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Calling on the Government to Protect Alberta's Headwaters

A recent motion in the Alberta Legislature calls for safeguarding our water through headwaters protection. Let's hope it spurs concrete action.

When it comes to protecting the Yellowstone to Yukon region, we’ll always prefer on-the-ground successes and tangible results. That said, the right gesture and good intentions can go a long way in getting us there—especially when voiced in the halls of government.

That’s exactly what happened earlier this month, when Cam Westhead, the Banff-Cochrane representative for the Alberta Government, offered this motion on the order paper: “Be it resolved that the Legislative Assembly urge the Government to increase its efforts to conserve and manage public lands in Alberta’s headwater regions to optimize downstream water security for future generations of Albertans.”

That statement was music to the ears of Y2Y, after having pushed for years for more protections in the headwaters.

"This is an important statement for people who care about water and watershed health,” says Y2Y’s Stephen Legault, Program Director for Alberta, Crown and Northwest Territories. “Standing up in the Legislature and seeking approval to advance the conservation of Alberta’s headwaters is a significant step forward.”

Headwater regions like the Castle Watershed are important for ensuring clean water for downstream communities. Image: Stephen Legault.

For decades, a wide range of people and groups—including ranchers, businesses, conservationists and other Alberta residents—have been urging protection of headwater forests in the Rocky Mountains and adjacent Foothills, which filter clean water that flows through many communities downstream, including Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge and others.

“Places like the Castle Watershed, Oldman River headwaters, Kananaksis Country, the Ghost Watershed and Bighorn Wildland are vital for the clean water we depend upon,” says Legault. “We need that water, and so do westslope cutthroat trout, grizzly bears and other endangered wildlife.”

Although Westhead’s private members motion isn’t binding in government, Y2Y is hopeful that all Alberta legislators will consider it very carefully, and that will it will spur efforts leading to meaningful protection of our headwaters.

As off-highway vehicles and excessive industrial development continue to affect these important regions, the time to move from good intentions to concrete action is now.

“In the Ghost Watershed, for example, an accelerated pace of logging has continued under Alberta’s NDP government, and up to 20 percent of it could be clearcut by the end of 2017,” says Legault. “For the sake of our headwater forests, Mr. Westhead’s visionary motion needs to be reflected in current policy.”

The Livingstone Range overlooks Alberta's foothills. Photo: Stephen Legault.
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