WATERTON, Alta. — “The great outdoors, not two by fours.”
That was just one sign at a rally Thursday against logging an area that used to be part of Waterton Lakes National Park in southern Alberta.
The rally was held outside where the first annual Crown of the Continent conference is being held.
Residents and businesspeople say they wanted to let their Conservative member of the legislature, Evan Berger, and conference delegates know that allowing a sawmill to clear-cut the Castle area is unacceptable.
They held more than 200 candles representing the number of species living in the area that are listed as rare or at risk of extinction within Alberta.
Alberta has given the Spray Lakes Sawmill located west of Calgary permission to clear-cut log in between Beaver Mines Lake, Castle Falls and over Carbondale Hill into Lynx Creek.
The province’s Sustainable Resource Development department has identified the whole Castle Special Place as core grizzly bear habitat.
Much of the area slated for logging is zoned critical wildlife and general recreation.
“It’s the most bio-diverse area of the province,” writer Richard Burke told the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs.
He noted early settlers called for the area to be protected, long before Alberta became a province in 1905.
With Banff and other Rockies areas already gaining park status, they saw the Castle River area had the same potential for tourism.
Legislators agreed, and Burke said the area was added to Waterton National Park in 1914. But then it was removed in 1921, he said, and researchers today can’t determine why.
More recently, during Ralph Klein’s years as premier, provincial officials designated the Castle and 80 other areas of the the province as “special places” deserving protection.
But Burke said once again, after 80 of those places were put under legislated protection, the Castle was left out.
Now he said skiers heading to Castle Mountain will have to drive through loggers’ debris.
“Logging brings no long-term economic benefits,” said Elaine Voth, owner of a local bed and breakfast. “We need the Castle intact, just like Waterton, for future sustainability.”