|Herald photos by Nick Kuhl
About 60 people gathered together for an hour-long anti-logging rally in Beaver Mines Sunday afternoon.
If Spray Lakes Sawmills has its way, more than 3,750 truckloads of timber will be removed from the Castle area by 2014.
But phases two and three of the company's proposed plan have been put on hold by the Alberta government - a move applauded by a group of concerned local residents.
If they have their way, the logging will cease for good.
Sunday afternoon in Beaver Mines, about 60 people gathered together for an anti-logging rally in an effort to promote their ongoing concerns.
"We're trying to let the government know that we haven't given up and gone away," said Gordon Petersen of the Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition.
"Every now and then we need to refresh people's memory about what we're losing out here daily," said Mike Judd with Timberwolf, an organization launched in 2012 to help protect rare and endangered species.
"It belongs to all of us and it's a wonderful place."
In 1998, the Alberta government declared the Castle a Special Place. But it remains the only one of 81 Special Places in the province to not have received final legal designation as a protected area.
The current logging by Cochrane-based Spray Lakes is taking place in the recreational heart of the area and in what is considered core grizzly bear habitat.
Phase one of the three-year logging plan is ongoing despite the suspension of phases two and three until the completion of the province's South Saskatchewan Regional Plan.
But that's only a start, says Sarah Elmeligi of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS).
"Even though the first year of logging has started, and is going on right now as we stand here, we're still in opposition to that," she said during Sunday's rally.
"We want to ask the Alberta government to permanently cancel years two and three. Clear-cut logging does not belong in the Castle," Elmeligi continued.
"Until the government does a complete overhaul of how forestry is planned and managed on the eastern slopes, we'll continue to have this debate valley by valley and creek by creek. People aren't going anywhere. We will continue to be here and voice opposition to the current land-use practices."
Representatives from the Castle coalition will be in Calgary's court of Queen's bench for a scheduling hearing today.
Petersen said they have three main messages: concern about the continuing logging, the hope of entirely cancelling Spray Lakes' next two phases, and the proposition of implementing a provincial review on how logging practices are done.
"It's been 15 years and we're halfway to having it protected - but we should complete the job. It's something we should finish up with now," he said.
"It's a Special Place and supposed to be a protected area. We don't think there should be logging in the Castle."
"The Castle's forest is far too valuable for water, wildlife, recreation and wilderness-based businesses to be turned into 2x4s and mulch," added Judd, who has lived in the area his entire life.
"It remains the last little bit of forest that we have left with endangered species like grizzly bears and many others."
"What's happened in the last 15 years is we've seen a continual degradation of the ecosystem health and the diversity of recreational opportunities in this area," said Elmeligi.
"What we're seeing today is the culmination of this community and regional residents just being sick of watching that happen. The only solution for the Castle is that it's protected as wildland park and there's no commercial forestry."