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Throne Speech sets direction for well-managed public lands, Castle Parks

Alberta’s Speech from the Throne provides direction for the future management of sensitive public lands in the province, and for the newly announced Castle Parks in southwestern Alberta.

Media Release for March 3, 2017

Alberta’s Speech from the Throne, read Mar. 2 by Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor Lois Mitchell, provides direction for the future management of sensitive public lands in the province, and for the newly announced Castle Parks in southwestern Alberta.

“The government has reinforced the importance of protecting the province’s natural environment through statements made about ongoing efforts to protect the Castle Parks,” says Stephen Legault, program director at Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative.

This year, your government will continue to improve parks across our province and build on the historic protections we have brought into place, such as the recently announced protections for the Castle area. (Speech from the Throne, Mar. 2, 2017)

“Alberta previously made a commitment to reach the international milestone of protecting 17 per cent of its lands by 2020,” says Legault. “The Castle, when properly managed, will be an important first step for this government. More will need to be done. Currently Alberta has protected about 12.5 per cent. We commend the government for advancing conservation as part of the Speech from the Throne despite the concerns raised by a small, vocal minority of Albertans who prioritize motorized recreation over protecting water, wildlife and other users of the land.

“We’d like to see the government specifically allocate resources to create new parks and support existing protected areas in the upcoming budget,” he says. One passage in the speech needs to be clarified through on-the-ground management planning in the coming months, says Legault.

Consultations on the plan to protect the Castle area will continue this year, as will your government’s commitment to create better opportunities for everyone to enjoy our parks. Investments will be made in new campgrounds, trails and roads, and we will support all types of recreation with real improvements to our parks – whether you are exploring on a motorized vehicle, horseback or lacing up hiking boots. (Speech from the Throne, Mar. 2, 2017)

“Parks are only protected to international standards if they are free of motorized use,” says Legault. “Confusing motorized vehicle use in parks with well-regulated, strongly enforced motorized use on other public lands creates unnecessary misunderstanding. The Premier’s commitment on Jan. 20 to phase-out off-highway vehicle (OHV) use in the Castle was clear. Parks must prioritize low impact recreation and the protection of nature.

“There is room for well-managed OHV use on public lands along the Eastern Slopes outside of Parks,” says Legault. “Where OHV use is permitted, the government needs to ensure water quality, native fish habitat, endangered species or the rights of other users such as horseback riders and hikers who also enjoy these public lands are not impacted. We are working collaboratively with the government and other recreation groups to ensure our public lands are well-managed across all uses.”

For further comment contact:

Stephen Legault, Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative program director for Crown, Alberta and Northwest Territories 403-688-2964 |