The Bighorn Backcountry is nestled between Jasper and Banff National Parks, and 11-year-old Drake has spent much of his young life camping and exploring the mountains, foothills, grasslands and rivers of this area with his family, as well as with his Scout group.  

“We practice pack it in, pack it out,” he says, sharing his experiences there. “It’s a huge area and not well known. I want people to know how important it is to protect our wild spaces.”    

Designating the Bighorn Backcountry as a provincial wildland park would continue to support the recreational access Drake and others like him have enjoyed, such as hiking, horseback riding and fishing. The bonus would be better protection for the water, wild spaces and wildlife from the impacts of logging, mining and other industrial activity.   

Drake’s mom, Michelle, says her son has always loved the outdoors — at the age of three he started by picking up trash and recycling. He’s a “huge animal lover” who hopes to help save the planet’s big cats.    

So it’s no surprise that when Drake, in Grade 6 at the time, learned the important role that advocacy plays in protecting the Bighorn, he took it upon himself to collect petition signatures to show support.  

“My hope (for the Bighorn) is that wildlife can have a safe, protected corridor and we can have clean, fresh drinking water,” he says. “We need to protect our natural areas before they’re gone.”   

More than 150 students, fellow Scouts and Scout leaders, family, teachers and parents signed the petition. These signatures drew the attention of the key decision maker, Minister Phillips. In June she sent Drake a personal letter thanking him for his advocacy. Personal pledges can encourage government to take action.   

Since Y2Y and our partners started advocating to protect the Bighorn more than 21,000 people have sent letters or signed our petition, and many have called their elected officials personally. If you are one of them — thank you! Your support moves us closer to our goal of protecting this special area on the eastern slopes of the Rockies.  

Photo: Drake with some of the 150 petition signatures he gathered to send to the Alberta government asking for the Bighorn Backcountry to be designated a wildland provincial park, courtesy Michelle M.