The Castle is a special place for many Albertans and serves as the headwaters for many in the southern part of the province. Image: Stephen Legault
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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 greater protection for Alberta’s headwaters.

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

On Jan. 20, 2017, Premier Rachel Notley and Minister of Environment and Parks Shannon Phillips announced that the Castle Parks had passed an order-in-council. The park boundaries were officially set and a draft management plan covering both parks was released.

That draft plan includes a three- to five-year phase-out of off-highway vehicle recreation in both parks and outlines co-management potential with the Piikani Nation.

The Castle is a special place for many Albertans and serves as the headwaters for many in the southern part of the province. Image: Stephen Legault

The Castle area is home to over 200 rare or at-risk species, including grizzly bears, wolverine, westslope cutthroat trout, limber and whitebark pine. 

The region is a vital corridor that keeps wide-ranging wildlife moving north and south through the Yellowstone to Yukon region, helping link protected areas like Waterton-Glacier with the Rocky Mountain Parks further north.

It’s also part of Alberta’s headwaters and is the most significant basin in the Oldman River watershed, accounting for 30 per cent of its waters. The Oldman serves millions of people downstream as it flows through communities such as Fort Macleod and Lethbridge before merging with the Bow River, eventually emptying into Hudson Bay.

The Castle has significance for indigenous communities, including Nitsitapii, Piikani (Peigan), Siksika, Kainaiwa (Blood), Blackfeet, Nakoda (Stoney) and K'tunaxa First Nations. The Piikani locate their origin story in this landscape. Many people from these nations continue to use the area to pursue their traditional ways of life. 

What can you do? Take the Alberta Government survey now.

Thank Premier Notley, Minister Phillips, and Alberta’s hardworking public servants for making the right call in the Castle. Show your support for a conservation-oriented management plan. Then, get out to the Castle and show some love for your headwaters! 

Read on for more information about our work in more of Alberta's important headwater regions


Headwaters are the source of all rivers or streams and include glaciers, streams, tributaries and more. Alberta’s mountain headwaters provide water for millions of people, deliver important natural services such as flood and drought control, provide critical habitat for wildlife and offer abundant recreation opportunities.

While some of our headwaters, and surrounding habitat, are protected, many are not. Poor management practices over many decades mean that some mountain watersheds are no longer healthy and intact.


AB Headwaters Map with Y2Y

The Alberta government is currently engaging in land-use planning for the entire province. Four of the seven provincial planning regions are within the Yellowstone to Yukon region.

These land-use plans are a blueprint for activities that will occur on the land for the next 50 years. They offer a rare opportunity to increase protection for Alberta’s headwaters by managing forestry to reduce flood and drought impacts, creating new protected areas, preserving habitat for endangered and threatened species such as caribou and grizzly bear, and conserving the mountain viewscapes and recreational opportunities that draw so many residents and visitors to our region.


Areas such as the Castle Watershed are important for the downstream communities that depend on the clean and safe water that originates here. 

Y2Y is leading the initiative to influence these land-use plans to protect the headwaters within the Yellowstone to Yukon region.

Key to these efforts is bringing together key stakeholders from each region to jointly develop a conservation vision for each region. Y2Y expresses this conservation vision to the government through the formal public comment period, and also to the public by organizing public events.

Finally, we highlight opportunities for our supporters and the public to weigh in during public comment periods.

Click on the region to see our other headwater efforts:

South Saskatchewan Regional Plan (Southern Alberta)

North Saskatchewan Regional Plan (Central Alberta)

Upper Athabasca Regional Plan (North Western Alberta)

Upper Peace Regional Plan (Western Alberta)


Take Action

1. Call 403.310.0000 and ask for your MLA. Let them know that Alberta’s headwaters matter to you, and that you want them to be protected!

2. Follow the campaign to protect the Bighorn Wildlands as a Wildland Park by visiting us online:

• Facebook: @HeadwatersABLove Your Headwaters

• Twitter: @Headwaters_AB, #loveyourheadwaters

• Instagram: @loveyourheadwaters, #loveyourheadwaters

DonateMake a donation to help support our work to protect Alberta’s Headwaters. See how we use your donation dollars.

Add Your Voice: Sign up to receive our Action Alerts and be alerted tofind out about opportunities to provide your input.

Celebrate Our Headwaters: On Dec. 12, 2016, the Legislature of Alberta adopted Motion 511 to urge the Government to conserve the province’s headwaters: 

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.

Here are recommendations from the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society to protect our headwaters, also available as a .jpg for download

  1. Implement new forestry ground rules for all Eastern Slopes headwater forests that focus on restoring and sustaining watershed health rather than producing a maximum sustained yield of timber. Replace all commercial logging south of the Ghost River with restoration of our forested headwaters;
  2. End new road building for industrial development in our headwaters;
  3. Create new protected areas in Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer and Lethbridge’s headwaters to safeguard their water quality and quantity;
  4. Stop new mining for minerals, coal and gravel near our headwaters and within key watersheds; 
  5. Repair and revegetate eroding trails, gullies, soil compaction, mud bogs and other damage caused by motorized off-highway recreation, and provide a limited number of well-engineered vehicle trails outside of parks and other important conservation areas.
  6. Focus on developing economic opportunities that emphasize headwaters conservation like low-impact ecotourism with a focus hiking, biking, fishing, hunting and other sustainable activities. 
  7. Address the impact of climate change on our headwaters by repairing riparian areas and restoring habitat for fish and wildlife species such as Westslope Cutthroat trout, bull trout and grizzly bear;
  8. Rename the ‘Forestry Trunk Road’ (also known as Hwy 734) Headwaters Trunk Road to honour and value the sources of our water. 


Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society - North

Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society - Southern Alberta Chapters

Alberta Wilderness Association

Related Information:

Protected Areas & Public Lands

Central Canadian Rocky Mountains

GET THE LATEST: Alberta Headwater News

Edmonton & Clearwater County Residents Love their Headwaters

— Posted on Nov 08, 2016 12:07 PM in: Media Releases
Edmonton & Clearwater County Residents Love their Headwaters

A new poll by Y2Y highlights the strong relationship Alberta residents have with their headwaters.

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Restoration Plan Positive Step, But Likely Too Little Too Late for Little Smoky Caribou

— Posted on Oct 05, 2016 12:16 PM in: Media Releases
Restoration Plan Positive Step, But Likely Too Little Too Late for Little Smoky Caribou

A plan to restore caribou habitat is a promising first step towards the development of a restoration economy in Alberta, says Y2Y.

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New Report Highlights Opportunity for Restoration in the Castle

— Posted on Sep 07, 2016 01:01 PM in: Media Releases
New Report Highlights Opportunity for Restoration in the Castle

A new report by Global Forest Watch Canada is raising concerns about land-use in the new Castle Wildland and Provincial Parks.

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Conservationists Still Have Outstanding Concerns About Castle Provincial Parks

— Posted on Sep 06, 2016 09:38 AM in: Y2Y in the News
Conservationists Still Have Outstanding Concerns About Castle Provincial Parks

“It’s been a year of incredible highs but there is much more work to be done, ” says Y2Y's Stephen Legault.

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Alberta, Do You Love Your Headwaters?

— Posted on Aug 19, 2016 02:08 PM in: Updates from the Field
Alberta, Do You Love Your Headwaters?

Alberta’s Bighorn Wildland filters clean, fresh drinking water for more than a million people downstream. It’s time to protect this vital headwater region.

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