March 13, 2017
Here’s a letter we sent to Environment Minister Shannon Phillips and the Alberta Environment and Parks consultation process on the Castle Parks draft management plan.
Trout Unlimited Oldman River Chapter Society applauds and fully supports the establishment of the Castle Wildland and Castle Provincial Parks and the objectives outlined in the draft management plan.
Our chapter participated in developing the Castle Special Place Conceptual Proposal, the Oldman Watershed Council Integrated Management Plan and the Headwaters Action Plan, and their implementation, all of which were based on the need to protect, conserve and where necessary and feasible recover habitat impacting headwaters water quality. Our interest is also in protecting and conserving threatened species that live in those headwaters, including bull and westslope cutthroat trout.
The Chapter has also committed financial and in-kind support for stream-side habitat recovery and enhancement. Although our focus has been on headwaters such as the Crowsnest River, on which we have stewarded 4 km of river frontage for 15 years, Hidden Creek, Gold Creek and Chipman Creek, we have been fully aware for decades of the condition and needs of creeks in the Castle drainage, such as Lost, Lynx, Carbondale and the West and South branches of the Castle. The Chapter helped identify habitat that contains pure strain Westslope Cutthroat in Lost Creek (and the Upper Oldman River.) We offer our support for whatever efforts are necessary in implementing the plan to rehabilitate stream-side habitat in the new parks to protect endangered species such as Westslope Cutthroat and Bull Trout.
The Chapter provides assistance to University of Lethbridge and Lethbridge College students doing research in the headwaters, which we see as an opportunity to assist with the draft plan’s objectives to use a science-based approach to decision-making and managing the parks.
We see Draft Castle Management Plan objectives to control or phase out activity such as random camping and ATV use that are incompatible with conserving the headwaters as a necessary component of the area’s recovery, redirection and protection. However, we also encourage the Province to carefully consider the impact of displacing users, such as OHV users and campers, on the surrounding landscape. The transition plan must be clear in its purpose and timeline, provide users with viable alternatives outside of the park boundaries, and be cognizant of sensitive habitat in those areas in order to secure full protection for our headwaters.
We see the new Castle Provincial and Wildland Parks as a significant step in the right direction and fully support the Government’s decision to protect this important habitat.