About CCWC


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Backgrounder

The CCWC’s Vision: A world in which wilderness survives so that wild lands and wildlife may thrive, and future generations can know their natural beauty and diversity.

The CCWC’s Goal: The establishment, restoration, maintenance and environmental protection of the Castle Wilderness as a viable wilderness within the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem.

Why Protect the Castle?

The Castle is a spectacular area of mountains, foothills, and montane on public land adjacent to the Municipal District of Pincher Creek, between the Crowsnest Pass and Waterton Lakes National Park. About half of the Castle was part of the original Waterton Lakes National Park.Highest biodiversity in the province alongside Waterton Park.

Core Grizzly Bear Habitat for Alberta’s Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan.

Provides 1/3 of the water for the Oldman River Basin.

Many of its headwater streams provide Critical Habitat for the survival and recovery of native Westslope Cutthroat Trout, recognized under Canada’s Species at Risk Recovery Order.

Contains many important First Nations cultural and spiritual sites.

Front range canyons are a unique mountain landscape in Canada.

Along with the Flathead on the west side of the Great Divide, the Castle and the adjacent Eastern Slopes serve as the north—south corridor of connectivity for species moving between the US, Alberta, BC, and the Yukon.

The future viability of the natural attributes of Waterton Lakes National Park may well depend on the protection of the Castle.

Who we are and what we do.

The Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition was formed and registered as a Society in 1989 by a group of southern Albertans who recognized the unique ecological values associated with the Castle and its pivotal location in the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem, an assemblage of landscapes covering approximately 44,000 square kilometres of Alberta, BC, and Montana and includes Waterton Lakes National Park, Glacier National Park, and the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

The thrust of all the CCWC’s work over the past quarter century has been to advocate for the legislated protection of the Castle under Alberta’s Parks and Protected Areas Act. As the only local NGO with its focus on conservation of this special place, the CCWC’s on-going monitoring and stewardship role for the Castle has involved the organisation in complex issues which include but go far beyond the basic activities of cleaning up litter, pulling weeds and attempting to reclaim degraded areas. These programs and volunteer activities have occupied thousands of hours of work over the years.

On the wider more complex conservation issues, the CCWC has taken the lead to intervene in a number of regulatory hearings dealing with Shell Canada’s operations in the Castle, in the landmark 1993 Natural Resources Conservation Board hearing over the development of the former Westcastle Ski Hill (now Castle Mountain Resort) in the very centre of the Castle Wilderness, and in various legal challenges to the subsequent incremental development of the Resort. The CCWC has always been prepared to go public with its concerns when the Castle has been threatened by inappropriate activities. For instance, during the development of the C5 Timber Harvest Plan for 2006-2026, the CCWC was not alone in its challenge but later played a key role in the public protest actions in the winter of 2012. It seems clear now that that action had a pivotal part in the new government’s decision to declare its intention to create the Castle Provincial and Wildland Parks and to end commercial forestry operations in the Castle.

Brief History

Forest Reserves Act 1964
“All forest reserves within Alberta are set apart and established for the conservation of the forests and other vegetation in the forests and for the maintenance of conditions favourable to an optimum water supply”. (Alberta Forest Reserves Act, 1964)

1974 Park Reserve
The Alberta Government places much of the Castle under Crown Reservation for a future park.

1985 Eastern Slopes Integrated Resources Plan, Castle Region
“Management emphasis is placed on watershed protection, recreation and tourism priorities.”

1993 Natural Resources Conservation Board Decision
In its Decision Report on the Vacation Alberta Proposal (Decision Report Application #9201 - Vacation Alberta Corporation), the NRCB concluded, “the cumulative effects of development and disturbance have led to a deterioration in the state of the regional ecosystem, both in quantitative and qualitative terms.” and recommended that a Waterton-Castle Wildland Recreation Area (with National Park-like protection) be designated “whether or not the proposed development goes ahead”. (NRCB, 1993, p 12-13). Decision was later rescinded after a locally-appointed committee failed to designate the WCWRA.

1998 “Special Places 2000” Program
In 1998, the Alberta government designated the “Castle Special Management Area” under the Special Places 2000 program, but it never received legislated status other than as a “Forest Land-Use Zone”.

2008 Draft Grizzly Bear Recovery Strategy
Draft Grizzly Bear Conservation Areas Map identified the whole of the Castle Special Place as “Core Grizzly Bear Conservation Area”. Linear disturbances in the Castle Special Place presently far exceed the threshold for long-term viability of grizzly bears.

2009 Castle Special Place Citizen’s Initiative
The initiative’s objective was to prepare and submit to the provincial minister responsible for protected areas and parks, a conceptual proposal for designating the Castle Special Place as a set of legislated protected areas, along with endorsements and broad support of the proposal from the communities. The report “Castle Special Place, Conceptual Proposal for Legislated Protected Areas” recommended that the great majority of the Castle to be made a Wildland Park with the rest as ecological reserve, provincial parks and provincial recreation areas.

2014 South Saskatchewan Regional Plan
Identified the Castle as a “Conservation Area” with high biodiversity values, designated high-elevation lands formerly “Prime Protection” under the IRP as the “Castle Wildland” but provided no Protected Areas designation for the bulk of the Castle Special Management Area.

2015 Castle Provincial Park and Wildland Park Announcement
In May, 2015, after 46 years of Conservative governments, Albertans elected the NDP with a clear majority. The “full protection of the Castle area” was part of their election platform and in

September the Government announced the designation of 1,040sq kms of the Castle as a combination Provincial Park and Wildland Park. Commercial logging permits held by Spray Lakes Sawmills (Cochrane) were cancelled and no new industrial activities would be permitted.

2016 Castle Management Planning Process initiated