethbridge-based Sweetgrass Bison. “While there is loud opposition to the protection of the Castle, it is in the interest of the majority of Albertans like myself who value and rely on intact ecosystems.”

“We applaud the decision to phase out OHV use from the Castle Wildland and Provincial Parks and expand protection for the region’s headwaters. It sets a new direction for protected areas in Alberta,” says Stephen Legault, program director for Y2Y.

“Phasing out OHV use from the Castle will help the endangered westslope cutthroat trout population recovery,” says Lorne Fitch, an independent biologist based in Lethbridge. “The Castle River provides a third of the Oldman Watershed’s water. These headwaters are critical to downstream communities like Lethbridge to ensure clean drinking water.”

“The draft management plan is a model of science-based and socially-responsible planning and will make Alberta a world leader. Action to protect the spectacular country southwest of Pincher Creek from ongoing vandalism and over-exploitation was a long time coming,” says Kevin Van Tighem, author, local land-owner and former Banff National Park superintendent. “I believe it is important to build and maintain high-quality off-highway vehicle trails but only outside of protected parks and away from sensitive watersheds and important wildlife habitats to keep the vandalism from causing more damage.”

“Places like the Castle support our communities downstream,” says Anne-Marie Syslak, Executive Director with CPAWS Southern Alberta. “83 per cent of Albertans want more wilderness protected,” she says, referring to a 2016 survey. “Just 3 per cent of Southern Albertans use OHV’s to recreate. The vast majority of Albertans want our water protected.”

For further comment:

Cody Spencer, Owner of Sweetgrass Bison 403-360-4572 |

Kevin Van Tighem, Author and Biologist 403-763-0656 |

Lorne Fitch, Independent Biologist 403-328-1245 I 

Stephen Legault, Y2Y Program Director - Crown, Alberta and Northwest Territories 403-688-2964 |

Anne-Marie Syslak, Executive Director, CPAWS Southern Alberta Chapter (403) 827-4562 I