The Alberta government has promised that cattle grazing can continue in the newly created Castle Wildlands Provincial Park.
Grazing permit holders met with Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips March 3, where she assured them they can continue to use the area.
As well, the area will be administered by the same agrologists in the province’s public lands division with which they had previously worked.
Phillips understands how important grazing in the forestry areas is to the approximately 28 ranchers who use it, said Daryl Carlson, whose family has had a permit in the area for more than 50 years.
“She also recognizes the value of grazing in maintaining and developing the biodiversity of the vegetation in the forestry, and grazing can be a valuable tool in managing that,” he said.
No hunting is typically allowed in parks, but some will be permitted in this area to keep wildlife under control. In some instances, the forestry area is overgrown, and traditional wildlife habitat has been lost.
Bears, deer, elk and other wildlife often leave the park and invade nearby private land in search of food.
Ranchers want to continue grazing in the park, but they want to be consulted about new management plans.
“The general idea in most of society was the way to take care of our grassland was to mostly rest it and graze it once in awhile, lightly,” said Fort Macleod rancher Bill Newton.
There now is a shift toward ac-cepting managed grazing as part of land preservation, he said.
The province will continue to work with permit holders on a formalized agreement, and ranchers living north of the parks in the Livingston Range and Porcupine Hills will be consulted on future plans, Phillips said.
“Ranchers want clarity on grazing permits,” she said in a March 1 news conference.
“They want grazing permits that are managed by rangeland operations staff, and we are working with grazing permit holders on a formalized agreement.”
The province is holding a series of public information sessions and stakeholder meetings beginning March 8 to examine conservation and land use issues in the southern Eastern Slopes of the Rocky Mountain region.
“Recreation planning for the broader Eastern Slopes will be guided by linear disturbance limits to protect and manage ranching and forestry in the region as well as support recreation in the area.”
The two new parks in southwestern Alberta cover 254,518 acres.