The Bighorn offers incredible recreation opportunities and serves as the headwaters for millions of people in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Image: Adam Linnard
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Wendy Francis - Hiking

“We expect that Alberta’s land-use plans will reflect global standards for landscape protection. We need to approach planning at an ecosystem-wide scale, and create a network of new protected areas and management zones between them in order to maintain ecosystem services — like clean water and flood and drought control — and with room for wildlife to roam.” 
Wendy Francis
Former Y2Y President

Alberta Headwaters

Alberta Headwaters
Photo: Alan Ernst
Y2Y is working to ensure greater protection for Alberta’s headwaters.

Y2Y is working to ensure Alberta’s headwaters are kept intact for clean water provision, habitat for at-risk species, and sustainable recreation opportunities.

Our current efforts are focused on the Bighorn region, where most of the North Saskatchewan River originates; Kananaskis Country and the Ghost Watershed, which holds the unprotected portion of the Bow River’s headwaters; Livingstone-Porcupine Hills, an area that feeds the Old Man River; and the Castle region, which houses the headwaters of the South Saskatchewan River.

Find out more about these special places.

What is the threat?

Headwaters are the source of all rivers or streams. This includes glaciers, streams, tributaries and more.

Alberta’s mountain headwaters:

  • provide 90% of Alberta’s water, serving millions of people throughout the prairies
  • help with flood and drought control
  • provide critical habitat for wildlife
  • link wildlife with nearby protected areas and parks via vital corridors
  • support Indigenous communities who practice traditional ways of life
  • offer abundant recreation opportunities

While some of our headwaters and surrounding habitat are protected, much is not. Poor management practices over many decades mean that some mountain watersheds are no longer healthy and intact. Across the Eastern slopes cumulative impacts from activities continue to threaten our water, wildlife and recreation values.

For example in the Bighorn, metallurgical coal mining is a serious threat. It affects the flow and cleanliness of nearby rivers and water.

The eastern portions of our headwaters in particular are often crisscrossed with forestry access roads, OHV trails — both regulated and unregulated — and seismic lines.

Many assume it is fully protected, but nearly half of Kananaskis is threatened by commercial logging. Forestry is not currently permitted within Bighorn Public Land Use Zones, either. However, some companies have forest management agreements with the province on neighboring land with high conservation value.

Where are we seeing progress?

In Alberta's Castle

Following 40 years of pressure from hunters, ranchers and other Albertans, in September 2015 the Government of Alberta announced the creation of a new Castle Provincial Park and expansion of the Castle Wildland Provincial Park.

On January 20, 2017, Castle Parks passed an order-in-council. The park boundaries were officially set and a draft management plan covering both parks was released outlining permitted activities, including a three- to five-year phase-out of off-highway vehicle (OHV) recreation in both parks.

It also outlines co-management potential with the Piikani Nation.

What are we doing?

Adam Linnard“Wherever you live in Alberta, nearly all of your water comes from the mountains and foothills. Your family, your pets, your houseplants, your favorite fishing hole or swimming spot, the wildlife you love — they all benefit from healthy headwaters.”

— Adam Linnard, Alberta program manager

Along with our partners, we are engaged in initiatives to influence land-use planning to safeguard the headwaters within the Yellowstone-to-Yukon region.

We bring together key stakeholders to jointly develop a conservation vision for each region.

Y2Y expresses this conservation vision:

  • to the government through public comment opportunities
  • to the public through public events and outreach

Who are we working with?

Our headwaters are important to all Albertans, including you.

We also work with numerous stakeholders, community grassroots groups, governments, and non-profits concerned about headwater health throughout Alberta’s Eastern slopes.

These groups include Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society - Northern Alberta, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society - Southern Alberta and Alberta Wilderness Association.

How can you help?

Take Action - Join NewsAdd your voice: Sign up to receive our Action Alerts and speak out about important conservation causes.





Support connecting and protecting habitat so that people and wildlife can thrive. Donate: Give to Alberta headwaters conservation.






Take Action - Social MediaSpeak up: Follow the Love Your Headwaters campaign on social media, and like, comment and share our news stories. Find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and remember to use #loveyourheadwaters. 

Updates and news

Alberta’s Bighorn Wildland Park designation in the news

— Posted on Nov 27, 2018 12:54 PM in: Y2Y in the News
Alberta’s Bighorn Wildland Park designation in the news

Various articles highlighting the Alberta government’s announced investment into Bighorn Country were published Nov. 23, 2018 and updated into Nov. 25, 2018.

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Alberta conservationists applaud Bighorn Wildland Park designation

— Posted on Nov 23, 2018 01:02 PM in: Media Releases
Alberta conservationists applaud Bighorn Wildland Park designation

Y2Y and CPAWS Northern and Southern Alberta chapters along with Paddle Alberta celebrate the announcement that the Government of Alberta intends to create a new park system that includes a large wildland provincial park.

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Park designation proposal triggers turf war in Bighorn backcountry

— Posted on Sep 11, 2018 03:05 PM in: Y2Y in the News

Y2Y is working to preserve ecosystems along the length of the Rocky Mountains, and is among several conservation groups lobbying the province for the official park designation. | CBC News Edmonton, Sept. 11, 2018

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Y2Y rallies for Bighorn Wildland Provincial Park

— Posted on Sep 10, 2018 03:00 PM in: Y2Y in the News

Y2Y and CPAWS say they’ve collected messages of support from Albertans from all sectors and generations for a new wildland provincial park. | RD News Now, Sept. 7, 2018

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Establishing a wildland provincial park in Alberta's Bighorn

— Posted on Sep 10, 2018 01:16 PM in: Y2Y in the News

Y2Y's Hilary Young discusses a potential new provincial park in the Rockies. | CBC Edmonton AM, Sept. 10, 2018

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