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Wednesday, 11 May 2011 14:06

Logging in southwest Alberta opposed: Praxis survey

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By Sherri Gallant
Southern Alberta Newspapers
Southwest Alberta
A new survey by The Praxis Group of Calgary shows a vast majority of residents living around the Castle Special Place favour creation of a Wildland Park there and oppose logging inside it.

No matter, it seems — Alberta’s resources minister continues to defend clear-cut logging in the Castle River recreation area.

On April 6, Mel Knight, minister of sustainable resource development, indicated logging will proceed, but only a small area of the recreation land west of Pincher Creek would be logged each year under his department’s management plan.

Two-thirds of the area has already been protected from logging, Knight told reporters, and in the remaining area, he said just one per cent would be allowed to be logged each year.

The Castle, technically called the Castle Special Management Area and one of the province’s 81 designated Special Place protected areas, is located between Waterton Lakes National Park and the Crowsnest Pass, within Alberta’s portion of the international Crown of the Continent ecosystem and geotourism area.

Of the 774 residents surveyed in the Praxis poll taken between April 3-12, three-quarters (74 per cent) agree with the Castle Special Place Working Group’s 2009 proposal to the Government of Alberta, that the province should legally establish a 1,023 square kilometre Wildland Park to better protect the 1,041 square kilometre Special Place.

As well, three-quarters (77 per cent) oppose plans by Spray Lake Sawmills of Cochrane to block-cut log the area between Beaver Mines Lake, Castle Falls and Lynx Creek starting in June. Block-cut logging is the industry’s term for what is publicly known as clear-cutting.

“The results weren’t a surprise because the working group is made up of 35 local residents and user groups, and it kept in touch with municipal governments and residents while developing the proposal,” said Gordon Petersen, who represents local environmental organization, the Castle Special Place Working Group.

“It’s really helpful to see it come out so conclusively in this survey and consistently for the individual communities too, not just the total aggregate.”

The Castle Special Place is located in the mountainous, public Forest Reserve between Waterton Lakes National Park and on the north, the divide between the Castle and Crowsnest watersheds. Its east-west borders are the Forest Reserve and B.C. boundaries.

Alberta added it to its network of protected areas in 1998 as the new Castle Special Management Area, but special management has not proven effective in protecting it, environmental groups say.

David de Lange, Praxis senior associate who supervised the survey, said he doesn’t find the results a shock.

“The numbers are consistent with surveys in the past few years that show Albertans do care about the environment and about parks.”

The results are consistent with those from a survey of Lethbridge and Coaldale residents in February by the Citizen Society Research Lab at Lethbridge College. That survey showed more than 85 per cent favour a Wildland Park and are against logging in the area. The Praxis survey, which asked the same questions, has a margin of error of 3.4 per cent 19 times out of 20, or a confidence reliability rating of 95 per cent.

It was commissioned by the Alberta Foothills Network, which includes area businesses and groups such as the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and the Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition.

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