The province will hold a series of public information sessions and stakeholder meetings beginning March 8 and continuing in the coming months.
Sessions will examine wider conservation and land use issues in the southern Eastern Slopes, Castle parks and surrounding areas, including linear disturbances, off-highway vehicle use and trail planning. Recreation planning will be focused on ensuring the Eastern Slopes are better managed to protect livelihoods in ranching, forestry and recreation.
“We’ve heard from many Albertans who camp, fish, hunt and hike with their families in southwest Alberta. They want the Castle parks protected for future generations, but they also want clarity about what takes place in surrounding areas.”
The meetings are part of the Southern Alberta Recreation Management Planning Process. The first information session will be held March 10 and will coincide with an updated draft parks management plan for the 103,000-hectare Castle Provincial Park and Castle Wildland Provincial Park.
“Planning and investment in Alberta has not kept pace with recreational pressures of a growing population over the last decade. The government’s determination to bring a layered and disciplined approach to our natural area will bring great benefits to the health of individuals, families and communities.”
“Creation of the Castle park system coupled with broader recreation management planning is a positive and necessary step towards the recovery of species at risk such as Westslope Cutthroat Trout and Bull Trout. Trout Unlimited Canada looks forward to working with Alberta to ensure future generations have the opportunity to catch wild, native trout in their native range.”
Public consultation on the Castle parks draft management plan will be extended an additional month, until April 19. Based on feedback so far, the revised management plan will include the following considerations:
- Alberta hunters will be allowed to recover game through limited use of trail networks during hunting season.
- Alberta ranchers will see grazing permits managed by rangelands staff. The province will continue to work with permit holders on a formalized agreement.
- Alberta anglers will see Alberta’s fish populations protected through fish recovery strategies, including the threatened Bull Trout and Westslope Cutthroat Trout.
- Albertans with mobility issues, including the elderly, will be given special consideration to ensure park access is inclusive.
- No changes to the current state-of-trail access will be made in the upcoming year for off-highway vehicles use. The focus will be on closing illegal trails and creating proper signage.
- There will be increased enforcement to prevent irresponsible activities in the Castle parks.
- The revised plan will include maintaining northern access and routes into the park from the Crowsnest Pass.
Over the next four years, more than $20 million will be used to improve tourism opportunities and foster responsible use of this ecologically sensitive area. This work is part of a broader investment in infrastructure in the Castle parks, including access routes, camping, signage, picnic areas, hiking trails and fisheries access.