Understanding wolverines helps us develop conservation strategies. Image: Steven Gnam
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Columbia Headwaters

Columbia Headwaters
Photo: Douglas Thorburn
The headwaters of the transboundary Columbia River are important region in the Yellowstone to Yukon geography, linking the Canadian National Parks in the Rocky Mountains to important conservation areas in the U.S.

Protecting the Columbia Headwaters 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.

Columbia Headwaters region
The Columbia Headwaters is the region in red.

The Columbia Headwaters hosts healthy grizzly and wolf populations, as well as mountain goats, and is 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 Columbia Headwaters 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.

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.

B.C.'s Columbia Headwaters are a key part of the Yellowstone to Yukon region. Photo: Douglas Thorburn

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.

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

Here are three ways you can help

Take Action - Wolverines

Have you seen a wolverine in southeastern B.C.? Help researchers by reporting your observations

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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 Columbia Headwaters.

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.

Updates and news

Interning for nature — Posted on Sep 10, 2019 01:30 PM
The past few summers, Y2Y has been fortunate to have talented and driven individuals join the team and help further our mission. Ever wondered what it’s like to intern at Y2Y? Read the article to hear our summer 2019 interns reflect on what their experience was like.
Wolverine populations at risk without connectivity — Posted on Apr 04, 2019 10:49 AM
Y2Y's Aerin Jacob discusses the importance of maintaining connectivity for wolverines in Alberta and beyond. | Rocky Mountain Outlook, Apr. 4, 2019
Y2Y water project update briefs — Posted on May 29, 2017 09:26 AM
Catch up on recent developments in the Yellowstone to Yukon region from our Spring/Summer 2017 newsletter.