Upper Columbia - Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative

Upper Columbia

Trees in southeastern British Columbia's inland temperate rainforest, also habitat for endangered mountain caribou. Credit: Nadine Raynolds

Y2Y is working to connect and protect the Upper Columbia for wildlife and people.  

Old-growth forests in deep rugged valleys, deep snowpacks on high alpine peaks: the inland temperate rainforest in southeastern British Columbia is special — one of the world’s only.

The headwaters of the transboundary Columbia River are also here, making this an important region in the Y2Y geography, linking the Canadian National Parks in the Rocky Mountains to important conservation areas in the U.S.  

Project area

What is the threat?

The Upper Columbia hosts healthy grizzly and wolf populations, as well as mountain goats, and is known wolverine habitat. It is also home to one of the larger sub-populations of threatened mountain caribou, one that shows promise of recovery. 

Research indicates that the Upper Columbia will be important in the future for climate change resiliency and as a refuge for species of all kinds who will need cooler places to breed.  

Climate modeling shows there may be less dramatic changes in temperature and precipitation here in years to come, impacting snow storage and streamflow. Maintaining a consistent climate is critical for caribou that migrate seasonally up and down these mountains, as well as for wolverines who depend on a deep snowpack for raising kits. 

Snowpacks are also essential for feeding rivers and streams that are consistent in timing, flow and temperature, important to all aquatic species, including the potential re-introduction of salmon to the upper Columbia Basin. 

Threats include forestry impacts from logging and road building, with significant loss of old growth interior cedar hemlock forests. Better management of motorized recreation, including snowmobiles, cat- and heli-skiing as well as people-powered recreation like ski-touring could help minimize impacts on an important ecosystem and improve the future for species such as wolverine and caribou. 

These incredible natural assets are also what has attracted industry and various adventure tourism and recreation interests to the region.  

Watch our five-part video series highlighting the species, people, and places of the Upper Columbia.

How we are accomplishing this?

Our vision for the Upper Columbia region, including north Columbia, north/central Selkirks and north Purcell mountains, is fully-functioning ecosystems, protected by a network of connected conservation areas through legal designations recognized by the governments of B.C., Canada, and Indigenous Nations. 

We’d like to see the Indigenous Nations and rural communities in the region flourish with a conservation-oriented economy, where wealth generated from the local resources and natural assets meets people’s needs and interests, while supporting sustained health of the ecosystem and important wildlife species. 

By working collaboratively with a variety of people, organizations, governments, industry, and Indigenous Nations, together we can realize and steward a landscape that allows both people and nature to thrive. 

Some of our recent projects in the Upper Columbia: 

  • Explore the locally generated ideas for an emerging economy in this region.    
  • Learn about the many benefits people get from nature — the “ecosystem services” of the inland temperate rainforest, including carbon storage, freshwater, and recreation.  
  • Join the regional movement by participating in land-based reconciliation workshops.  
  • Make your winter Wildlife Wise

“The Upper Columbia is an incredibly special place with people who care deeply for it. We are helping our Indigenous and community partners with research, connections, dialogue, and action so that this place will thrive well into the future.”

Nadine Raynolds, Communities and Conservation Manager

Who we work with

We engage with a wide variety of people and organizations, with an emphasis on supporting Indigenous-led conservation. This includes all orders of government and Indigenous people and governments. We work with researchers, and various stakeholders, including industry and business stakeholders, recreation groups, conservation organizations, and more.  

Bringing people together to learn, discuss, and work towards a shared vision for a sustainable economy and environment are important parts of creating a thriving Upper Columbia region. 

How you can help

get on the ground for old growth

The habitat, wildlife and people living in and near the inland temperate rainforest depend on you. Learn how you can protect our old growth, including the inland temperate rainforest.

Protect the ancient giants

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