Castle wilderness logging opponents fail to convince Alberta environment minister

By Colette Derworiz, Calgary Herald August 23, 2012

CALGARY — A last-ditch effort to persuade the government to stop clear-cut logging in the Castle wilderness area has fallen on deaf ears, according to groups opposed to the development.

On Thursday morning, environmentalists and business representatives of the Stop Castle Logging Group met with Minister of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development Diana McQueen in Calgary to discuss the issue.

“We tried yet again to convince her to stop the logging in the Castle Special Place and protect the area as a wildland park,” said Sarah Elmeligi, senior conservation planner with Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and a representative of the Stop Castle Logging Group. “Overall, our meeting has been disappointing.”

McQueen said later Thursday she thought it was a good meeting.

“It was a great opportunity,” she said, noting it gave her a chance to hear from the concerned groups directly.

McQueen said, however, that she hadn’t planned on making any decisions before having a chance to listen to all of the affected parties.

“I am really trying to take a holistic approach to this,” she said. “They are very passionate.

“I understand where they are coming from, but we have to look at all sides on this issue.”

McQueen declined to give any timelines on when a decision might be made.

The representatives said they appreciated the minister taking time to listen to their concerns, but they noted that the government has been listening to the concerns of the Stop Castle Logging Group for decades.

“Now is not the time for listening, now is the time for action,” said Elmeligi. “That’s what we didn’t get today.”

The battle over the Castle wilderness heated up last January when area residents started protesting a decision by the province to allow Spray Lake Sawmills to harvest 120 hectares of forest under the province’s forest management plan for the region.

Environmentalists and landowners argue logging will have a negative effect on the already threatened grizzly bear population, as well as other species, which includes elk, wolves and cutthroat trout.

More to come …

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