THE CASTLE: a vital link
The Castle links Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park with Crowsnest Pass in the Eastern Slopes of the Canadian Rockies. This region is a jewel in the Crown of the Continent ecosystem that encompasses parts of Alberta, British Columbia, and Montana and sits at the heart of the Yellowstone to Yukon region.
The recently announced boundaries of the Castle Wildland Provincial Park and Castle Provincial Park will together conserve more than 250,000 acres (100,000 hectares) of prime wildlife habitat in one of the most biologically rich landscapes in the country.
The Castle links wildlife moving north and south through the Yellowstone to Yukon region. It joins protected areas like Waterton-Glacier with the Rocky Mountain Parks further north.
As part of Alberta’s headwaters, it is the most significant basin in the Oldman River watershed, providing 30% of its waters. The Oldman joins with the Bow River to form the South Saskatchewan River and serves many downstream communities as it flows through Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.
The Castle has significance for indigenous communities, including Piikani (Peigan), Nitsitapii (Blackfoot), Siksika, Kainaiwa (Blood), Ĩyãħé Nakoda (Stoney), Tsuut’ina and K'tunaxa First Nations. The Piikani locate their origin story in this landscape, and many people from these nations continue to use the area to pursue their traditional ways of life.
The Castle also provides countless opportunities for different forms of quiet recreation, including hiking, camping, hunting, mountain biking and climbing.
For many Albertans, the Castle is a key connection to wilderness, wildlife and the sense of wonder that comes with being among trees and rivers. Albertans can be proud of the new parks created by the Alberta government in the Castle.
We have achieved amazing things in the Castle!
For more than 40 years, conservation groups have pressured Alberta’s governments to protect this region. In September 2015 Alberta announced the creation of a new Castle Provincial Park and expansion of the Castle Wildland Provincial Park.
On January 20, 2017, Premier Rachel Notley and Minister of Environment and Parks Shannon Phillips announced that the Castle Parks had passed an order-in-council, officially setting the park boundaries and releasing the draft management plan covering both parks. That draft plan includes a three- to five-year phase-out of off-highway vehicle recreation in both parks and outlines co-management potential with the Piikani Nation.
This is a positive step towards restoring this important headwaters landscape and should be accelerated to encourage responsible land use.
What can you do?
The Castle Parks were created through the tireless efforts of Albertans who understood the ecological and recreational value of the land. We can do the same in the Bighorn and in Kananaskis Country. Let your voice be heard and speak up for our headwaters!
Then, get out to the Castle and show some love for your headwaters. Hike, bike, camp and cherish this landscape. Visit local businesses and help make the conservation economy a reality in Alberta.