Y2Y is working to protect the Upper Columbia for wildlife and climate change resiliency.

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

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 its 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.

Columbia Headwaters
B.C.’s Upper Columbia is a key part of the Yellowstone to Yukon region. Photo: Douglas Thorburn

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

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.

How we are accomplishing this?

Our vision for the north Columbia, north/central Selkirk, 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 communities in the region flourish with a conservation-oriented economy, where wealth generated from the local resources and natural assets meets community needs and interests, while supporting the needs of wildlife, water, and wilderness.

Read our report, Exploring Emerging Economic Opportunities in the Columbia River Headwaters Region of British Columbia, produced by Gary Bull, professor and department head at the University of British Columbia and Jeremy Williams of ArborVitae Environmental Services.

research briefing and summary of recommendations is also available.

We seek to accomplish this by working collaboratively with a variety of people, organizations, First Nations, local governments and industries, ultimately achieving a landscape that allows both people and nature to thrive.


“Right now we’re researching wolverines, climate change resiliency, and scenarios for a more sustainable regional economy, and advocating for caribou conservation. Y2Y is working with a diverse set of partners to achieve greater habitat protections, including supporting Indigenous and other conservation proposals for the region.”

— Candace Batycki, B.C. and Yukon program director

Who we work with

We engage with local governments, industry and business stakeholders, and recreation groups to discuss and work towards a shared vision for a thriving economy and environment in the Upper Columbia.

Our partners in the region include Bonanza Biodiversity Corridor Working Group, Friends of the Lardeau, North Columbia Environmental Society, Okanagan Indian Band, Valhalla Wilderness Society, West Kootenay EcoSociety, Wildsight, Willet Wilderness Forever, and several wildlife biologists.

How you can help

Help advance wolverine research in this area by taking part in community science:

Latest news and updates

Header photo: Hiking in the old-growth forests of the Upper Columbia, Douglas Thorburn