Hiking in the Yukon. Image: Pat Morrow
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"I BELIEVE in connected landscapes; so connected that my children can walk from one point to another."
Chris Bunting, Y2Y Supporter since 2007

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Protecting Alberta's Bighorn Wildland

More than a recreational playground, Alberta’s Bighorn Wildland directly affects the health of millions of people downstream.

Along the Alberta side of the Continental Divide, snow-capped rocky peaks and alpine forests filter glacier-fed mountain streams and rivers that merge together and flow across the foothills and into Prairie communities.

Although large stretches of these headwater forests are being preserved—in Banff and Jasper national parks and other protected areas—the Bighorn Wildland encompasses roughly 1 million acres (400,000 hectares) of intact ecosystems that are sadly not yet protected.

Ranging from high-alpine to broad valley bottoms, the Bighorn’s headwater forests provide important habitat for grizzly bears and other vulnerable species, and supply about 90 percent of clean water for downstream communities, such as Edmonton, the provincial capital.

An integral linkage area between Banff and Jasper, the region provides large-scale wildlife connectivity along Alberta’s Eastern Slopes—a major factor in ensuring wildlife can move and adapt to climate change.

From the Bighorn Wildland, rivers and streams begin their flow east to the communities of Alberta, Saskatchewan and beyond. Photo: Harvey Locke.

But the Bighorn is threatened. Unregulated off-highway vehicle (OHV) use is growing throughout the region, while deforestation, under the guise of a provincial Firesmart program, is increasing as well, causing further habitat fragmentation. It’s time to permanently protect this ecologically significant region from further development.

Y2Y and other key partners, including CPAWS-Northern Alberta and the Alberta Wilderness Association, are calling for permanent protection of the entire Bighorn as a Wildland Park.

Protecting the Bighorn would not only preserve intact habitat for a wide range of wildlife, it would safeguard the main source of water for millions of people downstream, while maintaining the ecological integrity of a region cherished by residents throughout surrounding communities, including First Nations whose ancestors have ties to the Bighorn for millennia.

With a recent change in Alberta’s leadership—the first changeover of government in four decades—the time is ripe for making that permanent protection a reality.

Want to be part of the solution?

Write to the provincial Minister of the Environment and Parks, Shannon Phillips, and ask that the Bighorn Wildland be permanently protected as a Wildland Park.

aep.minister@gov.ab.ca | @SPhillipsAB

Photo: Harvey Locke
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