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What's CASA all about?
The Climbers Access Society of Alberta came about from a need to have a more formalized way for the climbing and soft tread community to interact with governmental agencies.
While several individuals already had the genesis of the idea before concern over the proposed access modifications to the North Fork of the Ghost River came to light, this issue really spurred many more people to embrace the concept. Many clubs and organizations either have a mandate that supports directing energies towards access issues, or have executive members dedicated to the same. TABVAR, the ACMG, the ACC, MRC, MEC and the CMC are but a few who would fall into this category. While each club / organization has had the need to formally address the government on issues at one time or another, the emergent Ghost Operational Access Management Plan (GAMP), which covers all public and some leased lands north from the edge of the Morley Reserve up to the Red Deer River, and the information or misinformation around it has galvanized the community like never before.
While it has been valuable and of consequence for each individual group to come forward and essentially mirror the same position to the government over the past several years it is now time for an more structured approach to be considered. The government is moving towards a governance model that is supported by user input. That input is supplied by stewardship committees. User groups that have been identified as priority users in a region will be asked to designate a representative for the committee. When that management region includes montane environments or access to same then it is imperative that our community has a voice on the current state of right of entry and on future considerations.
This model is developing as the preferential choice by many governmental agencies to deal with land management issues in many jurisdictions thorough out North America. While some people might not agree with this model, it is the one that is being offered and actually does seem to allow user groups a reasonable and responsive avenue for deliberation with government.
Besides the current Ghost access concerns what else would CASA do?
For one, CASA could be a conduit for information to and from Government. There has been some small rumuor and misinformation (that has come and gone fortunately with little adverse consequence) with respect to proposed Ghost vehicular restrictions. This was due in no small part to the lack of a central point of communication from, and for, the community. Also, a unified access Society could monitor and alert the community of nascent issues and potential concerns, thereby providing ample opportunity for a timely response. Thirdly CASA may be able to develop into an effective lobby that could demonstrate the value of wilderness, economically, socially, and psychologically to Government when mega resorts are proposed with little or no concern to traditional user communities. The wilderness is for sale and perhaps some of it can be saved for reasonable and responsible recreational use.
Specific and immediate concerns are numerous. Clarification of the Yamnuska Wildland Park, ongoing concerns with Carrot Creek access, unilateral closure issues that arose from the implementation on the Castle Management Plan (which pretty much put all the Pincher Creek / Shell Plant ice climbs behind gates), resort development along the David Thompson Highway, access to new climbing areas in the region covered by GAMP, and access to several crags of note in the Bow Corridor along Highway 1A. Staying abreast of access and community concerns is an odious task at best and an unfair burden for one club to shoulder. Access for one climber is now access for all.
Who will be part of CASA?
Hopefully lots of people, and clubs, and organizations. The backbone of this Society will be, simply, individual climbers or hikers (who may or may not be affiliated with a specific group) who have an interest in preserving reasonable access to a region or specific area in an environmentally sustainable and socially responsible manner. A Society or lobby group is only as effective as the membership it represents -if we want the government to be serious about our access concerns we have to demonstrate our commitment by organizing. Also, it is envisioned that clubs who have access committee chairs could expand their roles to include representation within CASA -which is likely an efficient way to dispense news quickly.
Lastly some elements of the business sector may well want to contribute to CASA via corporate memberships. Such a member would, for ethical reasons, be a non voting member.
Where is CASA right now?
Well, as of Friday October 28th it is just developing a constitution and an approval of incorporation as a Society. It will be registered in Alberta and fall under the guidelines as set forth by the provincial government. CASA hopes to be up and running very quickly so as to meet the schedule set out by SRD with regard to the initiation of a stewardship committee for the GAMP.