1. What is a management plan?

A management plan is a document which sets out objectives and strategies for conservation, development, interpretation and operations of a park for a 10-year period.

A management plan relies on current information about natural values, cultural values, recreational opportunities, and resource activities.

Management plans:

  • Define how a site will be managed to maintain ecological health and preserve key natural and cultural values

  • Describe the type and extent of outdoor recreation opportunities, facilities and services that will be permitted

  • Identify issues, concerns and conflicts, and recommends solutions

  • Identify boundary amendments, consolidations and reclassifications if required

  • Recommend effective and efficient allocation and prioritization of fiscal and staff resources

For more information on management planning, please visit:

Management Planning

2. Where is the Castle Provincial Park and Castle Wildland Provincial Park and why are these parks important?

The Castle Provincial Park and Castle Wildland Provincial Park are located in the eastern slopes of southern Alberta. These parks border Waterton Lakes National Park and are located within the Crown of the Continent (the area of the Rocky Mountains where Alberta, British Columbia and Montana meet).

This area is an important source to the Oldman River Basin headwaters and is a key area for water protection. It is one of the most biologically diverse areas in Alberta with over 200 rare or at-risk species. These include species like:

  • whitebark pine

  • westslope cutthroat trout

  • bull trout

  • wolverine

  • grizzly bear

It provides key movement corridors for large mammals, including grizzly bear. With its numerous archeological, historical and First Nations traditional use sites, these parks also have cultural and historical significance for First Nations and all Albertans.

3. What is the difference between a Wildland Provincial Park and a Provincial Park?

Wildland Provincial Park

A wildland provincial park has the primary purpose of conserving nature while providing opportunities for low-impact nature based outdoor recreation in backcountry or wilderness settings. Wildland provincial parks are relatively undisturbed areas that protect large, ecologically healthy and functioning landscapes.

Visitor experiences focus on backcountry/wilderness travel and appreciation and provide opportunities for solitude and personal challenge. Facilities and services are limited to trails and backcountry camping areas that minimize visitor impacts on the wilderness values. 

The expanded wildland provincial park protects important headwaters, wildlife corridors and habitat, while providing backcountry recreation opportunities.

Provincial Park

Provincial parks have a primary purpose of conserving nature while offering a wide range of nature-based outdoor recreation opportunities. They typically provide for automobile access and opportunities for recreation and tourism facilities and services, including interpretative information that supports conservation.

Visitor experiences focus on inspiring visitors to connect with nature through leisure, learning or recreation activities that are often supported by built facilities.

Provincial parks are typically large enough to maintain ecological functions, while providing for a range of outdoor recreation opportunities.

4. What is the management vision for Castle Provincial Park and Castle Wildland Provincial Park? And what are the key objectives of the draft management plan?

The Castle Provincial Park and Castle Wildland Provincial Park are managed as world-class protected places, employing high standards in conservation, respecting Indigenous rights, and providing sites and facilities for exceptional recreational experiences.

This management vision will be achieved through the development and use of:

  • Thresholds to inform type and volume human activities.

  • Measurable and achievable goals.

  • Evidence-based decision making.

  • First Nations traditional land use and ecological knowledge.

  • Collaborative approaches to problem solving.

Priorities for implementation and development of specific strategies.

5. What is the management intent for the Castle Provincial Park and Castle Wildland Provincial Park?

The primary purposes of the Castle Provincial Park and Castle Wildland Provincial Park are to ensure the conservation of nature, the respect of Indigenous rights, and the provision of recreational and tourism experiences.

All management decisions will be consistent with the protection of:

  • biodiversity,

  • water resources,

  • ecological integrity and connectivity.

6. What are the key outcomes of the plan?

The key outcomes of the plan include:

  • Identification of the appropriate uses and activities in both the Castle Provincial Park and Castle Wildland Provincial Park that are consistent with the conservation values.

  • Prioritization of areas that require reclamation and restoration as a result of past practices and activities in Castle Provincial Park and Castle Wildland Provincial Park.

  • Clarity around recreational activities such as off-highway vehicle use, camping and recreational hunting.

  • Prioritization of additional strategies and actions required to achieve the management objectives identified in the plan.

7. When and what facilities will be developed to support recreational use?

New facility development and the formalization of non-motorized recreational trails is expected to commence in 2018. Available data, local and traditional knowledge, and environmental considerations will be used to guide discussions about facilities and trails with First Nations and stakeholders. The completed management plan and subsequent strategies will direct the types of facilities and trails, including their location and density.

Prior to construction of any facilities, additional processes such as Environmental Reviews, Historic Resources Impact Assessments, First Nations and public consultation may be required.

The wildland provincial park classification does not allow for significant facility and service development, and will provide for low-impact, nature-based recreation. Trail development is being considered. Alberta Parks is developing a world-class, backcountry hut-to-hut system in Castle Wildland Provincial Park in partnership with the Alpine Club of Canada.

The Provincial Park will allow for a wider range of facilities and services, including the potential for picnic areas, staging areas, a higher density trail network, and auto-accessible campgrounds.

8. How were the public and First Nations consulted on the Castle Management Plan

Over 45 meetings were held with stakeholder groups, First Nations communities, and individual Albertans prior to, and during the writing of the draft plan. In the spring of 2017 Albertans were provided a 90-day consultation period to provide their feedback on the draft plan. Extensive feedback on the plan was collected through:

  • Online survey
  • Three public open houses
  • Emails and letters sent directly to the staff and the Minister of Alberta Environment and Parks
  • Follow-up meetings with stakeholder groups and individuals

Additional face-to-face meetings were conducted with Indigenous communities of Treaty 6 and 7.

9. How was public and First Nations feedback used in the final Castle Management Plan?

All input provided by the public, stakeholders and First Nations was reviewed and considered.

Due to the very large amount of input provided, all notes and correspondences were coded for themes and statistically analyzed for frequency and tone. Where possible, text in the plan was modified to reflect that input, and in appropriate cases modifications or additions were made to the plan’s content to reflect the results of the consultation.

Overall, results of the consultation showed support for the management plan and its policies. Specific feedback resulted in the following modifications to the plan:

  • Language was strengthened to promote accessible opportunities for all visitors, including those with mobility challenges.
  • Language in the plan was strengthened to help ensure the protection of wildlife, habitat and watersheds (including critical habitat for westslope cutthroat trout and bull trout habitat.)
  • The topics of summer and winter recreational off-highway vehicle use were separated to differentiate management approaches for each.
  • A provision for the consideration of limited off-highway vehicle use for game retrieval was added.
  • The management of grazing permits was assigned to rangeland staff with a commitment to continue to work on formal agreements.
  • Northern roads into the parks were identified as access points.
  • Details regarding the phase-out of summer off-highway vehicle use were added.
  • Additional language was added to address winter recreation and four-season operations.
  • Objectives to improve selected roads and trailheads were added.
  • Language was clarified regarding the type of development that is expected in the park (e.g., small scale, limited footprint)

10. How will the new management plan change activities on the land base?

The following activities and land uses that were previously allowed on public lands will be affected:

Grazing:

  • Grazing will continue to be used to manage grassland ecosystems in Castle Provincial Park and Castle Wildland Provincial Park to support wildlife, ecosystems, and functional natural systems. Grazing permits will be managed by rangeland staff and the province will continue to work with permit holders on a formalized agreement.
  • Grazing management practices will be reviewed to align them with the conservation objectives identified in the plan, including the protection of headwaters, critical habitat and recreational opportunities. To facilitate this, mechanisms to eliminate or minimize cattle impact in the alpine areas, critical fish habitat and riparian areas will be a priority.

Hunting:

  • Hunting seasons and allocations within the wildland provincial park will continue to follow the existing Alberta Government regulatory processes.
  • Hunting in the provincial park will be implemented in stages to allow for recreational hunting while ensuring that it is primarily utilized for the purpose of managing wildlife populations; and minimize impacts on adjacent lands; and maintain quality visitor experiences across the full spectrum of recreation activities. Additional regulatory restrictions such as firearm discharge permits will be used in the short term to manage hunting within Castle Provincial Park.
  • Consideration will be given to the development of guidelines for the use of off-highway vehicles for game retrieval on selected routes.

Camping:

  • Camping opportunities will be aligned with Alberta Parks’ legislation and regulations. As a result, motorized random camping will not be permitted in the wildland provincial park and this type of experience will be limited to designated rustic group camps. Existing formalized automobile accessible campgrounds in the provincial park will continue to be supported and may be upgraded to include additional services such as power and water.

Off-highway vehicle use:

  • Summer recreational off-highway vehicle use will not be permitted in the Castle Provincial Park and Castle Wildland Provincial Park due to the extremely high biodiversity values, the necessity to protect the headwaters of the Oldman watershed, critical fish habitat for species at risk, and the high conservation values.
  • Summer recreational off-highway vehicle use will be transitioned out of the Castle Parks over a three year period. Details are provided in the approved Management Plan. One exception to the phase-out is that off-highway vehicle use will be allowed to continue on the previously designed trail to Ptolemy Pass.
  • Winter recreational off-highway vehicle (i.e snowmobiles) use will be allowed on select trails within Castle Wildland Provincial Park. In collaboration with snowmobile associations, further studies will be conducted to determine appropriate locations and timing of use.